My Inner Nerd and Recovery

This is how much of a nerd I am.

It can be used to confirm your threshold pace and what your proper pace should be during a race. Lactic acid in blood means not enough oxygen is delivered to muscles, therefore you could be overtraining.

Not that I’m actually going to buy this, but this is the type of stuff I got to play with for my second degree at Purdue; Nutrition, Fitness, and Health (Exercise Physiology based). *sigh* I need to go back to school to fulfill my inner-nerd. I get too excited about this stuff.

I’ve been reading more about compression socks (because I’ve been fascinated with them since I first read about them in February) and am trying to decide if they are worth the dough. They have been used for years in the medical field for preventing blood clots and improving circulation and are now becoming popular in the athletic world. There are several brands out there but one that always gets the best reviews are Zoot’s. I’ve read peer-reviewed research articles about their benefits and there does seem to be scientific evidence of helping speed up recovery from endurance events. Hello, marathon training?

 (Not Me)

CEP Compression Socks

In the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2006) researchers in Sydney, Australia concluded: “The data suggests that wearing compression garments in the recovery from eccentric exercise may alter the inflammatory response to damage and accelerate the repair processes inside of the muscle. However, further studies are warranted to confirm any alteration in muscle repair/recovery consequent to wearing of compression garments.”

This guy did a full scientific review on a pair of Sigvaris compression socks. If you don’t want read all about it there, I’ll hit the main points.

He goes into 2 theories:

  1. Increased blow flow return (to the heart) when wearing compression socks. This happens because the compression prevents blood from pooling in your lower legs due to gravity. This would help increase stroke volume (more blood pumped from heart each time the heart beats, therefore making oxygen delivery more efficient) and increase clearance of by-products from exercise to prevent buildup and decrease soreness in the recovery phase. This is what I’m so interested in.
  2. Muscle vibration. Stating that the vibration from your foot striking the ground causes delayed muscle soreness and the compression socks could help decrease the soreness by improving our efficiency.

Some research conducted on compression socks also has to do with blood lactate levels. They have been seen to reduce the amount of blood lactate levels, not muscle lactate levels. Maybe the increase in blood flow increases the efficiency oxygen is delivered to our working muscles and therefore decreasing the amount of lactic acid that is produced. This would be a marker to know that we still have “some go” left in us.

Lactic acid is produced during exercise when our oxygen demand is greater than the oxygen we have available to fuel our muscles and metabolic functions. When this oxygen deficit occurs, lactic acid is produced. It’s what causes the burning sensation in our muscles during intense exercise because lets face it, its lactic acid.

Here’s the part people miss – lactic acid is completely washed out of your muscles within 30-60 minutes of finishing your exercise1. Since the soreness you experience from that exercise doesn’t show up until 1-3 days after you’ve finished.. how can we blame lactic acid?

It seems a more logical excuse for muscles soreness is actually muscle damage. This is the theory the scientific world has been embracing over the past decade or so. When you overdue your exercise you cause “microtrauma” to the muscle fibers. Over the next 24 hours the damaged muscle becomes swollen and sore. Chemical irritants are released from these damaged muscles and irritate the pain receptors1 and all of sudden, “ouch, I can’t even walk to get water!”

Those chemical irritants are some of the by-products that *may* be cleared faster when using compression socks. I don’t know but it’s a theory.

How do you get rid of soreness? Start. Moving. Don’t sit on the couch all day. By walking, swimming, or doing some other event other than the exercise that made you sore to begin with, you begin to restore your muscles to their normal state. This is why Sunday is my cross-training day! Continuing to stretch and time in hot baths or saunas can help, too.

 

You can’t always prevent yourself from getting sore, but by continuing to be active will increase your strength and endurance and increase the tolerance your muscles can handle.

Compression socks could also help with this swelling and recovery due to the compression alleviating that swelling and inflammation. Think of when you smash your finger, you want to apply pressure to help with the pain.

The compression socks can be used in 2 ways, during the endurance event or during the recovery phase. The research for use during the event isn’t as reliable. It won’t make you faster, but it could help with the vibration aspect.

Most of the research that proves beneficial is in the recovery phase. That’s when I would use them and on long rides before races, aka Savannah. I’m not sure how cool I would look running in socks up to my knees (or in my case, my thighs because my legs are so short) in 90 degree weather, anyway.

I still haven’t decided if I’m going to buy them, but I guess I just want to, to see if they will work to speed up recovery between my runs. Be my own science experiment – sounds good in theory anyway!

How do you recover from long runs?

 

Reference:

1. Edmund Burke, Ph.D. Accessed July 19, 2011

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One response

  1. Pingback: 1 Week Post-Marathon and Goals | Will Run for Food

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