Using the Chirp Wheel for Athletic Recovery and Van Life

Using the Chirp Wheel for Athletic Recovery and Van Life

Alastair Dixon, co-founder of outdoor adventure website (

As adventure writers and travelers, certain aspects of the work and lifestyle my wife Helen and I lead can contribute to occasional back pain, which we use the Chirp Wheel to help with.

Aside from sleeping, we spend much of our days either trail running, hiking, sitting at a desk writing and editing videos for our website (, or road tripping in our DIY camper van. 

About Trail & Kale

In case you’re wondering who we are, let me give you some background. My wife and I founded our website, Trail & Kale, as a way to reach more people with our flavor of adventure and healthy lifestyle journalism.

We share authentic advice, gear reviews and inspiration for people looking to do more and make big changes in their lives—everything from taking up running, hiking across mountain ranges, moving halfway around the world to pursue your dreams, to changing your way of living to eat plant-based and follow a more self-sustainable lifestyle.

We’re known especially for the trail running and hiking advice, reviews and guides we produce, as well as for spending time living out of our DIY-converted Sprinter camper van with our dog and two cats, when a new adventure calls! 

How trail running and van life affects our backs and posture

Both trail running and van life can have an impact on both of our backs—whether it’s the athletic workout our whole body gets when running or hiking for hours at a time, or the seated position of driving days. 

Working on stretching and flexibility is important for everyone, and we recognize that that’s especially true if you’re asking your body to be exceptionally active and need to stretch out a tired body post-workout, or the opposite, being in one place with little movement while sitting down and needing to stretch and maintain mobility. 

If you’ve overworked your back during exercise, it can get tight and tense due to the strain and possible inflammation, so I find that ensuring it is stretched out and the muscles are loosened and massaged can be extremely beneficial. 

Equally, if we have days where we spend a lot of time sitting at a desk at home, or driving around in our van, that seated position can affect posture and lead to stiffness, too.

This is why we find the Chirp Wheel to be a great tool to have with us at home and in our camper van because we can use it anywhere to help stretch out our backs, relieve tension, and improve our posture. 

How we use the Chirp Wheel

The Chirp Wheel has turned out to be something we use every day and helps us look after our backs without turning to medication or allowing back tension or pain to stick around long enough to cause issues.

As runners, we already owned several different types of foam rollers, but they don’t come close to being as effective as a Chirp Wheel when it comes to stretching out your back.

We like to keep the Deep Tissue 6 inch Chirp Wheel in our camper van so it’s always with us when we’re on the road. Because it’s small and hollow it can live in one of our van’s overhead cabinets and have clothes or other belongings stored inside it. It doesn’t take up much space at all. There’s just enough space in our van’s main living area to roll on the floor inside, but usually it’s better off done on a soft, flat surface outside when we’re parked up at our camping spots.

Otherwise, at home, the Gentle 12 inch Chirp Wheel lives in our living room and gets used every night. It’s the perfect diameter to gently, yet effectively, stretch your back and relieve tension. I usually spend a couple of minutes rolling on it because that’s all it usually needs for my back to feel like it has had a good stretch and a few much needed clicks. 

I like to breathe out while rolling on the Chirp Wheel along my back from lower back up to shoulders. I find I get a better release of tension on the exhale, and it’s more relaxing, especially when I do this in conjunction with breathing and yoga exercises. 

3 tips for using the Chirp Wheel

If you’ve just bought a Chirp Wheel or are thinking of getting one, here are my three top tips for using it to get the most enjoyment out of the experience:

1. To help with stability and balance while using the Chirp Wheel, especially with the largest 12 inch version, it helps to use it on a soft rug or carpet, or, even better, on a yoga mat which is designed to offer good grip for your hands and feet. I always use the Chirp Wheel barefooted so my feet are less likely to slip.

2. If you have longer hair, make sure you have it tied up and out of the way so that you don’t roll on your loose hair or long ponytail when rolling backwards from shoulders to your lower back. This is really a tip from Helen, not me!

3. I’ve found that using the wheel before bed can really help me get a comfortable night’s sleep and fall asleep more easily due to having less tension in my back, so I would definitely recommend it for use in the evenings, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it at other times of day!

For our full review of the Chirp Wheel and more photos of them in use, click here. ( )

Happy trails!

Alastair Dixon, Co-Founder of