A quick review to get everyone up to speed in our series:
There are a variety of methods involving ice, heat, and water that many people use religiously to treat their bodies after their runs. But what happens when you don’t have time or access to these modalities and you’re facing 8 to 10 hours of commuting and sitting at work? It’s unlikely your boss is going to sign off on that hot tub request you made. Or worse, what do you do after a morning run followed by a transcontinental airline flight to ensure you don’t feel like your legs are unfolding like an accordion when you arrive at your destination?
Enter the ninth standard for our runners and a secret weapon in the recovery game:
You’re no doubt familiar with the nearly ubiquitous use of compression shorts and shirts by athletes trying to keep their bodies warm and supported during their sporting activities. Lower extremity compression is often times forgotten or relegated to the realms of clinical use for lower extremity circulatory impairments. We’ve known for decades that compression of the feet, ankles, and lower legs allows the body to operate the circulatory and lymphatic systems more efficiently.
What we’ve found in our practice is that the same compression of the feet and lower legs is an incredibly simple and effective tool to help you bounce back faster from your runs.
Here’s the simple application process:
- Once you’ve finished your run, properly cooled down, cleaned up, and gotten fired up for the rest of your day, put your compression socks on.
- Go on about the rest of your day
That’s it. It’s a simple and cost effective standard to meet. You can find a good pair of compression socks for $20-$30. Look for socks that provide compression at 20 mmMg for the optimum effect.
If you’re sitting for the majority of your day, the systems that deal with muscle recovery and tissue repair (your circulatory and lymphatic systems) just don’t work effectively enough on their own. Compression keeps blood and fluid from pooling in your lower legs as you sit. Better circulation equals faster recovery.
And compression socks are a lifesaver on a long plane flight. After finishing my most recent Spartan Race last fall, less than a day later I limped onto a plane from New York City to Kansas City (a 3 hour flight), compression socks on and my calves screaming at me after running up and down a mountain for four hours the day before. By the time we landed in KC I actually felt looser than when I walked on the plane in NYC. Despite only being able to get up and move around a handful of times, being intentional about my recovery made the process 10 times easier than it would have been if I had just waited for my body to try to recover from that torture I put it through on my own.
There’s mixed evidence as to whether or not wearing compression socks while you run has any performance benefits. But there’s no argument that compression after a run helps the recovery process along. Yes, the socks can look dorky. No, no one actually cares if you’re wearing them. But your body will notice the difference. Wearing them under your business casual attire will be your secret weapon to help fuel your next hard training run or race, without any extra effort on your part.
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