HOW TO USE COMPRESSION TO MAKE YOU A BETTER RUNNER
Runners are always looking for new ways to go further, faster, and for longer. Parkrunners and marathoners alike have been turning to compression clothing to boost their performance, but what is it and does it really work?
How Does Compression Running Gear Work?
Research on the effect of 2XU compression wear "clearly suggests that endurance performance is optimised by the wearing of compressive garments,” so, how does it work?
Modern compression gear uses 'graduated compression' constructed from specially designed seams and panels to increase circulation in your limbs. This means that it puts the most pressure on your outer-most parts such as your ankles and gradually reduces this pressure as it moves up towards your body.
This technology delivers a controlled amount of pressure to improve the rate of oxygenated blood going to your muscles and deoxygenated blood going back to the heart and reduce lactic acid build-up. CEP found that their products improved the flow of oxygenated blood by up to 40%.
While the study on 2XU showed that “compression garments not only have the potential to optimise performance… they also have a central role to play in the recovery process.” This is because compression gear wraps around and supports key muscles, reducing movement and vibration and therefore minimising soft tissue damage.
SKINS compression found that not only does this help you recover faster but their runners “demonstrated that they used less energy when running at a sub-maximal speed. They were more economical and efficient,” concluding that the added stability and control helps you run further, for longer, and with less effort.
What About Lactic Acid?
When you exercise your body needs energy and breaks down molecules to get it. Lactic acid is one of these molecules released. Small amounts of lactic acid are a good temporary energy source, reducing fatigue during a run.
However lactic acid only helps for a short period of time. An increase in the acidity of the cells can cause a burning sensation in your muscles, slowing their ability to keep going. It usually takes 30-60 minutes to clear after working out.
Compression reduces lactic acid production meaning your muscles will be able to go for longer with less damage (and less pain). This means they’ll return to normal quicker, reducing your chance of delayed onset muscles soreness, DOMS.
What Should Compression Feel Like?
When buying compression clothing you’ll notice that your recommended size is not determined by your regular measurements but by BMI, using your height and weight to ensure it fits your body properly.
It’ll be a tight fit, much tighter than regular running tights, but not painful or restrictive to your movement. It must fit your body properly though, too tight and it can prevent circulation.
Your clothing won’t need to be broken in and will return its tight, supportive stretch for around 40-60 washes, or the same distance as your running shoes.
Most importantly, it should be comfortable and a brand that works for one runner may not work for another, so you might have to try different ones to find your perfect fit.
The Benefits of Wearing Compression
Increased recovery speed
- One of the biggest benefits of wearing compression gear during your run is the speed with which you recover afterwards.
- The pain you feel in the hours and days after a run is the result of microtrauma to your muscles and connective tissue causing inflammation. Increased blood circulation reduces the swelling of your muscles helping them to repair quicker.
Reduced muscle fatigue
- By reducing the vibration of your muscles from impact, your legs are less likely to feel tired and fatigued, keeping you fresh for longer while reducing the soft tissue damage and speeding up your recovery.
- Improving circulation delivers more oxygen to your active muscles which means you can work harder for longer.
- With improved circulation your body is able to flush out lactic acid and metabolic waste, giving you more power and reducing cramp after you run.
Reduced risk of injury
- Compression gear places controlled pressure over key areas, reducing strain, boosting blood flow, and minimising your risk of injury.
- The technical fabrics that make up compression clothing are moisture wicking and breathable, keeping you dry, comfortable and cool.
Types of Compression Clothing
Compression Calf Sleeves
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