Do Compression Tights Really Work

do compression tights work

A lot has been said about the benefits of compression garments (largely by the manufacturers). For example Asics compression gear will make your “run further” and “recover faster”, and Under Armor gear is “not just for looks. These things make you better”

If you’ve ever pulled on a pair of compression tights, you’ll know they do make you feel kind of “good”. They seem to get your muscles ready for action. Perhaps that has something to do with the amount of effort it takes to actually get the things on!

Compression gear amounts to more than just an ordinary pair of lycra tights. They are made with tighter elastic, which for starters, mean they hold their shape better over time. Most compression tights will also deliver graduated pressure – they are tighter around the ankles and the knee, which helps to improve circulation from the calf.

What started the compression trend?

It’s probable the idea of wearing compression gear for improved sporting performance started in 2001. NBA player, Allen Iverson had a big game when he was wearing a compression sleeve which was being used to treat bursitis in his elbow.  There’s no evidence that the sleeve made any physical contribution to the player’s performance, but as often happens in these situations, other players followed suit, and the compression garment industry was born.

Will compression gear actually make you run faster?

The theory is that compression garments increase blood circulation which helps to deliver more oxygen to your muscles whilst improving the removal of metabolic wastes which are the by-product of physical activity. This then enables you to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or at the very least run a bit faster, and recover from exercise more quickly.

Most studies agree that athletes experience improved blood flow through their muscles when wearing compression gear. But when it comes to improvements in performance, the results are a bit more ambiguous.

There are some studies which suggest lower limb compression garments “may” be of benefit in improving performance in more explosive events which require movements such as jumping, and may be of less benefit in endurance events.

Interestingly, recent research is showing this improved blood flow may have an effect on your cognitive ability, so in sports where decision make plays a big role such as cycling, soccer, rugby, hockey), compression gear may make a real difference, however more research needs to be done in this area.

The placebo effect

It’s very difficult to account for the placebo effect with compression garments. Anyone who has ever worn a true compression garment will know there’s no fooling yourself into thinking you’re wearing the real McCoy, if what you’re actually wearing is the latest lycra tight from Big W. So, having a control group who actually believe they may be wearing compression gear is highly unlikely. In the real world however, it doesn’t really matter if improved performance is a result of a placebo effect does it?

Effect of compression gear on recovery

One area where compression tights do appear to come into their own is during recovery. One study on rugby players found a reduction in muscle soreness when the players wore the compression garments for a full 24 hours immediately following their exercise bout. Another study amongst weight lifters found similar results when full body compression garments were worn for more than a day following a bout of exercise. (It all sound decidedly lacking in hygiene!)

The Verdict

When it comes to recovery, compression gear can have a real benefit, if worn for 24 hours post event, but if you’re looking to boost your performance substantially, you’re better off relying on a smart training plan than on a pair of compression tights. You’re unlikely to see an improvement in performance simply as a result of the physiological effects the tights have on your performance whilst running.

Given you have to wear something when you’re running, why not go for compression? They hold their shape better than your common everyday garden variety lycra, and are more likely to hold bits in which you’d rather didn’t hang out.

(And gentlemen… please realise tights leave absolutely nothing to the imagination and can be extremely un-nerving)

How Fast Should My Heart Rate Be During a Race?

Quick and Effective Running Workouts

Or put another way, how long is a piece of string?

I was chatting with one of our runners the other day, who was concerned that her average heart rate was too high during a recent race. I’m not qualified to answer such a question as it relates to a particular individual and their heart health, but my general feeling was that an average heart rate of 172 beats per minute over a 5km race was not too high. However, if you have any concerns regarding your health, particularly the health of your heart, you should consult someone who is qualified to assess you. And I am not.

So, that’s the disclaimers out of the way. Let me also say, that our training programs are based on pace and intensity level, rather than heart rate. There are too many variables when it comes to heart rate, so it is not the most relevant factor when it comes to determining how hard you can or should race and train. There are many things which can effect your heart rate from day to day, such as sleep and stress levels, just to name a couple.

To race fast, you need a high average heart rate during the race

A relatively high average heart rate during an exercise bout shows a greater capacity of your heart for work. A greater work capacity of your heart is one of the things which will make you able to run faster, and in a race, that’s the goal.

When you increase your speed (and therefore your intensity), your muscles need more oxygen. If your heart has become stronger through training, it will be able to beat faster to get more oxygen and nutrient containing blood to your working muscles. You can’t run faster without your heart rate increasing.

