Do Compression Socks, Sleeves, and Wraps Help You Work Out Better?

Basketball players, runners, weight lifters, and everyday gym-goers are always looking for an extra edge, and they think compression gear might be just the thing. By squeezing yourself into these stretchy garments, you supposedly increase blood flow, which in theory, means more oxygen to working muscles and a better workout.

Compression gear comes in all kinds: high-knee socks, elbows sleeves, long pants, knee wraps, and tops. These tight-fitting clothes are usually made from a blend of spandex and nylon to hug the hell out of your arms, legs, or torso, without constricting your movement. Compression leggings and socks are popular among triathletes and long-distance runners, for example, and Asics ads for their products feature optimistic claims: Compression gear helps you run farther and recover faster “because you’ll be removing lactic acid quicker, reducing soreness in muscles.” Those are some pretty fancy pants, to be sure, but it’s a bit hyperbolic.

What Compression Gear Can and Can’t Do

Compression gear does increase your circulation, that much is true. It can raise your core temperature, for example, but whether that’s significant enough to help you break records or perform better than you would without it is less clear. According to an analysis of the current literature published this year in Sports Medicine, compression gear has overall trivial benefits on variables that are related to running performance, like your running economy (how efficiently you run), stride length, number of steps, and other mechanics. The authors note the benefits might be more psychological than anything: you feel less fatigued than you actually are and can slog on a little longer because you’re more aware of your body’s relation in space. With that, you’re able to move more efficiently, and that makes workouts feel less tiring.

On the other hand, competitive weightlifters swear by knee wraps (different from knee sleeves), which are elastic garments that you wrap tightly around your knees to protect them during heavy squats. A study in Journal of Strength and Conditioning observed that knee wraps actually do help the wearer lift about 10% more weight, but they do so by changing the way you squat. In other words, these are helpful for powerlifting competitions and little else. 

So it seems it depends on the compression gear and the activity you’re doing. In sports with explosive type movements, like intense sprints and vertical jumps, wearing compression gear offers minor improvements, as this study review in the International Journal of Sports Physiological Performance found. But the study also doesn’t rule out the undeniably strong influence of the placebo effect. I remember wearing compression leggings for my half marathon race because I believed they’d help me finish strong—and lo and behold, the pants really did run all 13.1 miles! (Seriously, I did finish my all-time best.)

When Compression Gear Actually Does Help

Compression gear has actually been used for medical conditions like lower leg blood clotting, diabetes-related edema, and other circulatory issues for years. They’re a viable and helpful option in place of blood thinning drugs and other more invasive forms of treatment. They’re also great for helping keep injured joints warm and providing some support to them.

Most compression gear manufacturers like the popular 2XU like to emphasize the recovery benefits. They “reduce muscle soreness,” the product pages say. And well, there’s some truth to that.

According to a review of the research in British Journal of Sports Medicine, wearing compression gear after intense exercise or competition can help speed up recovery, and at least, reduce your perception of overly sore muscles. One study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research observed better recovery in rugby players who wore the leggings for 24 hours straight after exercise, which is to suggest that if you’re focused on recovery you should try wearing your compression gear for lengthy periods (like a couple of hours at least) after exercise. We’re not sure exactly why the gear helps with recovery. One simplified version of a theory is that their compressive nature reduces the space available for inflammation and swelling…



Stop Pretending You’re Surprised Football Fans Are Racist

View image on Twitter

Posted By: Dr. Bones

(From my weekly column at Greed: “No Quarter”)

(GREED) – Football is perhaps the most American sport ever devised. Born from the angst-encrusted days of post-WW2, it caught on quickly with the thoroughly prussianized populace. The entire game is a big metaphor for our own military success: soldiers from some far off corner aggressively fighting their way to the “end zone” of some foreign power, all the while keeping our own “safety” through rigorous attack. Fans can remember certain seasons as if they themselves had fought them, tribal identification with each team’s totemic figure so deep as to inspire tattoos and fierce, often riotous rivalries.

So why is anybody surprised that a sport so reflective of American values is also home to anti-black attitudes?

Just recently Robert Klemko of posted photos of shirts being sold to fans outside of  Ralph Wilson stadium during Quarterback Colin Kaepernick‘s first start in nearly a year, highlighting the tact and maturity football fans are known for.

View image on Twitter

Shirts with a rifle scope trained on Colin Kaepernick selling for $10 outside of Ralph Wilson stadium.

