health

Everyone seems to have a pair. Should you invest?

Nat and Lucy in matching compression gear. Yep.
Nat and Lucy in matching compression gear. Yep.

 

By NATALIA HAWK

Some teenagers worked at Maccas or coffee shops to make a bit of spare cash on the side. I worked at a sports store, attempting to sell compression gear to customers who came in and were somewhat seduced by the shiny boxes and yet still apprehensive.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term: compression gear is the umbrella phrase for really, really tight-fitting pieces of exercise garments. They can be tights, they can be socks, they can be tops. You’ll likely see them on professional footy players under their shorts, or on every other person who’s at the gym.

The main thing: they need to be tight. Obviously not so that they cut off the circulation – that would defeat the purpose entirely – but you want to barely be able to pull any excess fabric away from your skin when the compression gear is on. That’s when the benefits come into play.

So what are the benefits, anyway? Compression gear is supposed to improve recovery and enhance performance – so that you can not only train for longer, but you also recover faster. This from the Australian Government Sports Commission:

it appears the use of compression garments may have a positive effect on athletes during exercise and during recovery periods following exercise. As no studies have reported negative effects on exercise performance or perceptions of pain, the use of compression garments may provide a useful training tool for athletes across a wide variety of sports… In particular, some studies have reported that compression garments can improve muscular power, strength, enhance recovery following intense exercise and improve proprioception.

There is plenty of competing information out there on the Interwebs about the true effectiveness of compression garments. Some believe that they’re absolutely amazing; others believe that they do just about nothing and that it’s all in your head.

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I can only speak personally in that I have drunk the compression Kool-aid BIG TIME. I’ve been wearing them for years now; I don’t feel any particular difference in performance, but recovery is huge for me – I don’t feel nearly as sore the next day when I wear compression tights during a workout and for an hour or two afterwards.

I also wear compression tights and a long-sleeved top when skiing – because skiing is damn painful and it means my muscles don’t ache quite so much when I’m trying to concentrate on schnapps while at apres-ski. You can even wear compression gear while travelling to improve jetlag and reduce your chances of DVT.

So. Have I convinced you yet? Let me take you through some of the major brands and their various benefits.

I always wear compression gear when skiing.
I always wear compression gear when skiing.

Skins were the first brand to develop compression gear for sport. They’re the most well-known, they’re the original and the best; they’re also an Australian brand so I like to support them.

If you can afford the best, go for it – they’re great quality, they work (they’ve done a shiteload of testing on them) and they will last you well over a year. (And no, this isn’t a sponsored post – I’ve been buying Skins since before I could even really afford them.)

Essentially – wearing Skins triggers an acceleration of blood flow over a specific body part, working muscles to enhance their performance.

Apparently this increases oxygen delivery to muscles – and the improved oxygenation is most marked in recovery from exercise. As a result, muscle repair is accelerated.

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The compressive effect also limits injury caused by overextending muscles and may even treat injuries as they occur – so if you suffer from something like shin splints, Skins might be something for you to try. If you want to read up more, 12 studies on Skins have been published in medical journals and all of them are available on their website.

I like the long tights best as I can use them for running, flying and skiing – plus I get pain through my lower legs rather than anywhere else.

If you’d prefer to go for a different brand? 2XU and Body Science are both similarly priced to Skins. Body Science garments are generally thicker than the other brands, so some people prefer the feel of them; 2XU is more known for being the compression brand that’s best for things like triathlons, as their garments are better designed to actually be worn in the water.

If you’d like to go for a cheaper brand, Performax is where it’s at. They’re about half the price of the other brands; while you won’t get the same level of benefits, they’re a good introduction to compression garments and they’re also made of quite a flattering fabric that’s also a bit thicker than other brands.

Do you wear compression garments? Do you have a favourite brand?

FIND_YOUR_FIT_CMYK_TM[1]The Athlete’s Foot want you to get out of the house and get involved in the 2013 running season. For the next fourteen weeks, you can Tweet or Instagram a picture/post/video of yourself pounding the pavement with the hashtag #IDIDIT for your chance to win a free fitting and pair of running shoes from The Athlete’s Foot. Oh, and don’t forget to tag @theathletesfootaustralia. Visit the website for more details. Happy running!

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