With our limited amounts of time, triathletes like you and me who have full time jobs and other responsibilities often let something fall by the wayside. If you’re like me, you’re diligent about getting your training in, and you have the willpower to make good nutritional choices most of the time, but you’re not always the best about paying attention to your recovery. Most days when I finish my morning workout I have just enough time to shower and eat breakfast before I’m rushing out the door to work. Sure I have a little more time on the weekends, but I usually don’t want to stretch or roll on my foam roller after a 110 mile ride. In fact, usually I just want to lie down on the floor and not move.
The Trouble With Training Is That It Doesn’t Make You Faster
The problem with ignoring recovery is that it slows your progress. In fact, it’s not all those tough workouts that you put in that make you better and faster, it’s recovering from, and thus adapting to, those workouts that makes you a stronger athlete. It’s weird to think about, but it’s true. This is why it’s great that CEP finally came out with their Recovery+ Pro Tights. I’m a huge fan of their recovery socks and couldn’t wait to try the tights.
Anatomy 101: No Spleens, Just Veins and Valves
First, a little anatomy lesson to explain how compression garments work: basically, blood flows faster in narrow blood vessels than in wide ones. Compression clothing narrows the veins, forcing the blood to flow faster and more effectively. The tiny valves that prevent the blood from flowing backwards in the blood vessels are pushed closer together so that the whole system works better. Does it actually work? Yes. For example, the reason jet pilots wear pressurized suits is to help maintain their venous return so they don’t pass out under all of those g-forces.
History 102: No Empires or Explorers, Just Medical Compression
Second, a little history lesson about CEP; CEP is actually owned by a company called Medi, which was started back in 1920. In 1964 they introduced the first seamless, highly elastic compression stocking for medical use. The CEP arm of Medi was added in 2007 and has been one of the leading compression brands for triathletes, as well as other endurance athletes. This makes sense; who better to make your compression gear than a company that specializes in medical-grade compression and has been doing it for nearly 60 years?
Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover, Especially If It’s Titled Wrestling An Octopus
The first thing I noticed when I took the tights out of the box is that the material is a bit thinner than I was expecting. In order to get more compression, the manufacturer usually has to use a thicker material, but the CEP tights actually stretch to become somewhat sheer once they are on. This had me a little worried about their durability and effectiveness. I should have known better, since CEP obviously knows what they are doing. Here’s my first and only problem with the Recovery+ Pro Tights: they’re incredibly difficult to get on! I didn’t time it, but the first time putting them on it probably took me between 10 and 15 minutes. I’ve since figured it if you roll them down and then roll them up to put them on it works out a little better, but I think it still takes me nearly 10 minutes to get them on. It’s similar to putting on a wetsuit or wrestling an octopus.
Are You Related To Stretch Armstrong?
The fact that it’s a little bit difficult to get these tights on actually helped with a second concern I had – durability. I was wrestling with the tights, pulling and tugging at various places trying to get them pulled on, but they just stretched and took it. I have a pair of shorts and compression tights from a different compression company that both popped seam thread the very first time I put them on. The seam itself held, as they are stitched with an insane number of threads, but it’s not a great thing to experience the very first time you put a product on, especially when they weren’t nearly as difficult to get on as the CEP tights. Because of this I’m giving CEP an A+ for durability, considering how thin the tights are.
I Like My Compression Tights Like I Like My Cucumbers: Cool
For as difficult as they are to get on, they’re quite comfortable once they are on, and don’t feel overly tight, which is what I imagined given the difficulty I had getting them on. The waist comes up a little high for my liking, but that could be just the way they fit on me. It doesn’t bother me having it up, but I just folded them down at the top and they stayed put. As far as them being warmer or cooler than other tights, I didn’t really notice a huge difference in general. They are, however, considerably more breathable. I’m almost always too warm, so I sleep with a fan on. When I got into bed I immediately noticed that the moving air was able to blow through the CEP tights better than my other tights, thus making them cooler. That was a huge plus for me.
Like Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Dream: Tight
Personally, I like my compression garments to feel tight. It gives me the impression that they’re actually doing something, unlike some “compression” garments that just feel like they’re a little snug. As I mentioned above, my initial feeling was that they weren’t overly tight, as I had expected, but a few nights later I found out the power of their compression. In the middle of the night I had an itch on the top of my foot. I tried scratching it through the tights, but it didn’t help. I then rolled back the tights a little so I could adequately scratch my foot and get back to sleep. I made the mistake of leaving the tights rolled back when I fell back asleep and less than 30 minutes later I awoke to a sharp, somewhat painful tingling in the end of my foot. Apparently the compression works perfectly when worn as designed, but when doubled up upon itself, it’s too much for the body to handle and can nearly cut off circulation! I was a bit confused and annoyed at waking up again, but was completely impressed with the amount of compression in these new Recovery+ Pro Tights.
What’s In It For Me?
So what does that mean for you? Coach Brian Grasky of Grasky Endurance Coaching says, “Since a major part of training is muscular recovery, compression garments can be used to enhance your training. High quality medical grade compression wear has been shown to reduce inflammation by promoting blood flow out of the muscles taking the waste by-product with it, to stabilize the muscle in the repair process, and to align muscle fibers more thoroughly. This decreases muscle damage and recovery time allowing for either (or both) more complete recovery and more high intensity training. Compression wear has also shown to reduce fatigue and stress and increase muscle oxygenation in long-duration travel. Massage has also been shown to reduce muscle soreness and promote muscular recovery. Massage, even self-massage, after more intense training sessions followed by compression wear is most beneficial and has been shown to reduce muscle soreness and reduce inflammation.”
Wearing Compression For Dummies
Coach Grasky goes on to tell us the best way to use compression for recovery: “Warm up well for your intense training sessions first. Then ease into the efforts with shorter duration accelerations and a series of plyometrics or dynamic warm up exercises. After the session, cool down by reducing intensity by maintaining movement to start the recovery process and keep the blood from pooling. (i.e. run 1 – 1.5 miles very easy after a track session before going to sit in the car.) Once heart rate and sweat rates are down, self-massage and/or foam roll for 10-15 minutes, then put on compression tights. Leave them on for 3-4hrs. Remove them to promote blood flow back to the muscles. After races and extremely tough sessions, wear them at night in addition to this.”
Step 1 For Improving Recovery: Follow Steps 2-5
Finally, he adds one important bit of advice, saying, “Note: recovery compression is quite different from active compression. Do not use recovery compression for activity and vice-versa—targeted blood flow is different in the two compression types. Use active tights for activities, recovery tights for recovery.” Compression is just one piece of the recovery puzzle. Other things you can do to speed recovery include getting adequate sleep, remembering to rehydrate (a recent study showed a 3% improvement in performance the day after a hard workout if athletes replaced 150% of fluids lost versus those who only replaced 75%), and refueling. Refueling is especially important the 30 minutes following a workout lasting more than an hour, and don’t forget to take in both carbs and protein.
Just The Facts
The benefits of using compression for recovery are tangible and I definitely feel better and seem to recover faster when I use compression for a few hours after a hard workout or while I’m sleeping after an exceptionally big training day. The CEP Recovery+ Pro Tights are a serious compression garment that offers benefits to everyone from the weekend warriors to elite athletes. Although a tad difficult to get on, they’re ultimately comfortable and the compression is such that it really feels like they’re doing what their supposed to do. CEP makes great products and the CEP Recovery+ Pro Tights have become my go-to recovery tights.