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September 28, 2009

Compression is love

I found this article on PP Fitness, a Urban Ninja Ambassador project, and thought to share it. People ask me all the time about recovery. Obviously, nutrition plays a key part in recovery, but the one thing I could not live without is my compression gear.

Rockets Compression Gear was designed and introduced to the South African market by Peak Performance Fitness. These garments are exclusively invented to improve performance by speeding up one’s recovery rate. This concept has been scientifically tested & proven.

Compression Garments will improve your performance and recovery by:
• Increasing oxygen transport and delivery to the working muscles
• Assisting in removal of lactic acid from working muscles
• Accelerating venous return to the heart
• Ensuring greater mechanical efficiency by allowing less muscle vibration
• Assisting with temperature control

RCGs can be worn during exercise to improve performance, after exercise to assist with recovery, during rehabilitation to reduce swelling and assist with recovery, and finally, during long distance travel or periods of inactivity to reduce blood pooling or the onset of Deep Vein Thrombosis.

Lance Armstrong is always a well-dressed guy, but recently I’ve been getting questions about one of his newest fashion accessories: compression socks. Plenty of people have seen Lance wearing black knee-high socks on the bus after stages at the Tour de France, and he also wore them on the plane ride a few days ago during a transfer. His friend, comedian Robin Williams, also gave him a little grief about them in a video. So, what’s the deal with compression?

Well, compression technology is the latest recovery aid to hit the endurance sports world. The idea behind it is that compression around the legs improves recovery by assisting your body in the process of circulating blood and lymph fluids through fatigued muscles. People with circulation issues have used compression socks and stockings for many years, mainly to combat deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in veins deep within the lower leg) and varicose veins (veins with faulty valves that allow blood to pool in the veins instead of being rapidly returned to the heart). Their use in healthy populations – especially athletes – is relatively new, and there’s still a lot of research to be done to truly determine the impact they have on performance and recovery.

Last winter, CTS sports scientist Dean Golich started working with a pair of Normatec MVP compression boots. This piece of equipment, also used by the Garmin-Slipstream team, uses a pneumatic pump to apply compression to the legs and then release that pressure over and over again. The idea is to simulate the normal blood and lymph fluid pumping action that working muscles provide when you’re walking or cycling – but to do that while the athlete is resting.

Lance used the Normatec boots during his comeback training, and we had him wear them while lying down after rides. Overall, Lance’s response was good; his legs felt fresher and less sore the following day. Now, if you’re one of those people who needs proof and numbers before you believe that something works, I don’t have a whole lot to tell you. The Normatec boots are a new product, and the use of compression technology for enhancing performance and recovery is a relatively new technique. I think it’s a promising technology, and even if more research is needed to fully understand how it works, athletes are successfully using it already.

The compression socks that everyone sees Lance wearing at the Tour de France don’t work exactly the same way as the Normatec boots, in that they don’t have a pneumatic pump applying pressure to his legs. They are, however, smaller and much easier to put on in the bus, and you can walk around in them. Depending on the distance between the finish line and the team’s hotel, the trip back from the race can be quite long. When athletes sit for long periods of time after finishing a strenuous bout of exercise, they often experience some swelling in their legs and feet. No doubt many of you have had the same experience driving home from a race or century ride (cankles, anyone?). The compression socks seem to prevent some of his swelling, and that helps speed up the recovery process.

While wearing the compression socks and using compression boots after exercise appears to be effective for enhancing recovery, don’t expect to see Lance wearing compression socks on the bike. During exercise – at least during cycling – there doesn’t appear to be much, if any, benefit. Some runners and triathletes have reported benefits from using them during exercise, but like so much about compression technology, the research is still being developed. If there is a benefit to runners that doesn’t translate to cyclists, it may be due to the fact that the muscles in the lower legs are far more important for optimizing running performance. In cycling, the calves don’t add much in the way of power; they’re primary role is to stabilize the ankle and provide a stable platform to transfer the power generated by the upper leg and buttocks.

Training and recovery technologies come and go, but this one appears to have legs (pun intended). It will take a bit longer to sort out the science, but riders are experiencing good results from wearing them, and any little thing that can improve your recovery from one stage to the next is worth trying. And the best part is, compression socks and Normatec boots are simple and can be used while the athlete is doing exactly what they would normally be doing after a long race or training ride: relaxing.

If you are not using some form of Compression Gear, you are missing out on a vital piece of equipment in your arsenal. I choose Rockets because local is lekker, and because their product makes a HUGE difference to me in my training. Their pricing, by the way, is also phenomenal. Surf over to their website and check it out.

One Comment on “Compression is love

brian a.
November 5, 2009 at 8:43 am

Hello i have wondered how much you would calculate to set your blog graphics up on my blog for me, because i truly like the look of your web logs but i do not know how to do such a nice theme.

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