This is but a small piece of the virulent hate and bigotry that was freely on display, Bills fans going as far as cheering each other on to “tackle the Muslim” as they rushed a dummy fitted with a Kapernick jersey and afro under a proudly waving American flag.

Bills fans scream “tackle the Muslim”, then a young lady obliges.

Remember: all this over kneeling during a song to protest the literal thousands of black lives being snuffed out by police hands. “Jesus Christ,” I blurted aloud when I first watched the above video, “those people sound like blood-hungry apes!” Yes, those screams are what really did me in, because I knew down in my stomach what they were: the same pitch and intensity that terrified Black Americans knew meant a lynching wasn’t far away. White or black, everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line knows exactly what those cries for violence mean, what those t-shirts really say. Horrifying as it is, such behavior should come as no surprise to anyone.

Violence and mayhem are part and parcel to the entire American experiment, the song Kapernick refusing to honor gleefuly recounting how nothing “could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”

This long-standing history of racial injustice has stretched right into the NFL itself, where white first time coaches are hired at a 21-to-1 ratio over black ones in a sport where 68% of the players were black. So what if 1 in 3 players got banged up and ended up mentally handicap? They were rich, right? Wasn’t that all that mattered?

Kapernick’s protest has brought attention to the flagrant abuses and misdeeds permeating the country and NFL fans are pissed at HIM for ruining the fun. They don’t want to acknowledge the widespread and systematic brutality Black folks have had to suffer under the same flag they view as god’s gift to Earth, because to do so would cause them to begin to question everything they believe about the world and their lives. Far easier for your average inbred caught drunk on a Sunday morning to scream and make vague threats of violence, and lo-and-behold that’s exactly what we’ve seen.

Good God, why the hell do you think we all have guns down here? When I heard Trump was going to be holding a rally in my hometown I made it very clear to as many people as possible I was armed and would not hesitate to kill any would-be Klansman that might feel empowered. The neighbors don’t visit as often, but I can’t say the Klan does either…



Your Religion Might As Well Be Football


Something about spending my 9/11 obsessively watching football  made me think it might be a good time to re-air this piece (which originally appeared on the site on 9/12/2013). There’s some additional commentary at the end about my psychic sports predictions for the heads. Enjoy:  

Ahhh Football season. The crisp feel of fall winds and the sound of drunkenness in the afternoon. There is absolutely nothing more distinctly and disturbingly American than football culture. So, you get a bunch of dudes who may or may not drink very often incredibly drunk in the middle of the afternoon. If their team wins, they get increasingly wasted and elated. If they lose they get dangerously sauced and pissed off. Yeah, that’s gonna end well for the kids.

Don’t fool yourself. Football (or any sport for that matter) wouldn’t exist in its insanely bloated capacity if weed and hallucinogens weren’t outlawed back in the day. People would probably be more into fucking and playing the electro delay sitar. Maybe there’d be porno sitar players. I don’t know. What I do know is that alcohol is legal and because of that, football culture is fucking PERFECT. You work a dumbshit job all day but hell, it’s all worth it because on the weekend you get to throw back drink after drink and yell at people who could kick the living crap out of you. There’s a reason half the ads during football games involve booze. The most hilarious part is where they imply that downing cheap beer and watching football is going to get you pussy. Riiiiiight.

Did I mention I watch football like a crackhead? Yeah, probably should get that out of the way. Half the shit I write is making fun of me when you get down to it. So why is it that I find myself getting suddenly obsessive about other dudes calculatingly beating the shit out of each other every fall and winter? I guess because of my childhood, but there’s more to it than that. Christ, I only played like one year of organized ball before I realized I hated getting yelled at like a drill sergeant. Oh, and it fucking hurt. Fun when you’re young, but you start getting bigger and damn is it painful. With all the new information coming out about just how dangerous it actually is, this particular addiction should be getting harder and harder to justify to myself, but I’m more hooked than ever. Why? Why Man? What the fuck is wrong with me? I’d say the answer has a lot to do with it being one of the few things I have in common with people. Believe it or not, writing about telepathically summoning discarnate entities through sex magick (which I do on Facebook continually, like my page) isn’t a super crowded world at this point. I know right? I spend most of my time feeling like I exist in a dimension I don’t remotely jibe with and watching sports grounds me. Hell, I’ve even been known to go running for the remote to throw on Sportscenter at the end of an extended acid trip. Stuff brings me down to earth easy, reconnects me to the boring world of other people.

