Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Under compression

While reading VeloNews online the other day, I came across a review of some new compression cycling clothing by a company called Skins.  The new top of the line collection is called the C400, part of the 400 series.  If you've not heard, compression technology is the latest (maybe not all THAT late, really) investigated method of improving post-exertional recovery.  It started in cycling with some techniques team physiologist Allen Lim started trying out on the Garmin boys in 2008 via a device called the NormaTec MVP boots...but what quickly were renamed, the "Space Boots".

In this photo, we can see Dr. Lim adjusting the 'Space Boots' on Canadian cyclist Ryder Hesjedal, who is obviously busy Tweeting during the process (as any self-respecting professional cyclist would).  The things reportedly provide a "peristaltic pulse" that moves the blood from the bottom of the leg toward the top in a series of repetitive waves.  Dr. Lim is quoted as saying that this is a machine "designed to externally compress the limbs in a way that mimics normal physiology..."  Now, the only structure I know in nature that provides normal physiologic and directional peristaltic (or wave-like) pulses is the gastrointestinal tract.  So the only situation in which the Space Boots are mimicking normal physiology for your legs is if you were waist deep in the rectum of a whale.....backwards.  But I'm quite sure this technology was nothing new to Hesjedal as Canadians have been rocking the Space Boots since 1977.

And check it out - they're only 16.99 and come in two different spacey metallic tones.

Sure - I can scoff - but there is real evidence that these things work.  After all, LA himself has been busting out the knee-highs lately as well.

I've always consider this high fashion and just thought LA was getting caught up with the times.  But it turns out that this kind of compression, referred to as 'static compression'  (because it lacks the whole whale-rectum pulsatile pressure effect) has been proven to relieve post-exertional muscle soreness.  In fact one study showed that following "soft tissue injuy from maximal eccentric exercise" the wearing of a compression sleeve "decreased perceived soreness, reduced swelling, and promoted recovery of force production."

Enter the world of Skins.  Or as the website says if you click on the "How Skins Work" button, "Welcome to the world of Skin's bioacceleration technology!"

The marketing scheme is the use of the Columbia HTC boys which can be seen clearly having just finished frolicking about in their Skins jammies with bare feet, as though they are in the midst of a slumber party minus the pillows and stereo cranking Love Shack by the B-52s.  But here, they are posing jauntily with hands on hips....all except....wait a minute.  Who's that in the middle who doesn't have to put his hands on his hips?  Hey - it's Mark Cavendish.  I find their postures for this photo not just a little unsettling, and seem to remembed that there are those that actually study body language and what people are subconciously saying through the positioning of their arms, legs, etc.  A quick search of this revealed the following:

On a website dedicated to the Body Language of the Hips, I found several interesting things.

"Hands on hips pushes the elbows sideways making the body look larger and thus may be a signal of power or aggression.  Men may use the hip thrust with other men as a signal of power ('my penis is bigger then yours' or 'I am so powerful you dare not attack my exposed and vulnerable parts').

Obviously the Columbia boys didn't assume these positions of their own volition, and were posed by the team owner and manager Bob Stapleton as a flagrant act of exhibiting his teams' loin-laden prowess in an attempt to compensate for something....Maybe this photo of Bob explains what that might be.

At any rate, at the center of the Columbia HTC photo on the Skins page is Cavendish.

Arms crossed and not smiling.  I wonder what we can determined about his mood?

"Arms can act as the doorway to the body and the self.  When they are crossed, they form a closed defensive shield, blocking out the outside world.  Shields act in two ways: one is to block incoming attacks and the other is a place behind which the person can hide and perhaps not be noticed."

Cav certainly does have a reputation for not wanting to be noticed, so that is a possibility - but perhaps another reason is that he wants to hide the robin's-egg-blue, Mr. Roger's-esque team zippered cardigan they made him wear for the photo.

Apparently the Skins compression fabric moves better with the body and excels in providing excellent skin moisture management, optimizing skin temperature and blocks UV rays. In a sense - it is truly like a second set of skin - but only better.  Some of the other details include the company's use of "body mapping" in which over 400 athletes' bodies were scanned and 800,000 measurements made of both male and female forms to arrive at the most anatomically form fitting apparel ever made. 

The Skins homebase is in Australia - but yet again - I think the Canadians may have beat them to the punch on anatomically form fitting, skin-like apparel, that is gender specific.

Pedal on!

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