Compression socks and calf sleeves

Around the time I started to increase the lengths of my runs, when it was still cold, early enough last year, that shorts were maybe not enough to keep me warm, I came across PRO Compression socks – not knowing whether they would really help with anything, it was just as much for the fact they were long socks (given the cold weather) as for any supposed positive effects.

In all the time I’ve worn them I’ve never been sure whether they have done much for me during runs (how do you know, right?), but I did find that the compression in the hours after a long race did seem to help with recovery. Since I bought those socks I have also added some Smartwool compression calf sleeves to my collection.

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It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized how helpful compression could be. If you’ve been paying attention to my blog – a bit of a long shot that – you may have noticed I have talked about some knee pain I started experiencing last week. I was a bit concerned about running the hat trick (5k, 10k, and Half) at the Runner’s World Festival because of it.

I do intend to write a post on the weekend but need to spend some time on it to do it justice (hint: fantastic event), but for now I want to talk about my knee.

I’d rested it all week but on Friday I felt like it was hurting a bit more and I thought I’d discovered that it may be related to tight muscles in my calf so I went for a massage. I wasn’t sure whether it had really helped but it felt okay for the 5k on Saturday morning, but started hurting a little after that. I managed okay in the 10k, and then as the day wore on the pain got worse. It was bad enough I almost considered not running the half on Sunday (Mrs RunNJ wanted me to bail on it). I thought it might be fine if I took it easy. I iced it and went to bed.

The next morning all seemed well again but I still planned to take it easy. I ran the race (not taking it as easy as I planned but more about that in my next post). Now, it’s worth noting that in all the races I wore compression socks (partly because it was cold on those mornings and I wanted my legs kept a little warm). After the half marathon I went back to the hotel, had a quick shower, iced the knee again as a precaution, and, as usual after a long race, put compression sleeves on.

Later in the day I was amazed that my knee felt fine, but then it came time to get ready for bed. Within minutes of removing the compression sleeves my knee was painful again! I hadn’t thought that the compression could be preventing the pain, but this was proof. I put one back on that leg and the pain subsided again.

Since then I have been using “The Stick” and wearing a compression sleeve on that leg for most of the day (and not running), and so far so good. I think I might even run tomorrow (that’s might be too soon, but I’m a runner, and a man, so listening to reason when it comes to running is sometimes difficult – besides, I’m training for Philly and need to get some miles in after low mileage for the last couple of weeks).

After this experience I’m definitely a believer in compression for recovery, and I do have to wonder whether having the compression socks during the races helped me get through them – I’m going to err on the side of saying yes, but even if they made no difference, they certainly didn’t cause any problems.


Sport Kilt Review (and more notes on running skirts for men)

Let me start by saying that I did not get a Sport Kilt (from http://sportkilt.com/) for running and I have not tried running in it. It doesn’t strike me as something I would necessarily want to run in as it is fairly heavy. Comfort-wise, ignoring the weight, I am sure it would be reasonable for running but I would also worry that the length and motion of running could cause some annoyance with the kilt hitting the back of my knees.

This past weekend, as outlined in my last blog post, I ran as part of a team in the River to Sea Relay. I had received my Sport Kilt the week before and this was to be my first outing in it.

I had decided it would be perfect for the day, despite the fact it wasn’t going to be as hot as it could have been. One of the major benefits was going to be that it could act as a cover to change my running clothes under between legs (and it was ideal for that).

The Sport Kilt wraps around your waist and fastens with velcro. From their website: We use a special 8oz yarn-dyed poly/viscose material that is machine washable, holds a pleat well, has a nice swing and drape, is non-itchy and great for sports in all of our tartan/plaid kilts.

I can confirm that it does hold the pleats well (I got the optional “sew-down” pleats which help them hold better, and I also agree that it is not at all itchy and generally feels great.

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It was so great I just ordered another one. My plan is to wear these on hot days instead of shorts. Perfect.

As I said before though, I can’t see me running in them, but I should never say never. It may be ideal for cooler weather and less competitive runs so perhaps I will give it a try sometime. I would imagine in the heat with the addition of sweat (I sweat a lot), the already (comparatively) heavy material would just become burdensome.

I did meet someone at a race recently who was wearing a Sport Kilt and he seemed to enjoy running in it, so  it clearly works for some.

During the relay I spoke to some guys on another team who wondered if I was running in the kilt. I told them that no, I wasn’t, but I would be running in a women’s running skirt. They were intrigued so I talked to them about my reasoning. They seemed genuinely interested and seemed to suggest they might give it a try (perhaps for next year’s River to Sea, so not necessarily as a general piece of running clothing). They saw me again at the start of my first leg and asked to take a picture with me – I had no problem with that – they commented that it was shorter than they thought it would be.