I like their football at least, but why is it that sporting events make so much goddamn money? In middle America a college football game can regularly draw a bigger crowd than basically anything. It’s totally insane. A reunited Led Zeppelin with an undead zombie John Bonham opening for Pink Floyd couldn’t continually bring in 100,000 fans every week. Church? Yeah, good luck with that. So, why are we so addicted to this shit? What is it about the allure of finite rules and collective yelling that compels us to give people money? The main reason I bring this all up is because of a study that was conducted at the University of Washington that went viral a year back. We re-blogged an article about it, but I never got to comment, so here are a few choice tidbits to refresh your memory from the UW website:

“More than half of all American churchgoers now attend the largest 10 percent of churches.”

Those would be churches with more than 2,000 congregants, think about how fucked that is for a minute, then continue.

“(T)he Holy Spirit goes through the crowd like a football team doing the wave. … Never seen it in any other church.”

And then this priceless quote from the study’s author, professor James Wellman.

“How are you going to dominate the market? You give them a generic form of Christianity that’s upbeat, exciting and uplifting.”

How you can be a Christian and selectively edit out the passage about the money changers in the temple is beyond me (sort of what got Jesus killed right?), but Wellman’s research essentially confirmed what I’d already known. I’ve joked about it for years. Having an interest in spirituality, I’ve tried to watch evangelical sermons on occasion and I don’t get it at all. They’re not actually saying anything, but they’re saying it all over-the-top-emo style (sort of like Obama). It’s like how you talk to a dog. The words are largely irrelevant, you just intone the meaning exaggeratedly. With some of the sermons I’ve watched, I actually try and summarize the whole thing to myself after the fact and I don’t have anything to work with. It’s like sand through my fingers. Boring, boring, sand. The whole charade’s designed to provide the same sense of collective profitable release that you can get from a football game (also on Sunday mornings), but let’s face it, way more people give a shit about football…




The Uncanny Symbiosis of Modern Religion and Sports

Photograph by Cadaverexquisito / Wikicommons

There is a church in Argentina called Iglesia Maradona. In this church, God is football—soccer—and its prophet is the renowned player Diego Armando Maradona. Founded in 1998, the year after the star’s retirement, the Church of Iglesia Maradona now has some 120,000 members worldwide, who bear its insignia D10S—a portmanteau of Dios, the Spanish word for God, and Maradona’s shirt number, 10. Members congregate in sports bars; transubstantiation occurs not to wine and wafer, but to beer and pizza. They even have their own version of the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Diego, who art on the pitches, hallowed be thy left hand,” alluding to Maradona’s controversial “hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup.

It all sounds a bit absurd, but at least some of the church’s founders and followers appear to be serious. Co-founder Hernán Amez told The Argentina Independent in 2008, “It’s not just a bit of fun—it’s a religion. Religion is about feelings, and we feel football.” He is right, psychologically speaking. The power of religion, sociologist Émile Durkheim wrote, stems from its ability to unite two of our deepest yearnings—the universality of God and the cultural specificity of a clan—through totems and rituals. The specific beliefs of a religion do not matter so much as its ability to meet these emotional and social needs. In other words: deed then creed. Given this, Iglesia Maradona doesn’t seem so strange. After all, 90 percent of Argentinians declare allegiance to a soccer team. In many ways, the devotion to soccer in Argentina resembled a religion already.

While it may be common to think that ancient sporting rituals were performed in the service of religion, this modern example, and others, suggest it can just as easily go the other way: Religion adapts itself to sport. Take the United States, where football (American football) and Christianity are closely linked. Football counts 63 percent of Americans as fans, more than any other sport in the country—and 33 percent of them believe God intervenes in football games. As Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote in 2014, “The relationship between sports and religion in America has always been close, and it has often been awkward.”

Some might argue that this awkward closeness can be seen in the development of megachurches, defined as churches that have 2,000 or more in weekend attendance—they’re often modeled after sports stadiums. Crenshaw Christian Center, perhaps the largest such structure in the U.S., can pack 10,400 churchgoers into its 360-degree stadium seating. Critics of megachurches argue that their large size discourages nuanced discussions of social justice issues and the formation of intimate communities. What they do encourage, though, is group-feel. Sociologist Katie Corcoran has likenedsitting in megachurch to standing in the crush of a packed stadium: Both allow the self to melt away.

“What has Jesus done that Maradona hasn’t?”

