Jockology: compression garments

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As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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This week’s Jockology column on compression garments is now up on the Globe site. I’ll be interested to see what people think, because it covers a lot of ground. The science behind compression socks is very different from the science behind compression shorts — not to mention Allen Iverson’s compression arm sleeve, and the full-body compression suits that companies like Skins are hyping — so it’s hard to generalize about whether compression garments in general work.

I was pretty skeptical when I started researching this column, but I uncovered a lot more research than I expected — and I also heard some pretty ringing endorsements from, among others, William Kraemer, one of the very big names in sports research. On the other hand, given the impossible-to-blind nature of compression garments, I can’t quite shake my worries that it’s all a big placebo. Anyone have personal experience with this stuff?

Why fatigue and illness aren’t the same as “overtraining”

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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Got an interesting e-mail about overtraining from a Jockology reader named Nathan:

I used to train frequently and at a high exertion level, as a result I […] was often fatigued and sick. It also appeared that other athletes arround me who exercised frequently for sport specific activities (e.g., triathlons, distance running, cycling, etc.) were also sick frequently.

This is a pretty common observation — if exercise is a miracle drug, I guess this is the fine print. Nathan goes on to frame the question in terms of a hypothetical graph of health benefits versus amount of exercise. As activity increases, health improves — but at a certain point, it begins to plateau, and eventually more exercise actually makes you less healthy.

There’s an element of truth to this, but it’s not the full story. Continue reading “Why fatigue and illness aren’t the same as “overtraining””

The Ironman (R) mattress: new frontiers in recovery tech

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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The official Ironman (R) Mattress
The official Ironman (R) Mattress

We all know that sleep is a crucial part of recovery, and recovery is a crucial part of training. The solution: a mattress designed especially for runners and Ironman triathletes, as unveiled in this press release from the Ironman people. What can such a mattress do that normal mattress can’t, you ask? An even funnier press release, quoted by RunnersWorld, gives the sordid details. In addition to boasting a “soy-based, all foam eco-core,” the mattress

…is clinically proven to relieve pain, promote quicker healing, boost the immune system, improve sleep quality, heighten athletic performance and increase oxygen levels in the body by 29%.

Sounds good, but if it’s not going to boost my IQ and cure cancer, I’m not buying.

Exercising when you’re sick

THANK YOU FOR VISITING SWEATSCIENCE.COM!

As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at www.outsideonline.com/sweatscience. Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)

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Blah. I have a sore throat, a bit of congestion, and I’ve been feeling crappy for a couple of days. So should I exercise or not? Nobody really knows. A few months ago, Gina Kolata wrote an interesting article in the New York Times on this question. A couple of studies done a decade ago suggest that a head cold won’t hurt your capacity to exercise (though you may feel more tired), and exercise won’t speed up or slow down your recovery (though it may make you feel better). Other than that, we’re all just guessing.

Me, I took yesterday off and hoped that would be enough. Then I went for a short jog this morning, but cut it short when I felt worse than I expected. Cliche though it is, listening to your body is probably the best we can do for now. If you start feeling better as you get into it, that’s great; if you feel worse, cut your losses.