Another excellent running week. Finally it has been, at least in terms of Swedish standards, summer temperatures in the high 60’s (20°C). In order to get more miles in my legs I have started to run to and from work, a distance of around 4.5 miles (7.5 kilometers) in one direction – that gives a good basic foundation of around 45 miles (75 kilometers) per week to add to some long distance runs in the weekends and some technical hill runs in late evenings during the weekdays.
I have started to prepare for Tor des Géants also in terms of thinking about equipment, clothing and shoes. I am, as noted before, very happy to have been able to initiate my first collaborations with different companies having products I would like to try and believe in. The first company I approached was 2XU regarding compression clothing. I started to use their compression garments, in particular socks and calf guard sleeves, last season and have found them very helpful. In other words, I clearly believe they will help me both in the preparations and during the actual race. In particular for an extremely long race such as TDG I think lower body compression will be important. Regretfully, there are no good studies of the effect of compression garments on very long endurance activities. For shorter runs, up to one hour, there are more and more studies indicating positive effects such as for instance:
1) Prevention of swelling and increase in leg volume (Bovenschen et al. J Athl Train 2013; 48: 226-232)
2) Maintenance of lower limb muscle power measured as post-run counter movement jump (CMJ)/vertical jump performance (Rugg & Sternlicht J Strength Cond Res 2013; 27: 1067-1073; Ali et al. J Strenght Cond Res 2011; 25: 1385-1392; Jakeman et al Eur J Appl Physiol 2010; 109: 1137-1144; Davies et al. J Strength Cond Res 2009; 23: 1786-1794 [muscle damage in studies by Jakeman and Davies induced not by running but by plyometric drop jumps])
3) Reduction in delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) 24 hours after a 10-km road run (Ali et al. J Sport Sci 2007; 25: 413-419)
4) Lowering of blood lactate concentration after exercise (Lovell et al. J Strength Cond Res 2011; 25: 3264-3268)
5) Increase in calf tissue oxygen saturation (StO2) (Ménétrier et al. Int J Sports Med 2011; 32: 864-868)
6) Lowering of heart rate during high-intensity running (Varela-Sanz et al. J Strength Cond Res 2011; 25: 2902-2910; Dascombe et al. Int J. Sports Physiol Perform 2011; 6: 160-173)
7) Lowering of rate of perceived exertion (RPE) in submaximal running in heat at 32°C (Goh et al. Eur J Appl Physiol 2011; 111: 819-826) or at 400 meter running tests (Faulkner et al. J Strength Cond Res 2013; 27: 669-676)
8) Lower energy expenditure measured as VO2 slow component difference at a submaximal running pace of 80% of maximal VO2 for 15 minutes (Bringard et al. Int J Sports Med 2006; 27: 373-378)
9) Improvement in running performance/velocity (kmxh) measured at both the anaerobic and aerobic thresholds (Kemmler et al. J Strength Cond Res 2009; 23: 101-105)
On the other hand there are several studies indicating limited effects of compression garments worn during running, in particular with regards to overall running performance (see for instance Barwood et al. Int J Sports Physiol Perform 2013; In press; Dascombe et al. Int J Sports Physiol Perform 2011; 6: 160-173; Sperlich et al. Phlebology 2011; 26: 102-106; Sperlich et al. J Sports Sci 2010; 28: 609-614; Ali et al. Eur J Appl Physiol 2010; 109: 1017-1025). It is important to bear in mind that, compared to studies designed to investigate the efficacy and safety of new drugs and interventions in health care, none of the studies in this area is of a particular high quality and should best be denoted as pilot studies opening up for more scientific research in the area. There is neither no standardization in measurements between studies and the data is therefore even more heterogeneous and fragmented. And, as mentioned, there is a complete lack of studies to my knowledge regarding effects of wearing compression garments during mountain races like TDG or UTMB. Good recent reviews of the effects of compression garments is Born, Sperlich & Holmberg Int J Sports Physiol Perform 2013; 8: 4-18 and MacRae, Cotter & Laing Sports Med 2011; 41: 815-843.
Importantly, however, there have to my knowledge been no studies showing major negative effects of wearing lower body compression garments during running. Intuitively, looking at my swollen legs after an ultramarathon, I think in particular calf compression might be very helpful in reducing this swelling and reduce muscle damage through reducing oscillations. And, even more importantly, once used to wearing compression garments they are really more comfortable. I have tried various brands and the one most comfortable for me is 2XU. This notion is shared by for instance another ultrarunner blog where there is a good review of different brands of graduated compression garment.