Recognizing this potential for self-transcendence, megachurches are now seeking to wield sports’ power for their own ends. In 2005, theologian Matthew Brian White examined the 100 largest megachurches to see how they used sports to win over followers, a practice known as “sports evangelism.” In addition to distributing pamphlets and videos at major sporting events, megachurches have created their own sports associations, such as Upward Basketball, which integrates religious practices into pre-game rituals and play…



When Exercise Becomes Too Much of a Good Thing

Photograph by Thomas Hawk / Flickr

In a world where only 1 in 5 American adults meet the minimum daily exercise requirements, exercise addiction can seem like the opposite of a problem. Don’t let that fool you, says Marilyn Freimuth, a clinical psychologist at Fielding Graduate University, in Santa Barbara. “Exercise addiction can completely take over someone’s life. They’re getting injured, all they can do is think about exercising, but because our culture values physical activity,” she says, “we overlook the issue.”

In their 2015 book The Truth About Exercise Addiction: Understanding the Dark Side of Thinspiration, author Katherine Schreiber and Jacksonville University professor of kinesiology Heather Hausenblas write, “Exercise addicts experience physical activity as both a coping mechanism and a compulsion without which they feel they cannot survive.” People generally feel better both physically and mentally after working out. But for exercise addicts, that positive surge—similar to the ones gambling- and sex-addicts feel—is substantially higher: It can give athletes and non-athletes alike a powerful buzz of pleasure that can leave them coming back for more, ultimately leading to a life tethered to the treadmill, so to speak, and serious medical consequences, including fatigue, overuse injuries (stress fractures, pulled muscles, tendonitis), infections that won’t go away, electrolyte imbalances, cardiac issues, and, perhaps paradoxically, listlessness.

To see this play out, we may need to look no further than the Olympics. Exercise addiction seems to increase, at least among athletes, the more elite they become, according to a study, published last month, in Journal of Behavioral Addictions. Tim Brewerton, a physician at the Medical University of South Carolina, agrees. “We venerate Olympic athletes almost like gods. We give them lots of praise and attention, but if we knew anything of what their lives were like…” he says, trailing off. “I think many of them likely experience some type of exercise addiction—they are training constantly for years.”

What makes exercise addiction a thorny phenomenon to study, though, is its complicated relationship with eating disorders. In the 1800s, for example, physicians treating young women with anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and persistent weight loss, often noted their extreme restlessness and need to constantly move about. And in a 1984 study, a group of physicians had noted in the Journal of the American Medical Association that considerably dedicated male runners, or “obligatory runners,” shared many of the same psychological traits as young women with anorexia, such as perfectionism and depression, although to a lesser degree.

“Passion exists on a continuum with addiction. Gamblers love to gamble…until they don’t.”

One potential difference between people addicted to exercise and those addicted to, well, pretty much everything else, Brewerton points out, is that people who become addicted to exercise may be prone to addictive behaviors but are also simultaneously risk-averse. They’re not the ones who are going to be binge drinking at a party or trying to score some smack in a sketchy part of town. What’s more, they get lots of positive social reinforcement for their addiction, which provides a boost for their perfectionism. It’s rare for someone to be told they exercise too much, Freimuth says. Instead, they are roundly praised for their self-discipline. Neuroscientists have identified altered reward pathways in individuals with eating disorders that make self-punishment, like self-starvation and over-exercise, paradoxically feel quite rewarding.

But when researchers went looking for exercise addiction in individuals without eating disorders, they had a hard time finding it, which led some eating-disorders professionals to conclude that exercise addiction only existed in tandem with an eating disorder. They point out the increasing number of Olympic athletes who have disclosed their own history of eating disorders. As many as 31 percent of Olympic athletes were found to have eating disorders, for example, compared to just 13 percent of the general population, according to a 2009 International Olympic Committee report. “Eating disorders and exercise addiction often appear together, but only eating disorders are recognized as diagnoses,” say Mia Lichtenstein, a clinical psychologist at the University of Southern Denmark, and her colleague, in a study published in March…



Why Sports Die


Sports don’t survive their cultures of origin if they resist modern measurement.

Stadiums and Other Sacred Cows


IF YOU BUILD IT: Coakley’s research has documented the billions of dollars that go into mega-events like the Olympics, which are often used to build or renovate stadiums and rarely go toward the public services outlined in bid documents.Gabriel Heusi / Wikipedia

Why questioning the value of sports is seen as blasphemy.

%d bloggers like this: