Socks, sleeves, tights, shorts–you name it, it’s compression these days. Though it’s not for everyone, compression isn’t just used for medical reasons anymore. Athletes are using it after hard workouts to recover, during long runs to improve circulation, and to move more efficiently.
Runners, read on because we are on our feet for long periods of time and compression might be the answer. It’s not completely understood exactly how soreness can be alleviated, but many runners and athletes swear by their compression gear. Here’s a few reasons why:
- Increases blood flow
- Limits swelling and inflammation
- Speeds recovery
- Reduces vibration
- Warms up skin
- Improves efficiency through muscle support
“Keeping oxygenated blood flowing to the muscles is important for performance,” Paragon Running Specialist and avid runner Brian McGregor says. “The more oxygen the cells have, the better they will function.”
During exercise, lactic acid is produced as a waste product, and if it’s not removed it can contribute to soreness and decreased ability to perform, Brian explains.
When is it best to use compression? It really depends on the type of workout. During a long run (I’m looking at you marathoners and ultra marathoners) compression can improve circulation. This keeps the blood from pooling at your feet, and can even help prevent lightheadedness related to blood flow. If you’re taking on the track for a speed workout, you might want to grab your compression gear, too. The tight hold of the compression helps reduce muscle vibration, which improves efficiency and can reduce delayed soreness.
“As a runner, I have so much shock and vibration going through my leg muscles as I pound the pavement with 3-5 times my body weight while running,” says Brian.
At one point, compression was seen as white granny socks that went up to the knee. Now, it’s even in your running shorts. Your quads and hamstrings are large muscle groups that get used every step of your run. If you take about 2,000 steps in a mile, a 7 mile run uses these muscles about 14,000 times! Over time, this use and many vibrations add up and fatigue muscles. 2-in-1 shorts allow you to still wear your favorite running shorts with the benefits of compression on these key muscle groups.
Though compression shorts or tights are common, graduated compression is another option. Compared to constant compression, graduated features the strongest compression near the ankle and decreases up the leg. The idea behind it is to aid in pushing the blood back up the legs and to the heart.
For more detailed accounts of how compression affects performance and recovery, check out this AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) research using 2XU lower body compression.
“I’ve been wearing compression for more than 5 years now,” says Brian. “I’m afraid to know how my body would feel if I didn’t have it.”
If all this compression talk made you curious, try it out yourself with these styles: