We're all familiar with compression clothing but there's still a lot of confusion around the benefits of compression for cyclists and when socks, calf guards and full compression tights should be worn.
We enlisted the help of Andy Chatterton, brand manager for Compressport to shed some light on the compression debate. In addition to working for a compression brand, Andy is a gifted athlete, having competed in Xterra events at both European and World level. He is no stranger to the benefits that compression can have:
Compression for Cyclists: Recovery
Blood can stagnate in the calf after exercise. By wearing compression for just 15 minutes you will improve your circulation by 15%, improve oxygenation of your blood by 15% and increases toxin elimination by around 13%.
You should look at compression socks as another essential element for recovery - on par with your protein shake. Compression of your muscles will help to reduce performance fatigue, gearing you up for your next session.
Compression for Cyclists: Injury Prevention
When we exercise, we experience muscle oscillation which causes tiny muscle tears in your legs which then swell causing that soreness we are all familiar with after long or particularly strenuous sessions on the bike.
Wearing a calf guard during exercise can reduce this muscle vibration by 32% and can reduce muscle fatigue and damage by a whopping 43%. The compression sock or calf guard will basically flush out the fluid associated with swelling which will reduce the soreness.
Compression for Cyclists: Performance
As well as the increased oxygenation benefits, Compressport has undertaken wind tunnel testing which has shown that by improving aerodynamics, the R2 calf guards can save up to 90 seconds on an Ironman bike course.
When to wear compression
I recommend racing calf guard but after the race, I would then suggest a full compression tight for about two hours to really kick-start your recovery. Then pop on a pair of compression socks for the rest of the day, or even overnight if you like.
If you are travelling to a race or training camp by plane I would definitely recommend wearing compression socks for the duration of the flight to ensure you are in tip-top condition on the bike the following day.
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