Compression Obsession

On the morning after Thanksgiving, I was feeling pretty bad about myself (as I usually do after eating that much food). It was also surprisingly nice out, so I went for a pleasant run up Wachusett before driving back to New Hampshire for Family Time, Round 2. Post-run, my calves were feeling a little tight, which is normal after running uphill, right? It’s normal for me, anyway. So I took a nice, warm shower, put on normal person clothes, slipped into my CEPs, and hit the road. Perfectly normal.

When I walked into my mom’s house, my cousin accused me of trying to blind him, my sister gave me a crazy look, and sweet old Nana might as well have said “wtf are you wearing?” (she kindly left out the “tf” part, but I could totally hear it in her voice). I’ll admit that I probably looked ridiculous in my brown Prana hoodie, teal skirt, and bright green compression socks, but surely everyone must have known that I did not intend on actually going out in public  looking the way I did! It was just for the car ride! To make my legs hate me a little less! Sheesh!

It seems like the running world generally operates on the idea that the brighter and crazier things are, the better. I approve.

As I took them off and answered the “well, why do you wear them?” question with a simple “because they’re awesome,” (and an implied “duh“) I started thinking about how I had wanted to write this post a while back for work. Instead, I’m keeping it for myself. So, why do I (or anyone, for that matter) like compression gear so much? There are many reasons, but I’ll limit this list to three. Ehh, maybe five. We’ll see what happens.

1. Like I already mentioned, compression socks (and sleeves) are awesome.  You know how you get the warm-and-fuzzies when someone you love hugs you? Well, your legs like to be hugged too! Show them some love, and they’ll repay you by running harder/better/faster/stronger. (I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to slip that in there…for a good laugh, watch their other video too!)

2. Unlike the social sciences, the concept of compression is not just hokum. The benefits of running (or cycling, or almost any sort of training, really) with compression gear are real. Your chances of cramps and pulled muscles are greatly reduced due to increased blood flow keeping the muscles warmer and better oxygenated, while simultaneously flushing away the lactic acid being produced. And because compression socks/sleeves essentially hold everything in place, vibration of muscles, tendons, and ligaments is also reduced which, in turn, reduces your chance of shin splints.

3. Recovering with compression is just as beneficial. After talking with a CEP rep (one of the many perks of my job) and reviewing the information on their website, I learned that compression increases blood circulation by 30% when an athlete is at rest! That means that your total recovery time is shorter, which means you can go back out and get after it again sooner. Win. (I also learned from the CEP rep that sleeves won’t help during recovery. Instead of increasing blood flow in both directions, once you’re resting sleeves will only help blood flow to your legs where it will start to pool at your feet. Since socks don’t cut off at the ankle, they help blood flow through your feet and back to your heart as well. Moral of the story: train with sleeves, recover with socks. Or just use socks for both if you don’t have the funds to support your compression habit.)

4. Unlike almost everything else you wear while running, you can wear them more than once before washing them. This is especially great because these things can be pretty pricey. Both CEP and Zensah incorporate silver ions into their products to resist bacteria growth and odors. Since I run with my sleeves, I wash them slightly more frequently than I wash my socks, which I only wear for recovery. Even still…if you were to ask me when the last time I washed my sleeves was, I wouldn’t be able to answer, and they aren’t even a little bit stinky!

5. Wearing compression socks or sleeves makes you look super badass/intimidating/like you know what you’re doing. And as we all know, presentation is everything.

Ah, my beloved compression sleeves.
Well, these particular sleeves are not mine. My feet aren’t nearly that big, and my legs aren’t quite that tan or good-looking.

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