Low Average Heart Rates and Fitness levels

There seems to be a misconception that high heart rates are bad, and being able to maintain a lower heart rate during racing or training means you’re fitter. Through training, you improve your movement economy, your running efficiency. That means at any given pace, your average heart rate will decrease as you become fitter. In other words, as you become fitter and your running economy improves, you don’t have to put as much effort in to run the same pace. Conversely, at any given heart rate, you’ll be able to run faster.

But, more often than not, the goal of a race is to either run as fast as you are capable of, or to beat everyone else in the race-or beat your friends at least. Your goal is not to run with a low average heart rate. A higher average heart rate means your heart is fit enough to have the capacity to work harder, and therefore run faster.

Cardiac Output

Your exercise performance is regulated by your cardiac output. Cardiac output is the amount of blood the heart pumps through the circulatory system in one minute. At rest, your total blood volume (which is generally between 4 and 6 litres, depending largely on your size), is pumped through your heart once. During exercise, the amount of blood pumped by your heart can more than double in a reasonably fit person. In elite athletes, the heart can pump around 6 times as much blood through the circulatory system each minute.

Cardiac output is influenced by two things: stroke volume and heart rate.

Stroke volume is the amount of blood ejected by the heart in one pump, and heart rate is the number of the number of times the heart beats per minute. Increase either or both of these, and you increase cardiac output.

The more active your muscles are, the more oxygen they require. When you start exercising, your muscles signal your hear to pump faster which increases the blood flow. Your working muscles increase stroke volume by contracting and sending larger volumes of blood back towards the lungs where it can be oxygenated and pumped out by the heart again to deliver oxygen back to the working muscles.

Adaptations to Training

As you undertake a training program and get fitter, your cardiac output increases. Your heart, which after all is just another muscles, gets stronger and is able to pump faster, and to pump more blood due to its improved strength, and the improved ability of the working muscles to help deliver deoxygenated blood back to the lungs to be re-oxygenated.

Does your maximum heart rate increase as you get fitter?

Your potential maximum heart rate is probably not very trainable, but your ability to reach your maximum heart rate may be.  The whole thing is very hard to measure. To exercise at your maximum heart rate is not a particularly comfortable experience. You basically need to push harder and harder until you’re a blithering mess and can’t tolerate any more. But what’s to say the put at which I might give up, the level of pain I can tolerate, or the level of motivation I have to keep going, is the same as the next persons, or will be the same for me on each occasion I were to undertake such a test?

It’s often reported that as people get fitter, their maximum heart rate decreases, rather than increases. This is most likely due to the improvements in stroke volume as they become fitter. The heart is able to pump more blood each beat, and therefore does not need to pump as fast to deliver blood to the working muscles. It may also have something to do with psychological factors involved in testing.

Maximum heart rate is not the determining factor when it comes to running faster

When it comes down to racing, it’s not the person with the highest maximum heart rate who’s going to run the fastest. It’s far more likely to be the person with the highest average heart rate, or close to it. The person who can maintain a high heart rate for the longest amount of time, will be the person who is able to deliver the most nutrients and oxygen to the working muscles, allowing the muscles to work harder, and allowing the runner to run faster.

5 Ways to Stop Food Turning To Fat

stop christmas dinner turning to fat

Would you eat 20 chicken nuggets, 12 Paddle Pops, or 5 bowls of fruit loops in one sitting? Probably not, but you might drink 4 gin and tonics, or 4 bourbon and cokes at your next Christmas party.  And the amount of calories they yield is around about the same. 

Add to that the extra snacks we all tend to eat along with alcohol, you might be taking on board a whole extra day’s worth of calories in one Christmas party if you’re not careful.  

But as a runner, you don’t want to pile on a couple of extra kilos at Christmas time, only to have to carry it round the course with you in your next event. So what to do? 

The answer is definitely not to stop partying!!

Five tips to help minimise the impact of all that Christmas cheer. 

  • Plan to have only a few days on which you really overdo it 
  • On Christmas morning, go for a medium length run (60 minutes or more) and a moderate intensity, and include some faster efforts.  
  • Do daily bouts of vigorous activity
  • Exercise within 1 hour of eating your big Christmas dinner
  • Don’t pig out on treats like Christmas chocolates, just to “get rid of them”, or “get them out of the house”

And if you’d like to know more of the science behind why following these simple guidelines will work, read on.

