Here's my latest article from the FREE Iron Girl newsletter. Did you wear compression today??? I DID...My CEP socks were on ALL DAY LONG! LOVE THEM!!!
Multisport Myths Explained - Compression
Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, LD/N
Believe it or not, there was once a time - not long ago - when runners trained without a Garmin and simply ran by time or by "feel." Dare we think about the days when online race trackers (and chip times) did not exist and we actually had to wait for results, rather than anxiously refreshing the computer screen for instant updates? And how about training without music? Yikes!
Perhaps you have given no thought as to how an altitude sleeping tent, endless swimming pool and anti-gravity treadmill will benefit you as an athlete - let alone fit into your training and racing budget. But it's likely that you have participated in a conversation or two about compression, strength training and electrolytes. So, when it comes to spending a little extra time or money on the latest trends and fads in competitive sports, it's important to keep an open mind when adding something new to your current training routine.
Should I wear compression?
For the last few decades, compression apparel has been well-recognized in the medical field as an effective way to improve circulation, increase venous return and reduce swelling. It wasn't until recently that athletic companies recognized the practicality of compression clothing designed specifically for athletes, in order to improve performance and reduce the symptoms associated with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). By enhancing circulation and stabilizing muscles, compression garments are quickly becoming one of the most popular must-have items in order to reduce soreness both during and after exercise.
Among the most popular companies,
110% Play Harder, CEP Compression and Zoot Sports have dedicated a great deal of time, money and research into providing athletes with a variety of quality pre, during and post-training and competition sport wear. As a result, athletes are seeking compression clothing to help improve performance and recovery. In other words, compression wear is not limited to professional and elite athletes.
Disbelievers argue that there are few laboratory-derived, scientific research studies demonstrating significant improvements in performance while wearing compression. Although there are only a handful of recent laboratory-controlled studies showing the positive effects of compression during and after exercise, do not let ongoing research detour your decision to train, race and recover in compression (1,2). While research may not prove that compression will reduce lactic acid during training and will reduce the risk for injury (3), athletes will often agree with research, demonstrating that compression is highly effective in reducing perceived exertion while training and racing. Thus, athletes believe in compression as an easy way to help reach personal best times and recover from chronic injuries (4). It should be noted, however, that in order to improve performance, it takes more than an expensive bike, a new pair of shoes or a high-tech piece of clothing.
Research does not take into consideration diet, periodized training, current fitness, stress/sleep management, sports nutrition and family/job obligations; however, it does control variables that may positively or negatively affect performance during controlled testing in a lab. As an athlete, there's no doubt that you experience direct force and trauma to your muscles, tendons and bones every time you engage in weight-bearing exercise. Because training-induced stress initiates physiological adaptations, athletes trying to balance training with a busy lifestyle should not overlook the importance of compression as one of the easy ways to accelerate recovery and to feel more relaxed during activity.
In the quest for the right compression wear, proper sizing is essential. Graduated compression (tighter in the ankle, looser in the calf) will ensure the most optimal performance and recovery gains by encouraging blood to quickly propel to the heart, rather than pooling in the legs. According to Ali et al., athletes wearing graduated compression stocking around 23-32 mm Hg reported more pain when running, compared to athletes wearing graduated compression stockings less than 21 mg Hg (2). Because comfort is important both during and after training and racing, it is important to note that one-size does not fit all.
Compression should be of high-quality, thus it is important to purchase compression clothing from a reputable company that invests in medical and scientific testing. Additionally, take into consideration the purpose of your future compression clothing. Is your compression designed for recovery, active-wear, for cooling/thermal regulation? Calf sleeves, socks, shorts, bibs, tights, ice shorts and tops are all created for different purposes. Speak with a professional either online or at your local tri/bike shop in order to find the best product(s) to meet your individual compression needs.
Athletes progress over months and years, not weeks or days. Therefore, it is important to recognize that only "putting in the miles" may ultimately result in an increase risk for injury, fatigue, illness and possibly burnout.
From a physiological perspective, if you are seeking an easy (and comfortable) way to help improve blood flow, stabilize working muscles and to enhance recovery after exercise, it is highly recommended to consider adding compression to your training, racing and recovery gear collection. As you focus on the other areas in your life that can affect performance (sleep, stress, nutrition, periodized training, recovery days, weight training, etc.), keep in mind that no amount of literature will prove that compression is the magic remedy in creating personal best performances and avoiding injuries. For success as an athlete is more than looking the part....with a nice new pair of compression socks.
Stay tuned in February for another common training question explained......
Do I really need to strength train if I am a runner or triathlete?
1) Ali, A., Caine, M.P., and Snow, B.G. (2007). Graduated compression stockings: physiological and perceptual responses during and after exercise. J. Sports Sci. 25(4): 413-9.
2) Ali, A., Creasy, R.H. and Edge, J.A. (2011). The effect of graduated compression stockings on running performance. J. Strength Cond Res. 25(5); 1385-92.
3) Ali, A., Creasy, R.H., and Edge, J.A. (2011). The effect of graduated compression stockings on running performance. J. Strength Cond Res. 25(5): 1385-92.
4) Duffield, R., Cannon, J. and Kind, M. (201). The effects of compression garments on recovery of muscle performance following high-intensity sprint and plyometric exercise. J. Sci Med Sport. 13(1); 136-40.