As I now own a couple of running skirts from http://runningskirts.com/ I had started to wonder about cutting out the underwear portion to substitute with my own. While they were reasonably okay I thought they were a little tight in places. So, I took one and cut out the briefs. After the first run in these combined with a pair of Icebreaker Anatomica briefs I decided to do the same with all pairs (I have since discovered that runningskirts.com has some with nothing underneath – they call them triathlon skirts – I got the others on sale so I don’t feel too bad that I ended up cutting them up like this instead of buying the ones with nothing under). I think this will make the skirts much more flexible, allowing me to choose what is suitable underneath depending on a variety of factors – perhaps there will be a time I may choose to wear compression shorts underneath.

 

Early on in "The Beast" (before the hills) - this little guy followed us around a bit; he was a good pacer.

Early on in “The Beast” (before the hills) – this little guy followed us around a bit; he was a good pacer.

Please note that I purchased the Sport Kilt myself and have received nothing at all from sportkilt.com or any other party for writing this review. Similarly I have no association with runningskirts.com

As of August 16th I have decided to continue my thoughts on running in a skirt to a blog specific to that topic. The new blog can be found here (skirtedrunningman).


Running skirts – a review for men

On Friday I posted about running in a skirt for the first time. This was partly to prepare some of my running club friends for me turning up wearing it at the club run the next morning.

The reactions have been interesting to say the least and have covered pretty much the whole range of possible thoughts on it.

It’s interesting that my Warning: Man in Skirt post had more hits than any other post I have written, with the exception of my Merrell Trail Glove 2 review which has had a fair few search engine hits, but has had very little reaction in the way of likes and comments. I take this to mean people aren’t really sure what to make of it. My Facebook friends were much more vocal on it, and it pretty much ended up with a discussion on the merits of running skirts (at least amongst the women who run). The reactions from the club run and Facebook varied from “that’s so wrong” to “you’re totally rocking that skirt” and everything in between (including “did you lose a bet?” and “I’ve got to admire that you had the guts to go out in that” and just not mentioning it at all).

A couple of people mentioned kilts in their discussions with me (and in overheard snippets of conversation – apparently it got people talking), so let me go through the process that lead me to choose to get a skirt from http://runningskirts.com/.

Although my curiosity was initially piqued by the women who wear running skirts talking about how comfortable they were, my initial search terms included things like “running kilts”. There were quite a few online discussions, and a couple of products. One of the top search results was http://www.runningkilts.com/ – a website that provides a free pattern to make your own “kilt” or contact information to have someone make one for you. The first thing to note was that this was clearly not a kilt in the traditional sense and is basically just a skirt (perhaps not even that – it’s two pieces of material joined at the side to cover whatever you’re wearing underneath). There were a couple of different websites selling “sports kilts” or similar but it seems as soon as you use the word kilt instead of skirt you double the price and the reviews I had seen about using these sports kilts was pretty inconclusive about their comfort and practicality for hard running. The problems highlighted in this review revolved around the weight and then the additional weight when you added sweat to the mix. This, more recent, review was more positive, but not enough to make me think I wanted to give it a try at that price. The other option is to get some fabric and make a kilt (or rather get my wife to make one) – this may happen at some point as there are videos out there showing how to make a kilt and it would give the option of picking out some true athletic-wear material. Kilts also seem to come down to the knee which doesn’t seem to be the best length for running wear (although if you’re getting one custom made it could be shorter).

Some online discussions I found talked about how you might as well just get a women’s skirt and use that. After all, a kilt is a skirt and, really, does it make a difference if it’s called a kilt or a skirt?

The Running Skirt from http://store.runningskirts.com/skirts/running-skirts were looking like the best option at this point, but I wasn’t sure about spending that sort of money just for an experiment (sure, it could end up being a good investment but at this point I didn’t know that). It just so happened that a deal site had one, and it wasn’t too girly a color/pattern (although as I said before I would have preferred plain black) and that’s how I ended up with one.

After my first run I had been worried about the fact my thighs were brushing against each other during the run and I was considering wearing boxer briefs for me longer run. Rather than do that, I decided to give it a try as-is to see what would happen and that’s how, on a humid day, I ran almost 15 miles in the skirt praising how comfortable it was the whole way (no chafing problems at all), and very happy with the pockets for holding my Shot Bloks and key without annoying me in any way (when wearing shorts I usually end up holding packs of Shot Bloks in my hands because they just bang against my legs when I try to put them in my shorts pockets). The only slight negative, for me at least, is that the skirt is a little tighter across the front than I would have preferred it to have been, so there is a little bit of a bump where something only men have gets in the way – I don’t think there’s really any way around this with the type of stretchy material running clothing would be made from so I would imagine it would be the same with most running skirts – the sports kilts may get around this because of the material used. Anyway, it isn’t as much of a problem as you would get with compression shorts given that it does not wrap tightly around all parts of your family jewels, so I’m willing to live with this (I don’t think it’s really that noticeable on the picture below so I’m inclined to think it may not be that noticeable to others when I’m out running).

