If you are a new runner, diving into the world of running gear, you would have come across the term compression clothing. It’s nothing but clothing made out of engineered, elastic gradient compression fabric that’s meant to mold around various parts of the body, and help in increasing blood and lymphatic flow. In sports, compression garments are meant to improve performance and expedite recovery. You would have noticed athletes wearing skin-tight clothing that seemingly leaves little breathing room between skin and cloth. That’s what brings in the increased performance.
Compression clothing is said to reduce muscles soreness 24 hours after exercise activity. This was found out by a study conducted in Auckland which said soreness could be reduced specifically in the compressed muscle region. Ninety-three percent of subjects who ran without compression socks experienced lower leg soreness a day after the run, but only 14 percent of the subjects who ran with the socks had similar soreness.
Compression apparel also leads to expedited recovery because of increased blood flow. Frequent air travelers also claim that their legs feel fresher, and less sore, after wearing compression socks. This happens because with the increased blood flow, metabolic waste is removed quicker, thereby leading to faster re-introduction of the muscle building blocks.
Isolating upper and lower body compression garments, lets us focus on their benefits separately. For compression tops the benefits are:
▪ Core support: Compression tops provide core support around your stomach, sides and lower back, which can become fatigued – particularly on long runs.
▪ Better breathing: Tops train the breathing by gently squeezing and supporting the chest with each inhalation. This encourages a more focused breathing style and can even reduce the risk of a painful stitch.
▪ Improved posture: Support is delivered through the back for a more upright approach to the run. Better posture equals better breathing, and this in turn equals improved running.
And for compression tights and socks, help runners with:
▪ Increased recovery speed: Compression leggings can rapidly reduce recovery time and minimise delayed onset muscle soreness.
▪ Less wasted energy: Tights reduce muscle oscillation, particularly through the quad and calf.
▪ Less cramps: Lactic acid is flushed out by the squeezing of muscles and increased venous return – which may help reduce or even eliminate cramping on the run.
It must be noted that a lot of the advantages of compression clothing is also to do with confidence. They have a placebo effect on runners, especially those with perfect technique, but not all levels of runners can take advantage of them. If you’re a new runner, we’d say give running a few months, and see how your body responds, and how your running form shapes up, before investing in compression clothing.