Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Compression Socks

I had a convo with my brother recently about compression socks. He asked why I wear them during races. So while I was explaining it to him, I thought I'd write a post about it...

I will begin this post by saying there is no firm evidence that supports compression socks one way or the other. I will also say that there is no negative effect of wearing compression socks.

Any race you go to, you see lots of runners with brightly colored socks up to their knees. No, they aren't just for fashion...there is actually a good reason behind it. Many athletes believe that their legs feel better after long runs because of compression socks.

These socks are by Pro Compression and I have worn this pair for three races!

I like the article I'm pasting bits from below (found at:

"To really understand how compression socks and sleeves work, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how blood flows through the body. The heart pumps oxygen containing blood to our extremities and working muscles though arteries. Once the cells use the oxygen and other nutrients from the blood, the then deoxygenated blood, along with lactic acid and other waste products enter the veins to get taken back to the heart. Once the blood gets back to the heart, it’s oxygenated from the lungs and the process is repeated."

"Keeping oxygenated blood flowing to muscles is important for performance. The more oxygen the cells have, the better they will function. During exercise, the body produces lactic acid as a waste product. If this lactic acid is not removed from the muscles, it can contribute to soreness and decreased ability to perform. Another factor in decreased performance is muscle fatigue. Muscular vibration during physical activity contributes to fatigue. Think about how much shock and vibration is going through your leg muscles as you pound pavement with 3-5 times your body weight while running. Over time, those little vibrations of the muscles add up and they become fatigued."

So why does this matter to your running? Compression socks provide you with graduate compression (tighter at the foot and ankle and looser the rest of the way up). The graduation helps with gravity and "assists the body in venous return."

"Recent studies show that with an optimal level of consistent compression, the walls of the arteries will dilate, increasing the blood flow through them. Arterial blood flow has been shown to increase up to 40% during activity and 30% during recovery. This means more oxygen and nutrients flowing through the body! On the other hand, the walls of the veins will constrict under compression, which helps to increase the velocity of blood flow through them. Increased velocity of blood flow through veins means that deoxygenated blood and lactic acid will get back to the heart quicker, which will help to increase the rate of recovery and decrease muscle soreness! Compression will also help to stabilize the muscle and decrease the amount of muscular vibration, resulting in decreased fatigue. To sum up the benefits of compression; enhanced performance through increased blood flow, quicker recovery and decreased muscle soreness, and less fatigue."

Compression socks can help with shin splints, calf cramps and tendonitis and they can help you decrease the rate of fatigue in your muscles and recover faster. 

I love my compression socks, but I don't wear them all of the time. I bust them out when I'm running longer than 5 miles. I also like to wear them after a long run to help with recovery (I have a pair for running and a pair for recovery). In fact, if you look at most compression sock websites, they don't say anything about help during a run, it's the RECOVERY that is important.

I will say I do notice a difference when I wear them and when I don' far as how my legs feel. I'm not saying my legs feel like a million bucks after running a half marathon, but it typically only takes me a day or two to recover.

Tune in next week for a pair of compression socks I got to try out!


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