Disclaimer: I received a free pair of Zensah Compression Sleeves to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Check out BibRave.com to Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and to find and write race reviews!
I have to admit that I’ve never tried any type of compression gear before and I also never really even paid very much attention to what it is or what its benefits are. I’ve seen people wearing compression socks and sleeves during races and I always sorta knew that compression did something to help with blood flow, but that was really about the extent of my knowledge. I had never given much thought to trying them myself, but about a week ago I was offered a pair of free compression sleeves to try and review thanks to the folks at BibRave and Zensah. Here are my thoughts:
When I first found out that I was going to be getting a pair of compression sleeves, I decided to do some research to learn more about exactly what it was that I was going to be trying (so that when it came time to write this post I would be able to say more than just “ummm… I think these things are supposed to increase blood flow or something….”). So for anyone who isn’t familiar with how compression gear works and what it’s for, here’s the general concept behind it –
If you think back to your high school biology days, you might remember that your blood carries oxygen to your muscles and organs and the way that it gets to them is by your heart pumping it to wherever it needs to go through your arteries. As the blood gets to your cells and they take the oxygen they need, and then your de-oxygniated blood is sent back to your heart through your veins and re-oxygenated in your lungs. At that point, the process starts over. So it stands to reason that not only is making sure that oxygen is able to flow to the various parts of your body as efficiently as possible important to sustain your life in general, but efficient blood flow is even more important during exercise when your muscles need more oxygen in order to be able to perform better.
So how does compression fit into all of this? Compression socks and sleeves that are worn on your legs are specifically designed to be tighter at the bottom near your feet and ankles and then gradually loosen up as they move up your calves. Internally, this helps to push de-oxygenated blood through your veins and back to your heart more quickly and it also dilates your arteries so that oxygen rich blood can flow to your leg muscles more efficiently. An added benefit of compression is that it helps to stabilize your leg muscles and decrease the vibrations that occur when your feet hit the ground while you’re running, which decreases fatigue and muscle soreness. So overall, compression helps your leg muscles to perform better for longer periods of time without feeling as sore afterwards – good stuff!
When my Zensah Compression Sleeves arrived in the mail, I put them aside for a few days because I had a specific run in mind for them. Every Saturday morning, I usually do a 5-6 mile run and I figured that this would be the perfect distance to try something new like this. It’s long enough that I would be able to tell whether or not I was getting any benefits by the time I finished, but it’s also short enough that if the sleeves started to feel uncomfortable on my legs during the middle of my run, I wouldn’t have to wait very long to be able to take them off. So I left my compression sleeves in the package, took them out when I was getting ready to put on my running clothes… and then I stood there and stared at them for a minute before double checking to make sure they were the right size….
If you’ve worn compression gear before, you’re probably going to laugh when you read this, so keep in mind that I’m a newbie, and I really didn’t know what to expect. I was surprised to see how small the sleeves were and wasn’t quite sure how I was even going to get them to fit on my legs. So I checked the size on the box again and after making sure that it did say that they were large, just like I had ordered, I went ahead and tried to pull them on. It took me a couple tries (wait, the lines go in the back? awwww man….) but I eventually did get them on. The sleeves felt kinda funny when I pulled them all the way up, but it only took a few minutes of walking around with them on before my legs started to adjust to the way they felt.
Once I had my compression sleeves and all of my other running gear on, it was time to go for my run. I was surprised that for as tight as the sleeves felt when I was first trying to pull them on, once I actually started running, they felt quite comfortable. It was more of a snug feeling than a tight feeling and I could definitely tell that my calf muscles weren’t vibrating as much when my feet would hit the pavement. By about the second mile, I didn’t even really notice that I was wearing the sleeves anymore but I did notice that my legs felt like they were moving more efficiently. Some of that may have been in my head, but I definitely felt a difference compared to running without the sleeves. By the time I got to the last mile of my run, I also noticed that my legs didn’t feel as tired as they usually do and the next morning, they didn’t feel sore at all.
So I’m definitely sold as far as the benefits of compression go, and while Zensah is the only brand I’ve used so far, I really like the look and feel of the sleeves that they sent me. As a company, Zensah has also been a pleasure to work with, so at this point, I’m happy enough with them that I really don’t have any reason to try any other brands. I’ll definitely be using my compression sleeves in my future runs (maybe not every run but certainly during the longer ones) and if you’re reading this and you’re wondering whether or not you should try compression sleeves or socks yourself, my answer would be a resounding ‘yes, you absolutely should’. And if you do, I’d love to hear about your experiences with them.
Want to read more about Zensah? Check out these links: