Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Compression, you're my obsession

If there's one thing I've learned as a relative newcomer to the sport of running, it's to heed the advice of runners significantly more experienced than myself.

Fortunately (or unfortunately?) for me, that category includes pretty much everyone. So when I met an ultramarathoner working at the 110% booth at the John Hancock Sports and Fitness Expo a couple weeks ago, I figured I should listen to him.

I've been hearing a lot about this compression stuff, I said to him. I want to know what all this hoopla is about. He quickly sat me down and slipped a compression sleeve on my calf, which was a little sore from the previous evening's run. Then, he slipped a packet of ice into the sleeve's special pocket, hugging my shin bone and front calf muscle (tibia and tibilais anterior muscle for you medical folks). It was divine. Compression helps aid recovery, he said. It gives the lower leg muscles more support on long distances. I was definitely sold on the concept.

However. The whole kit (sleeves, ice, and thermal bag) stood to cost me $75, which is a little steep for this old bargain shopper. I thanked him, made a bunch of lame excuses, and said I wanted to think about it.

Two days later at the marathon, I noticed quite a few runners wearing Zensah calf sleeves. These don't have the "cold therapy" option and are just straight up compression for the lower leg, but were $40 and had solid user reviews. Besides, I already own a couple ice packs. I bought the Zensah sleeves.

Since this past Sunday was such a beautiful day in Boston (at least in the morning), I was excited to head out for my scheduled 10-miler and test drive the sleeves. Despite the promising weather, I had a positively miserable run complete with sunburn, nausea, and a side stitch. I soldiered on for about 5.5 miles before I decided to call it a day.

My legs, however, felt phenomenal. I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of a beautiful friendship.