How compression gear gave my running a boost

2010-07-16 00:00

WHEN local sportswear brand Second Skins sent me its new compression garments to test I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive — they were so small. And tight.

Fortunately, I soon realised that tight, in this instance, was not necessarily a bad thing — as it holds together all the jiggly bits and actually creates a rather slimming appearance.

Yet while this is a good enough reason for some of us to wear a compression outfit, it’s clearly not its sole purpose.

What are compression garments?

Their primary aim, according to Second Skins, is to apply pressure to muscles furthest away from the heart, resulting in blood being sent back to the heart more efficiently. Compression gear was originally utilised as a medical support to prevent blood pooling in the limbs after an operation as they improved circulation and led to oxygenation of the muscles.

This principle was then applied to athletes with the idea that it would enhance not only their performance, but also their recovery.

Compression gear is one of the latest buzz words in the fitness world and with professional athletes such as Lance Armstrong, Ryk Neethling and AB de Villiers all sporting various compression garments, there has been much interest surrounding whether they work or not.

The general understanding is that compression garments improve performance by:

• increased blood flow;

• enhanced muscle warm-up;

• decreased muscle vibration;

• reduced blood lactate concentration; and

• increased torque generation at joints which reduces the risk of injury.

During recovery, compression garments play a part in minimising the effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness, lactic acid build-up and general muscle fatigue.

My experience

I am by no means an athlete. That said, however, I am a very keen, albeit new, runner. I have taken part in a few trail runs which hooked me on running and I try to run as often as possible every week with my running buddy.

However, I have been unable to run any great distance or even on consecutive days as my calves tend to get very sore and tight after a run and no matter hwo much I stretch before and after a run, they were always too sore to run the next day.

That is, until I wore the compression garments that Second Skin gave me to review. I have run in the long leggings a few times now and after every run I stretched the same as I usually do; however, the next day when I swung my legs out of bed I gingerly waited for that cramping pain that usually greets me after a run, but it was not there.

I was elated. My legs were still a bit sore, but nothing like I had experienced regularly before and this allowed me to run more often which has helped strengthen my calves further. I can only assume this is down to the compression gear aiding in my recovery.

The verdict

The proof they say, is in the pudding. And last weekend as my running buddy and I crossed the finish line after our first 15-kilometre race, I not only felt the part, I looked the part — a little hot and sweaty but happy.

As far as comfort goes, I found the compression garments to be so comfortable it’s almost like running in your birthday suit. Except a lot more socially acceptable.

The long tights and the long- sleeved top are perfect for chilly winter mornings as they kept me warm at the start and did not trap the heat and make me too hot while running. In fact, I found them a lot cooler to run in than an ordinary T-shirt which often ends up sticking to you after the first few kilometres.

The short tights are more suited to exercise in warmer climates, although at the moment I prefer the longer tights for the support they offer my calves. However, the socks (which can be worn on the calves) work just as well for this. So it really is a win-win situation.

I may not be able to say with any scientific certainty that compression garments work, but they did seem to work for me and will from now on be a staple in my exercise wardrobe.

The Second Skins range

Second Skins offers four sizes of compression garment to provide the right amount of pressure for each individual.

The range consists of a long-sleeved shirt, long tights, socks and shorts sold separately. And best of all, Second Skins compression won’t break the bank with prices from R299,95 for the socks to R549,95 for the tights.

Who uses them?

The good news is that even if you’re not a professional athlete, compression garments can not only help you look and feel the part, but they can help you improve your chosen sport or fitness activity.

The shorts provide warmth and support to hamstrings in stop-start sports such as rugby.

The long-sleeved tops are great for canoeists and paddlers.

Runners, sprinters and cyclists benefit most from full-length compression tights or socks and for triathletes and swimmers, the entire range will only add benefit.

Long-haul travellers and travelling athletes also derive great benefits from wearing compression gear, mostly socks, on long flights as they reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis and swelling in the legs and feet.


Products are available at selected sports stores. For further information, call 0861-SSKINS or 0861 775 467 or e-mail jbasson


• Amy Henderson is Health24’s fitness editor.

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