Plan to have only a few days on which you really overdo it

If you’re going to overeat, do it properly. Really satisfy your desire for gluttony. Eat like a pig once or twice and be done with it. You’re far more likely to be able to resist those extra dips and chips and other stuff people offer you if you know you’ve already had a blow out. You won’t feel so much like you are depriving yourself.

Eat less at the meals you aren’t planning to really go for it. And definitely don’t have two blow out days in a row. Your body can handle some extra calories occasionally, but if you don’t have a break from overindulging, the extra energy just won’t be used up.

On Christmas morning, or before any planned pig-out, go for a 60+ minute medium effort run and include some efforts at a higher intensity

The aim here is to deplete your muscles of glycogen before you eat. If you can manage to get this workout in before you eat breakfast, all the better. 

When you eat, carbohydrate is broken down into simple sugars, moves into the bloodstream, and insulin is used to shunt the sugars out of your blood. From the blood it is used by the brain, stored in the liver, and stored in your muscles in the form of glycogen. Once these storage areas are full, then it is stored as fat. 

So, if you deplete your muscles of glycogen before you eat, there’ll be more room in the muscles to store the glycogen from the carbohydrate that you eat. It’ll be stored here ready to be released next time you need energy. If your glycogen storage silos are already full when you start eating, then more of the carbs you take in will be store as fat. 

If you know you’re going to be eating a big meal on Christmas day, it would be ideal to go for a run  on Christmas morning, and then eat very little, or not at all, until the main event. If you can’t get out on Christmas morning, go out as late as you can on Christmas Eve, and eat very little till your main meal on Christmas day. 

Do daily bouts of vigorous activity 

Overeating and inactivity is associated with alterations in the expression of certain genes in fat tissue. Unfortunately, it’s also associated with the holiday period!

Research published in the Journal of Physiology in December 2013 showed that daily vigorous exercise bouts could counteract the effect of short term overeating and under activity, with respect to alterations in gene expression and the effect this has on metabolism. 

This applied even though the vigorous activity undertaken by research participants meant they had a positive energy balance – ie they still took more calories in than they expended in exercise. The groups ran on a treadmill for about 45 mins at about 70% of their maximum capacity, so it was quite vigorous exercise for a reasonable period of time, but if you have the fitness under your belt to be able to do that, go for it.  Even if you can’t manage a 7/10 effort for 45 minutes every day, doing some vigorous activity on most days is going to help keep your waistline trim.

Exercise within an hour or two of eating your big Christmas dinner

If you’re planning a Nanna nap on Christmas afternoon, think again. Once you’ve taken in all that extra energy, you want to use as much of it as you can whilst it’s still circulating in the blood stream, and before it gets shunted into the body’s long term storage silos – adipose tissue, more commonly known as fat. 

Researchers at Oxford University found that after a large meal containing 30gms of fat, two to three teaspoons of fat can be added to the waist very quickly. The first fat from any meal enters the blood about an hour after you eat. After around three hours, most of that fat has been incorporated into adipose tissue around the waist. Pretty much, the fat circulates in the blood stream and is “caught” opportunistically by the fat cells around the waist – if fat is floating past in the circulating blood, it’ll be nabbed by the fat storage cells around the waist. Then if it’s not used quickly enough, the fat isn’t mobilised for energy, and goes into longer term storage around hips and bum.

A game of backyard cricket, a trip to the beach, or a long walk will serve you well if you’re trying not to put on extra weight. This post meal exercise can be lower intensity-as your body will prefer to use fat for energy at a lower intensity – which is a bit of a bonus. Who wants to work hard with a tummy full of Christmas pud?

Don’t pig out on treats like Christmas chocolates, just to “get rid of them”, or “get them out of the house”

Let’s be real here. Chocolate doesn’t fill you up-it just makes you feel good. It’s not going to stop you from being hungry for the rest of the day. If you eat all your Christmas chocolate at once, just because you want to get rid of it and then start being “good”, chances are, you’re not going to take in less calories at the next meal to counterbalance the extra calories from the chocolate.

Eating an extra 500 calories from any food source, in any one day, is likely to put you into energy excess, and that’s how you put on weight. Much better to have one or two chocolates a day until they’re finished, or just chuck them out. There’s no rule that says you have to eat something just because it’s there!

