So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sock It To Me - Where Should I Use Compression Wear?

"...don't criticize what you can't understand..." - "The Times, They Are A-Changin'" - Bob Dylan (1964)

I am a late adopter. I hold a particularly wary attitude toward the newest, brightest, & latest. It's not that I prefer to be the grouchy curmudgeon who "just won't get with the program." More often than not I'm the guy who calmly stares at the smoldering ruin of the next "greatest thing since the invention of sliced bread" & like the young man in Rudyard Kipling's "If," 'stoops to build them using worn-out tools.' When it comes to technology I wait for the second model year, the 2.0, the next version. That second year is always a plus; the (inevitable) "bugs" from the initial release have been worked out & the degree of sticker shock is often much lower and less painful.

I first saw compression stockings, sleeves & hosiery during my initial fling with triathlon. I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of people running 13.1 miles in the 90-degree heat of Panama City, FL, in black knee-length stockings immediately after riding 56 miles, immediately after swimming 2215 yards. I didn't know anybody who could explain the benefits; none of my closest (Ironman) triathlon-participating friends wore the stockings (but, after reading the research, I'm wondering whether I needlessly endured post-race trauma). Therefore, I made the conscious decision to speak neither well nor ill of wearer or garment until I had ample opportunity to try them out for myself.

Thank you, Road Runners Club of America. Thank you, Sigvaris. The Sigvaris/RRCA study was simple enough: Receive a pair of compression socks, run a 10k, wear the socks as part of the recovery protocol, write down your findings. In return I'd receive a second pair of compression socks.

Amazingly enough, as bad as I felt after the 10K (a week after Ironman 70.3 New Orleans), my legs did not feel all the worse for wear while I wore the socks. I now wear the socks during Sunday afternoons sitting around the house, or under a pair of jeans or slacks if I go out on Sunday. Sorry, I draw the line at tackiness during recovery, so no long socks with shorts (unless a pair of German "lederhosen" & I'm going to beer fest) in public. In fact, with a couple of weeks left in my training cycle for a target half-marathon, I've pulled the socks out for workplace wear. Everything feels good this afternoon.

My gosh, I've become my grandfather.

But the jury is still out - at best inconclusive - on running in compression stockings. One of my athletes, a 28 year-old male, started to wear his 2XU calf compression sleeves at track workouts. Again, the "speak neither well nor ill" tactic works best when one wears the "Coach" hat. If they work for Allan, then so be it. It appears that many runners who wear compression sleeves or socks while running feel more comfortable with them on, even if there are few notable benefits during the run.

But researchers in Europe & the US have seen the benefits of compression clothing once they are worn during recovery. The compressive wear decreased the amount of exercise-induced muscle damage, which probably continues during the immediate post-exercise period. Garment wearers were less likely to complain of perceived muscle soreness, & there was less incidence of creatine kinase in the blood (a marker of muscle damage) during the 48-hour period following a run. While there was only one study which alluded to improved run performance with compression socks, the majority of studies did find an improvement in follow-on run performance after recovering with the socks.

So, I've come to see the light about compression wear, but it's going to take a little bit of time before I'm brave enough to be seen in public in a pair of compression socks. Perhaps they won't be so easily noticed if I wear them with a pair of long tights instead of shorts.

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