I’ve been a lifelong athlete, participating in many different sports before training as a professional runner for over 20 years and still counting. I’m guessing that I’ve experienced just about every type of muscle soreness, and I’ve learned to ride the fine line of when to push through and when to pull back. What I have discovered through the years is that how fast I can recover from training dictates the number of miles and the level of intensity that I can handle the next time I head out the door. The more work that I can manage without going over the proverbial line, the faster I gain fitness. However, this isn’t unique to me. It’s the same for you too. Whether your goal is to finish your first race or to qualify for the Olympic team, how fast you recover from the hard training is the key to reaching your peak performance.
In regard to the world of recovery therapies, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve pretty much tried it all. I’ve learned what is essential to my training, like my NormaTec. When I was training full time as an elite athlete, I would fit in the various modalities wherever it seemed to work best in my training week. On Monday I would schedule a chiropractic adjustment or acupuncture, on Tuesdays and Fridays I would take ice baths following my hard workout sessions, on Wednesday I’d get a massage, I’d fit in some extra stretching or a yoga class on an easy Saturday, and take an Epsom salt bath following a hard Sunday long run. I know it sounds like a lot, but this is how I filled my days. My goal was to work hard and recover as fast as possible. Scientific research has shown us that how quickly we can recover from our training makes a huge difference, but it’s also important not to overload our already fatigued bodies with too much therapy. We need plenty of recovery time from many forms of therapy, and getting the timing right around our workouts can be challenging. It gets worked out partly through the help of others in the know and partly through trial & error and self-experimentation.
As athletes we know that we need to recover from our previous high intensity session before getting back out there for the next one or else the chance of getting injured looms over our shoulders. But to better understand exactly how this all works, let’s talk about what happens when we exercise. Since we’ve all experienced muscle soreness from a hard run or a new gym routine, we know that performing high intensity exercise causes damage to our skeletal muscles. When greater than normal resistance is placed on a muscle, small microscopic tears occur in the tissue. These tiny tears cause the pain and soreness that we experience after exercise (delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS), but they also make our muscles grow bigger and stronger as they heal. Eccentric contractions are especially hard on our muscles since they provide a resisting or braking force to decelerate the lengthening movement. This especially occurs when we’re running downhill or with high loading during eccentric contractions in resistance training. Until the damaged muscles are repaired, we are unable to generate peak muscle force. The muscle damage we incur also impairs our ability to transport blood glucose into the muscle cells, making it more difficult to replenish glycogen stores in order to be fully fueled for the next training session.
What can we do to speed up the recovery process? We can fine tune the details of our nutrition, hydration, and get regular soft tissue therapy. We have long known the benefits of sports massage, cryotherapy, acupuncture and the like. These are all great modalities and very effective in speeding up the healing process. With our modern times come even greater innovations to help you heal faster and get back out on the playing field faster than ever. One of these newer devices is called the NormaTec Recovery System. It was created to enhance blood flow and speed recovery by using dynamic compression. It uses air pressure massage to relieve muscle aches and to increase circulation to the treated areas. NormaTec has compression devices for legs, hips and arms.
I first used the NormaTec legs back in 2007. I was curious about how those big puffy leg sleeves would help with recovery. I quickly learned that it was an easy way to flush out my legs whenever they were feeling sluggish. I used them on and off for a few years until my husband and I moved to the UK. I didn’t have my usual network of therapy people set up and the NormaTec legs quickly became my new best friend. NormaTec is safe to use as many times per day and for as long as you wish – some athletes even take naps in the boots since there is a continuous time setting. NormaTec uses compression to encourage the blood flow, decreasing waste in the tissue and the lymph system. This aids in muscle repair without the residual soreness, so it’s safe to use pre or post workout. My favorite times to use it are later in the day after a long run or after post travel to get things moving after being sedentary for long stretches of time.
The compression cycle uses three techniques; pulsing, distal release and gradients. Here’s a breakdown of how it all works.
NormaTec uses a pulsing technique instead of static compression to move fluid and metabolites out of the limbs after intense training. The pulsing technique mimics the natural muscle pumps of the arms and legs, helping clear out metabolites post exercise. The alternating contraction and relaxation pulse compression system has been shown to lessen pain sensitivity and increase range of motion.
Veins and lymphatic vessels have one-way valves that prevent fluid back-flow. Similarly, NormaTec Pulse Technology uses hold pressures to keep fluids from being forced in the wrong direction.
Extended static pressure can be harmful to your body’s normal circulatory flow. The pulse technology releases the hold pressures once they’re no longer needed to prevent fluid back-flow.
Now you know the science behind how the NormaTec Recovery System works. The best part is how easy they are to use. All you have to do is put them on, choose your settings and just relax. Whether you have a full inbox, need to make some phone calls or are simply taking a short break you can speed along your recovery at the same time. Utilizing NormaTec as part of your recovery routine is an easy way to keep you on track to reach your full athletic potential!