Serious young man wearing sportswear, listening to music and running downstairs on city stairs. Side view.

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Every fitness pro, every athlete and every single individual that takes great care of their fitness level knows very well how important it is to always look for improvement in training. Passionate individuals care about that one extra percent improvement and they stop at nothing when striving for greatness. The same can be said for devoted runners. You’ve probably seen how professional runners always use compression gear such as socks, pants, tights, etc. Don’t think for a second that there’s no other reason than style for wearing compression garments. Now you’ll see how exactly this type of clothes impacts your body and running performance.

How does it work?

Wearing compression garments improves the proprioceptive neuro response e.g. your movement. Greg Bay, sports physiotherapist, also claims that there is no such thing as muscle memory, you rather have a pattern in your brain. Hence, compression improves the neural inputs that produce better movement patterns. Bay also added how most injuries happen because of suboptimal movement patterns. In his words “athletes need stability, mobility and proper movement patterns for optimal movement”. And that’s exactly where compression helps. The compression effect can be subtle and it requires movement to create specific resistance in a specific direction, according to Bay. For example, if someone pushes you, you resist by pushing back and thus create a reflex-like movement. Basically, that’s how compression functions.

Compression gear in relation to running

When it comes to running, fine compression clothing garments have beneficial effects on running through the improvement of the aerobic threshold. In layman’s terms, compression garments should help increase VO2max and clean lactate from the muscles more efficiently. According to a study which was conducted on a group of six runners, those individuals who wore compression socks experienced a reduction of almost 26% in their VO2max slow component (this is a measure of your oxygen uptake after you’ve reached your lactate threshold). Moreover, another study that included a total of 21 runners measured the difference between the aerobic and anaerobic threshold when wearing compression socks or not. The gathered results state that there was a 2.1 to 6.2% improvement in an individual’s aerobic and anaerobic threshold. On the other hand, one study that dealt with lactic acid accumulation showed how compression clothing actually raises blood lactate accumulation. It is speculated that this unexpected rise in blood lactate stems from a greater overall contribution of anaerobic respiration. That means that compression gear won’t directly improve your lactate clearance but it will allow you to endure more running and be more efficient while at it! Wearing compression clothing improves your performance, most notably by enhancing the aerobic threshold and VO2max. Some may claim that this improvement isn’t such a big deal, but even a 1% improvement in your marathon time can result in that last 1- to 2-minute boost you need to qualify. Remember, pros are well aware of how important that 1 percent can be. You should be too.

Compression gear in relation to recovery

Talking about compression clothing garments and not mentioning their role in the recovery process after training would simply be unfair. You’ve seen the results and explanations from various studies that deal with performance-enhancing effects of compression clothing. The good thing is that the recovery benefits are well-documented too. According to one study, compression garments help with muscle soreness. A total of 11 runners were involved in the study and the results show that creative kinase – an enzyme that is related to post-run cramping – and muscle soreness both decreased when runners wore compression clothing garments during training. What’s even more interesting is the fact that a similar (decreasing) effect is noticed when it comes to the delayed-onset muscle soreness. And we all know how important that is to runners. Now you have another worthy reason to really consider investing in this type of clothing.  

Conclusion

You’re probably wondering now whether compression clothing garments will really help you. And the answer is positive. Yes, wearing compression gear during and after running will indeed improve your performance. Your performance will be enhanced and your post-exercise soreness will be reduced. You just need to make sure that you invest in quality compression clothing garments. Never opt for cheap, knock-off alternatives. Find a reliable source with good reviews, don’t be stingy. It’s your performance we’re talking about here. Every percent matters.  

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