So, what happens next? I would like to keep running in a skirt that’s for sure – there’s still a psychological barrier to getting out there in it but I’m hoping that, with time, I will pay it less and less attention. (For example, I have a race away from home on Sunday and I don’t think I will wear it there because I won’t know anyone, and because I won’t know anyone I may just be wondering around sheepishly feeling really self-conscious).

Would it be nice to have a different cut more suited to men (if that’s even possible)? Maybe. At this point in time, given the comfort of the one I got, I would definitely consider buying another (a plain color this time, probably black). Maybe I will try to get hold of some material to make something more like a kilt (although I’m not convinced the reactions would be any different to the skirt).

It would be nice to have some feedback (no matter how negative if that’s how you feel) so comment away…

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UPDATE August 7th: Sport Kilt Review plus some updates on running in a skirt.

As of August 16th I have decided to continue my thoughts on running in a skirt to a blog specific to that topic. The new blog can be found here (skirtedrunningman).


Hot trails (and Zoot Icefil review)

Saturday was National Trails Day, and every year on that day RVRR puts on a non-competitive run called the “Train”ing Run¬†along the D&R Canal. The way it works is you pick a “train” (7:30, 8:30, 9:30, 10:30 pace trains), pick a “station” (equating to the distance you want to run) and take a bus out to join the train at the appropriate time. In theory everyone arrives back at the bus departure point, the end of the line, at the same time for a BBQ and picnic.

It was my first time doing this run as I couldn’t make it last year, but as I’ve been increasing my distances I wanted to do at least 20 miles. I had originally decided to try the 8:30 pace group, but as the day approached I started to doubt whether I really wanted to push that hard, and then when the weather forecast showed how hot it was going to be I made a last minute change to join the 9:30 group. To compensate I decided to run for a mile or so in the opposite direction to meet up with the 9:30 pace group that had been running since much earlier and intended on completing 34.1 miles from Trenton (there were also a couple of people who went even further, running through most of the night to complete a total of 70 miles – we’ll call those the “really crazy ultra people”).

My pace group decision was probably the right thing given the heat, but the regular food and water stops (the stations) were invaluable. I also carried a couple of small bottles on my belt (no idea what brand mine is so no mention here – as far as I can tell they are all pretty similar anyway) along with some Shot Bloks which I’m sure both helped out greatly. Ultimately I ended up slightly faster than the 9:30 pace – I think we stayed too long at one of the stops so after that I ended up going a bit faster, and then with about a mile and a half or so left to the end I got caught by some of the 8:30 pace group (who must have been slightly ahead of schedule) and I managed to hang on with them until the end despite the fact I was worried a little earlier that my legs weren’t going to find it easy to get me to the finish. We were supposed to arrive at 11, and I believe it was 10:59 when I arrived – by this point I think the group I had started with were strung out quite a way along the path.

It was definitely a fun event, and I had no adverse effects (other than just being tired for the rest of the day but perhaps that was partly from the beer at the picnic). I’m sure the free massage at the end helped with that a bit though. Many thanks also to all the volunteers who made sure we had plenty of water etc. and kept us motivated (and the other runners for the motivation too).

Me stopped at a station rehydrating.

Me stopped at a station hydrating

One other thing from the run leads me to this mini review:

I was a little worried about sunburn during the run so I carried in my pockets some arm sleeves I had bought a couple of months ago – these Zoot Icefil Arm Coolers. I must admit to being skeptical about the “cooling” aspect, but figured they were at least good for some protection against sunburn.

I didn’t put them on until about half way in to my run, by which point my arms were really dripping in sweat. I was instantly surprised as my arms felt cooler as soon as I put them on – I’m guessing the way these work interacted with my sweaty arms as I don’t think it lasted too long, but it felt great. At various other points in the run, when there was a breeze, my arms did get cooled again (the breezes were brief though so it was short lived).

So, they did seem to do something, and at the very least they may stop me getting sunburn, so I will definitely wear them again in hot weather.

For the record, the hat I was wearing was of the same material. I wore that from the beginning so I don’t have as much of a point of reference, but I don’t recall thinking that my head was ever overly hot – hot, yes, but it would have been whatever hat I might have worn and perhaps it was cooler than it might have been.