Monthly Archives: January 2008

Compression Part I

I arrived home after Ironman Western Australia thinking about compression. Compression socks and tights both for during competition and recovery. It was something that seemed to be gaining in popularity now.
This year’s Ironman World Championships in Kona saw Torbjorn Sindballe wearing an all white outfit. It looked rather funky but apparently was a product of research that showed the white outfit would reflect heat and keep him extra cool in Kona. He had on one white glove, into which he puts ice cubes, and knee high white compression socks. He sure looked unusual, but he did get second place so there must be something to that outfit. To hell with fashion!
At Ironman WA, there were people also wearing compression socks. Afterwards, a number of competitors wore compression tights for recovery, as I saw them lounging around in them. I vowed to get some as soon as I got home.
My first order was for some traditional compression socks at Magellans. These socks are made for more mature people, who potentially have the danger of deep vein thrombosis (clotting in deep blood vessels which can lead to stroke) and developing varicose veins. Research has shown that compression socks can help prevent these very serious conditions from happening, especially while sitting for a long time in these awful plane seats on extended trips.
I wore these for a while and they worked pretty darn good at keeping the blood from pooling in my legs and making them swell. Plane seats are notoriously bad for me. They are often too high and put extra pressure on the back of my legs, causing numbness and the swelling as circulation is prevented. Wearing compression socks really helped this and virtually eliminated the swollen feeling in my lower legs and feet. What bothered me a bit about these socks were that they were full socks, and that I had to wash them every time I wore them so that they wouldn’t become smelly.
I switched to Zensah compression socks, which allowed me to wear a pair of normal socks while wearing these socks. Zensah socks aren’t really full socks; they only cover your lower leg from your ankle up to your knee. I find that I don’t have to wash these every time because they aren’t covering my feet. Since I fly so much, I wear these every time and have fallen in love with them! (By the way, getting up in a plane and walking around every hour works wonders as well.)
You might think that wearing knee-high socks could work just as well. Apparently, they don’t have the same effect. Compression socks are made to have a graduated compression effect upwards from the ankle to the knee. Regular knee high socks aren’t made for that. Sorry, you can’t go to Target and just buy some athletic tube socks!
Will they help performance or recovery? The jury is still out but promising in the areas of formal research. Informally, it seems that their popularity does say something about their effectiveness. So I find this post is really Part I in my own experiences with compression. I now know that Zensah compression socks are required equipment for flying and keeping my legs fresh on both short and long flights. I bought a pair of 2XU compression tights to see what happens when I wear them after a long, hard workout. I will test this later on this year as I build for Ironman Florida. Also, I am considering wearing my Zensah compression socks during the run of Ironman Florida. Silly looking? Potentially. Gain a few minutes or more…not bad! Avoiding cramps during the run…priceless!
Both the Zensah socks and 2XU tights I bought at my favorite online tri-shop,
If you want to find out more at this stage, Joe Friel has a great post on compression and tried to find some current research on the topic. I expect there will be more formal research released as the year goes on.

Neuromuscular Run Training

About 3 weeks ago I had a small epiphany. I thought about neuromuscular training for the bike and the workouts I do to make my cycling better. I thought to myself, “isn’t there neuromuscular run training?”
I suppose there are things we have done on the track, like strides, skipping, high knee running and the such. But one thing I really wanted to work on was speed this year and felt that there was one area which I hadn’t done much of, which was leg turnover and getting used to running fast.
So I hopped on the treadmill and did a warmup, and then proceeded to do 30 seconds run/30 seconds rest while increasing the MPH to 12 MPH. Man that was hard! The first time I reached 12 MPH (the max of my treadmill) I could only keep that up for about 15 seconds! The second time I tried this, I managed two intervals of about 20 seconds (takes 10 seconds for the treadmill to reach 12 MPH) and each time I reached and blew through my LT in that short amount of time.
I realized that this was good. I was training my body to relax and move at that speed. My body and leg turnover were being stressed and forced to maintain that rate by the relentless nature of the treadmill. There is no way to not keep it up; otherwise you’ll fly off the back of the treadmill! This can’t be repeated effectively outside because you’ll always naturally slow down when you get tired.
I told my PT person about this and he related to me that at San Jose State, they do this kind of training all the time. They actually use a cord around the waist to tie someone to the front bar of the treadmill so that it helps keep them on the treadmill and forces you to move your feet under you. It still doesn’t prevent you from falling flat on your face, so you gotta move your legs!
I am going to try more of this in my off season before I hit the track for real workouts. I am curious to see if this will have an effect on my run speed, which I really want to work on in the first half of this year. My next goal is to increase the amount of intervals I can achieve at 12 MPH and get my body used to leg turnover, body positioning, and form required to maintain these speeds.