Obstacle course racing is relatively new and unknown to most people. Although it’s existed for 25 years and has been part of army training for far longer, most of us have only got hooked on it (okay... obsessed) in the last couple of years. So, it’s not always obvious what you should wear and what equipment is worth trying. Well, in a way, I like to be your guinea pig and I think I’ve stumbled upon something that a lot of you may really like the idea of - Skins calf compression tights. Check out why...
Over the last few months my calves have taken an absolute battering. With all of the obstacle course races aside, I now live in Bath, where there’s no other option but to incorporate a massive amount of hill running into my training. In addition, I’m nearing the end of the shift towards minimal running shoes. All in all, my calves have felt like planks of wood for longer than I can remember and I’m constantly fighting to loosen them up.
Having over exerted myself a little with barefoot running at the weekend, my calves along with my achilles have been in a particularly bad state over the last couple of days, in fact I was literally hobbling around on Monday. Last night I felt just about ready to hit the trails again and it coincided with the arrival of my new calf tights.
As I’ve admitted many times before, I’m no scientist, so I’m going to attempt to let you know how these tights felt and how they affected the way I trained, without getting into too much of the mumbo jumbo. But, just to set the scene, compression gear like this gives a specific amount of surface pressure to your muscles with the aim of improving circulation, enhancing performance and reducing the risk of injury. That’s about as deep as I’m prepared to go...
With all of the compression gear out there, why am I getting so excited about calf tights? Well, right now I’m working on a theory. I have a very expensive pair of full compression tights, which are great for training, but there’s not a hope in hells chance of me ever wearing them to an obstacle course race (actually when I need them the most). I’ve worn cheap tights through the winter and they get ripped to shred around the knees and butt, there’s no way I’m doing that to a fancy pair of compression tights. I also don’t want to spend money on compression socks - as my toes go through socks like they’re crepe paper. So, I think calf compression with neoprene knee supports is a killer combo. Power in the calves to handle all the hills and rugged protection on the knees to handle all the crawling. You heard it here first people - it’s the way forward!
Back to how the tights felt. From the moment I put them on, they were very comforting to my still aching calves. I’m not an instant believer in hype and I don’t consider myself a fool for marketing jargon (I’m a marketer myself, after all), but they did genuinely feel good. Interestingly they were noticeably tighter and felt more supportive than my all-in-one tights.
As I took them to the hills of Bath, I can honestly say that they made a significant difference. So, aside from the spiel that you can read about compression, for me they felt like the muscles in my calves had something to push against the whole time. Imagine the difference between running on dry sand and tarmac. Sand is hard work because there’s nothing solid for you to push your foot against. In contrast you spring along tarmac with ease because of the force the ground transfers back to you. I’m sure there are some physicists out there that can make that point far more eloquently, but hopefully you get what I’m saying. Basically as my muscles tensed and worked it felt like they had a solid surface that transferred their power back into the job in hand, rather than letting that energy just disappear.
As well as feeling comfortable, my calves did also feel like they were well supported and protected against injury. I have absolutely nothing to back that up and it may well be placebo, but that’s definitely how it felt to me.
Anyway, with all of these positive things I have to say about Skin’s calf tights, imagine how amazing they would have been if I actually had them the right way around! Yep... that’s right... I had them on the wrong legs. I did think it was a little odd that the logo was on the inside of the leg. In my defence I looked at one of the labels on the inside, which had a big “L” printed on it. It turns out “L” stands for “Large” not “Left”. Oh well, I’m sure they’ll be even more awesome next time around.
By the way, apparently compression gear is just as good for recovery as it is for activity. So, if you’re feeling extravagant, it’s not a bad idea to get a second pair to wear fresh after having a shower. I actually wore them while I slept last night and they felt cooling and soothing, which was pretty good considering it was one of the hottest nights of the year. Also, I've been suffering with cramp in my sleep with my calves being so battered and I felt far less "on the edge" with their support.
Anyway, enough of this brown nosing. Anyone would think Skins had paid me to be nice about them (they haven’t by the way). Like I said, I think I’ve bumbled upon the magic formula here. Compression calves - neoprene knees. Give it a shot!