P.S. You can find out just how man calories are in your favourite alcoholic drink here

5 Quick and Easy Barbecue Recipes

TANDOORI CHICKEN

Tandoori Chicken

So quick and easy. You just need to plan far enough ahead to marinate the chicken for a couple of hours before cooking.

Grilled Oyster Shooters

Grilled Oyster Shooters

Grilled Vegetables with Balsamic Vinegar

Grilled Vegetables with Balsamic Vinegar

For a variation on this one, try chopping the vegetables into chunks and threading onto a skewer along with some halumi.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Strawberry Spinach Salad

I haven’t tried this one, but it looked so interesting I had to throw it in!

Refreshing Watermelon Salad, with Feta Cheese and Olives

Quick and Healthy Barbecue Recipe 1

This one has become a personal favourite of mine since discovering it a couple of years ago.

Easy Bar-B-Q Tandoori Chicken

TANDOORI CHICKEN

 

Ingredients

  • Pataks Tandoori Paste ( this seems to work better than other brands)
  • Full Cream Plain Yoghurt
  • Chicken Thigh Fillets (using things will ensure a more succulent finished product)

Method

  1. You can prepare the chicken in two ways. Either keep the thigh fillets whole, if you’re serving them as part of a sit down meal, otherwise you can cut into bit-size strips which go down very well as finger food.
  2. Prepare the tandoori paste as directed on the jar.
  3. Add the chicken. Marinating overnight gets best results, but a couple of hours will do it.
  4. Heat the barbecue plate so it is really hot when you add the chicken to seal in the juices.
  5. Put the chicken on the barbecue plate. Turn as needed. I like to cook so that parts of the chicken are just barely beginning to turn charred.

Serve with lemon wedges, and sprinkled with coriander.

 

 

Getting the Most out of Treadmill Workouts

getting the most out of treadmill workouts

Ask anyone who does a bit of running, and they’ll have an opinion on treadmill running. Many runners feel running on a treadmill is easier than running outside-if you can stand the boredom. And I have to say, I was firmly in that camp, until I started looking a bit more closely at the research.

Treadmill Running vs Running Outside: which is harder?

Intuitively, it would seem that running on a treadmill has to be easier than running outside. After all, running on a treadmill, the ground moves for you. In theory you could just jump up and down, and not propel yourself forward, and the treadmill speedo would show you running at whatever pace the belt is moving.

However, if you base your workouts on exertion level rather than speed, you can get just as good a workout on the treadmill. A treadmill workout at 7/10 on the Rating of Perceived Exertion is the same exertion level as running 7/10 on the road. You might run a bit faster on the treadmill at the same level of exertion, but you’re still going to get the same training benefit if you’re running at 7/10.

When you’re running outside, you have to work against wind resistance, and you’re also constantly working smaller stabiliser muscles. Unless you’re running on a track, the surface you’re running on won’t be completely flat and level, unlike on a treadmill. You do miss out on that subtle strengthening of the smaller stabiliser muscles running on a treadmill. When you’re running outside, you’re constantly challenging the neural pathways which help you to cope with the constant changes in terrain and surface level.

Set the Treadmill At a 1% Gradient

There is research that shows setting the treadmill at a 1% gradient will compensate for the lack of wind resistance, and the resulting smaller energy cost of running on a treadmill. And setting the treadmill on a steeper gradient is comparable to an outside hill of the same gradient, in terms of energy costs.

So, if you want to run on a treadmill at the same speed and the same level of exertion as an outside flat run, you just need to set the treadmill at a 1% gradient. You will, however, miss out on some of the more subtle effects of running on the less predictable outside surface.

Why run on a treadmill?

If you’re like most people, you find running on a treadmill dead boring. So why would you do it?

Keeping your training consistent

The main advantage of treadmill running is that it’s inside, away from poor weather conditions. If it’s too cold, too wet, too dark, or too hot and humid, treadmill running can keep you consistent. And when it comes to fitness, consistency is super important.

No matter what you’re training for, you’ll only get results if you’re consistent with your training, across time. For example, if you’re training for a marathon or half marathon, consistency with your training over a six month period is far more important than belting out one or two big workouts. In fact, unless you’ve been consistent with your training across time, you’re unlikely to be able to complete your longer training runs, without risking overload and injury.

