The Truth About Compression Clothing (for endurance athletes)

This is my first run with compression, pun intended.

I understand that I’m late to the game as a serious triathlete, or athlete in general, who may wear these garments, but I’ve always viewed nouveau products with added skepticism. Believe me, I sell these for a living and people ask me what qualities they provide and I always repeat the same thing (the basic facts which the manufacturer provide in their literature):

  • Increases blood pooling to critical muscles
  • Decreases amount of lactic acid buildup
  • Assists in muscle recovery post workout
But to be honest I had never tried it and I always told my customers that. Call it a macho-man reflex to the latest and greatest; that I trust my training more than I do the ever revolving door of 20(xx) latest and greatest gear.
2XU Compression Tights
Come to find out these garments were pioneered in the 1930’s as a means of assisting medical patients undergoing rehabilitation from vein conditions such as varicose veins, Sclerotherapy, chronic venous insufficiency, Lymphedema, pregnancy and thrombotic syndrome or post venous stasis ulcers (yes I have some sources).
Basically these garments act as a giant, strategically placed, “Ace Bandage” which in turn acts as a means to reduce swelling in critical areas in the body which allows for improved blood flow in addition to a decrease in swelling, to targeted areas. Think of it as a wearable ice-pack for your muscles with deep-vein benefits.
Well color me interested. It only took 20 minutes of investigation to find this out.
None of the products on the market will give you this easy explanation, nor do they give you guidelines for wearing the garment. All I can tell you is that, yes, it is backed by 80 years of therapeutic science, it does work and the simple idea is to wear it as much as possible during or post workout, however, there are a few graduated lines of compression clothing for athletes, namely:
  • Race ready, high performance (high flexibility, low amount of compression)
  • Post-workout / recovery (low flexibility, high amount of compression)
  • Hybrid (50/50 mix of flexibility and compression. A one stop purchase which gives the benefits of both garments)
These compressive clothes don’t come close to the medical grade garments in terms of the mg of mercury (pressure rating) that they’re classified by, but for good reason. The medical garments are meant for one staying stationary and for a patient that requires SERIOUS compressive needs in order to achieve a beneficial medical effect. You, our loyal readers, are able-bodied and require a garment that is both flexible and compressive as to reap its therapeutic benefits while smashing age-group records or recovering faster than the other ill-informed athlete (last-week me).
Since trying out the new recovery line of 2XU recovery compression and following up with a hefty bit of research I’ve come to the conclusion that, yes, this ‘ish does work. You will feel an added benefit. You will be able to return to training faster and with more intensity than you previously thought and you should have a new-found joy for sports-science.
Why?
Because you’re a trihead and you don’t take trends for face value. Compression is here to stay but for good reason. If you’re serious about endurance training or for any sort of sport that requires a lifting/training period coupled with a competitive showing / race period at least pick up a pair of recovery garments if not the hybrids. You’ll be back training harder in a faster amount of time and you’ll get more out of your season’s length by wearing these products.
Also, you’ll look like you’re wearing Batman’s pajama’s. Which is worth anything in my book…
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