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Marathon Sports Tip of the Week: The Compression Question

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  March 3, 2014 10:16 AM

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Long runs are getting longer. Those aches and pains are getting peskier and more problematic. Sometimes icing, heat and stretching just don’t seem to be enough. Compression might be a new resource for you to add to your training tool kit.

When we talk about “compression”, we’re referring to “graduated compression”. Graduated Compression refers to the amount of compression in a garment, in relation to where the garment is being worn on the body. In Graduated Compression garments, the further away the garment is from your core (heart), the more compressive the garment is. For example, a pair of tights featuring graduated compression will be tightest around the ankle, a bit less tight around the calf, gradually becoming less compressive as you reach the waistband.

Graduated Compression provides a number of benefits:
-- Quicker muscle recovery
o Because graduated compression garments are more compressive the further away the garment sits on the body from the core, the increased pressure applied to the extremities pushes the blood back to the core (heart) more quickly. Increased circulation means that there is more oxygen flowing to tissues at a quicker rate. More oxygen means that damaged tissue is repaired more quickly, improving recovery.
-- Decreased muscle fatigue
o Increased circulation also means that lactic acid and other damaging byproducts are moved out of muscle groups more quickly, decreasing fatigue.
-- Muscle stabilization
o When we run, jump, or perform almost any physical activity, there is a level of muscle vibration that occurs. We’ve all seen the super slow motion of football players getting hit, or baseball players hitting the ball, runners sprinting. We see how their muscles move, jiggle, wiggle and look like Jell-o. Compression helps to stabilize those muscles, reduce vibration and excess movement, so the muscles don’t have to expend as much energy on reducing the jiggling and can channel their energy and power into the activity at hand.

Graduated compression can be a great tool for people who have specific issues, aches or pains that they are dealing with. Compression socks can be great for people suffering from plantar faciitis, Achilles tendinosis, shin splints, or calf issues. Compression tights can help to provide some relief to issues such as patella femoral problems, IT band syndrome, and problems with quadriceps or hamstrings.

If you’re interested in learning whether graduated compression should be part of your training solution, visit your nearest Marathon Sports. Our staff will be happy to talk with you about your training goals and how compression might fit in.

Dan Soleau is Brand Development Manager at Marathon Sports. He’ll provide weekly training tips for those preparing for the Boston Marathon. Dan has completed 6 marathons and an Ironman. He is a mentor for the One Fund’s Boston Marathon team, coach for the Spaulding Rehabilitation Boston Marathon team, and will be running the 2014 Boston Marathon. Follow him on Twitter at @dansoleau or follow Marathon Sports at @marathon_sports

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Look for updates, news, analysis and commentary from the following.
  • Steve Silva, Boston.com senior producer, two-time Boston Marathon sub-four hour runner.
  • Ty Velde is a 16-time Boston qualifier who's completed 12 consecutive Boston Marathons and 25 marathons overall. Ty is now training for his 13th Boston run and will provide training tips for those who train solo and outside, no matter what temperature it is.
  • Rich 'Shifter' Horgan is a 19-time Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team member who runs in honor of his father, who died of colon cancer. He will provide updates on local running events with a focus on the charitable organizations that provide Boston Marathon entries for their organization's fund raising purposes

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