Keeping your easy days easy

Treadmill running is great if you’re having trouble keeping your easy days easy. Depending what you’re training for, your easy runs might need to be 30-40% slower than your 3km pace, and some people find that pretty hard to do. If you’re doing a treadmill workout, you can set the treadmill to the appropriate pace and forget. You’re pace won’t get faster over time. The one disadvantage of this is that having a set pace to run at doesn’t take into account the way you’re feeling on that particular day. You might have had a harder than normal workout the day before and need to take it a bit easier than your planned pace, so you do still need to be in tune with how you feel, and be prepared to slow the treadmill down if you need to.

If you’re looking for a really easy day, but you still want to run at a good pace, you can set the treadmill to a negative incline. Not too much: -0.5%-1% is enough to make a real difference.

Mental Toughness

Treadmill workouts can toughen you up mentally. If you’re reasonably serious about your training, you’ll get to a point where it starts to hurt in some of your sessions. The temptation here is to slow down. If you’ve got your treadmill set to a particular pace, then you can’t slow down without falling off the back! All you need to do is resist the temptation to change the setting on the treadmill.

Having said that, the set and forget method of treadmill running might not be so great for harder efforts such as interval training, tempo or race pace runs. You’re relying on the treadmill to keep you honest, and it will. Doing these harder runs outside can definitely be a bit more mentally taxing.

With a treadmill keeping pace for you, you’re free to drift off and let your mind wander. Outside, there’s nothing to keep you running fast except your mental focus and strength. Your mind needs to be trained, just as your body does, so if you’re always running on a treadmill, you’re not likely to develop the mental strength needed to push hard in a race.

Train on a Simulated Race Course

You can use a treadmill to simulate the course of your goal race. You can get a topography map of your race by using sites such as maypmyrun. Map the course out on map my run, then print out the topography chart. If your treadmill has the facility, you can program the inclines and declines in before you start. Otherwise, you can keep the printout on the dashboard of the treadmill, and manually adjust your treadmill for hills.

You can even have water and gels or other nutrition handy, to simulate when you’ll be taking your nutrition on board. If you’re planning on carrying your nutrition with you on race day, carry it in the same way you’ll be carrying it in a race, in a pocket, on a belt or in a Camelbak.

How to Counteract the Boredom Factor!!

There’s no doubt that running on a treadmill can get monotonous and boring. Try these tips to help overcome the boredom factor:

  • Watch TV whilst you’re running
  • Alternatively, watch nothing. Get into a good rhythm and get into your head space. Take this opportunity to meditate
  • If you’re at a gym, change treadmills part way through your run to change your surroundings a bit.
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Make friends with the people next to you. You’ll probably find they’ll be perfectly happy to talk to you. If you’re the shy type, have a few standard opening lines in your back pocket. “Are you training for anything in particular?” or “A bit boring running on the treadmill, isn’t it?” are reasonable conversation starters. Or you could try “love your running shoes, where did you get them?” or possibly “do you come here often???”
  • Take a friend to the gym with you
  • Skype your mother

Starting and Finishing Intervals on a Treadmill

Do you jump on a treadmill which is already moving at the pace you want to run your effort at? Or do you take the more sensible approach and work your way up to the pace of your effort?

No prizes for guessing which option I prefer.

Jumping on a treadmill moving at a rapid pace can be pretty tricky. If you’re doing an interval training session on a treadmill, you’re better off dropping the pace down to a walking pace for your recovery (unless you specifically want a standing recovery). Spend the first 5-10 seconds of your effort working up to the pace you want to run at. Even if you’re running outside it’ll take you a few seconds to reach your effort pace, so you’re not going to lose too much time at target pace by taking the safe option!

Try This Treadmill Training Session

Warm up at an easy pace for 10 mins or so. Make sure it feels pretty easy. You should be able to hold a conversation with no problems at all.

Pick the pace up a bit for the next 5 mins or so, until you’re running at about 5/10 on the Rating of Perceived Exertion

Once you’ve established the 5/10 effort pace, maintain that pace for 1km.

Run your next kilometer at 10 seconds faster than the previous.

Run each kilometer 10 seconds faster than the last.

Cool down with 5-10 minutes at a slow pace.

You can do this for as long as you like, (generally up to about 10km is good).  For the first time, aim for 4kms, not including your warm up and cool down.  As you get fitter, you can gradually increase the distance of this workout.

The Verdict

Treadmill workouts can be a great way to keep your training consistent and help you to develop a good sense of pace as it relates to increases and decreases in effort. You can use treadmill workouts to vary up your training a bit, but for me, there’s nothing like running in the great outdoors.