It is no mystery: even the most avid runner would give a leg (well, maybe an arm) to run the preferred distance with less effort. In the past, I already posted something about the training load and the relative rating of perceived exertion. One thing, though, should be clear without reading that article: good results are very likely to happen if the perceived exertion is low.
There is a company called SKINS that is taking this matter quite seriously since almost twenty years. Their philosophy is just simple: improve blood circulation and you'll work harder, longer and recover faster. That sounds like the Holy Grail of anyone doing sports, right? Actually, this idea seems to be more than a legend. The fundamental principle is to use compression clothes for increasing the blood velocity by reducing the blood vessels' cross sectional area. This should help reducing muscle soreness and speeding up recovery. To date, positive results are supported by a fair amount of peer-reviewed scientific literature. Moreover, I had the chance to test a pair of half tights. So here I am, a scientist in the role of Thomas the Apostle sentencing a poorly scientific "Except I shall see, I will not believe".
The SKINS A400 Men's Power Shorts are half tights that should be specifically "designed to maximise explosive power and increase strength and speed". The compression technology they include is very well explained here, but the main message is the one I wrote a couple of sentences above. For sure, the first impression is mesmerising: the "JUST ADD SWEAT" printed inside a packaging worthy of containing a diamond necklace is simply a subliminal push to try them on immediately.
|Pretty sweet packaging, right?|
The first impression, I have to say, is kind of contradictory. These half tights are tight indeed! But come on, compression must exist somewhere in a pair of compression tights and after realising this key concept you basically forget to be wearing them. Mainly because they are freaking comfortable. No laces, no zippers, no rough elastic bands touching the skin and, yet, a very useful back pocket (you cannot close it since the lack of a zipper, but you are not going to lose anything, guaranteed).
During running, they feel great; the low waist is a right choice to help the freedom of movement. Until now, I have already put on a fair amount of hours in them and I did not have any problem with the fit. The size is very important; one should really take a look at the remarkably good sizing guide provided on the website. If you follow the guidelines, you will not place a wrong order.
About the improvement in performance, I do not have a lot to say, since it would not be fair to draw conclusions out of a one-subject, super-biased sample (tester, subject, writer and reviewer? Come on...). One thing is for sure: I am very happy with the half tights and I am so convinced that I would be very curious to try the recovery-specific products. To facilitate your work, I summarised hereunder all the important articles you can find on the SKINS science page. Have fun!
Jakeman, J.R., Byrne, C., and Eston, R.G. (2010).
European Journal of Applied Physiology, 109(6), 1137-1144.
[...] This study indicated that individuals who wore Skins [...] experienced up to 20% less functional muscle decrement and lower perceptions of muscle soreness [...].
Scanlan, A., Dascombe, B., Reaburn, P., and Osbourne, M. (2008).
International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 3(4).
[...] Results showed increases in muscle oxygenation economy and improvements in cycling economy, suggesting SKINS LBCG may delay the onset of fatigue and prolong optimal performance [...]
Higgins, T., Naughton, G.A., Burgess, D. (2009).
Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 12, 223-226.
[...] greater distances were travelled at a faster velocity (3.5ms-1) when wearing SKINS gradient compression garments compared with wearing usual netball attire and a placebo garment. [...]
Trenell, M.I., Rooney, K.B., Sue, C.M., and Thompson, C.H. (2006).
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 5, 106-114.
[...] The results of the study shows that wearing SKINS resulted in an increase in cell membrane turnover (PDE), which helps alter the inflammatory response to muscle damage and accelerates recovery processes.
Gill, N. D., Beaven, C. M., Cook, C. (2006).
British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40, 260–263.
[...] The authors concluded that [...] wearing gradient compression garments [...] promotes better physiological recovery than passive methods in young male athletes.
Duffield, R., and Portus, M. (2007).
British Journal of Sports Medicine, 41, 409–414.
[...] the authors indicate the potential benefits in utilising gradient compression garments as a thermal insulator in cool conditions, and as a recovery intervention tool after high-intensity exercise to reduce post exercise trauma.
Hagan, M., Lambert, S. (2008).
Medical Journal of Australia, 188(2), 81-84.
[...] results found that participants wearing gradient compression garments (SKINS) during air travel experienced [...] decrease in ankle swelling [...] improvement in leg pain [...] improvement in leg discomfort, demonstrated improvements in alertness, concentration, energy, fluid retention and improved post flight sleep.
Sear J, Hoare T, Scanlan A, Abt G, Dascombe B.
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2010) 24(7), 1901-1910.
[...] Results showed wearing SKINS WBCG increased total distance covered during the protocol suggesting that wearing the garments may increase physical performance during field based team-sports. This may be attributed to the increase in muscle oxygenation. [...]
Jakeman, J.R., Byrne, C., and Eston, R.G. (2010).
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(11), 3157-3165.
[...] It was concluded that if available, the combination of sports massage and Skins compressive clothing after exercise may be positive in terms of perceived soreness, but in terms of functional muscle recovery, it is no more beneficial than wearing Skins compressive clothing alone. [...]
Kieran M. de Glanville and Michael J. Hamlin (2012).
Journal of Strength Conditioning Research 26(2): 480–486.
[...] The authors concluded that the wearing of graduated compression garments during recovery is likely to be worthwhile.