R.E.A.P. = Recovery to Elevate Athletic Performance
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to try out the latest in recovery equipment for runners. I was pretty excited and have my friend and fellow-runner Toney Avakova to thank for the opportunity. The equipment in question is a special type of inflatable boot, and I was intrigued to try out the boots having seen pictures flash up on Facebook and Instagram – of running friends basking in recovery boot-glory at the end of some races on Oahu.
What are they and how do they work?
Good question! From the outside they look like oversize ski pants/ salopettes, or maybe a weird set of inflatable socks! But in fact they are more like the blood pressure sleeve the nurse wraps around your arm at the doctor’s, but in the form of a long boot that completely engulfs your leg!
The boots work by actively, and sequentially compressing, or pumping the muscles of your legs, aiding the recovery process, i.e. the removal of waste products that accumulate in the tissues after strenuous exercise. Further reading from the ‘Science and Studies‘ page on RecoveryPump explains how this works in greater detail:
“Our lymphatic system and blood vessels work together to flush waste from our cells naturally. Muscular movement, however, is needed to stimulate this process because the lymphatic system does not have a pump, like the heart does. Often athletes will perform light exercise to achieve this muscle contraction and increase circulation in the body, thereby reducing soreness in the muscles. Active sequential compression like the RecoveryPump increases venous return, rapidly accelerating the body’s reabsorption of the elements causing soreness and fatigue in the muscle.”
I used the boots over a long weekend that included a 30km road race (part of the 808 Race marathon readiness series). The first time I zipped into the boots, on a Friday afternoon, I adjusted the compression dial to 70%. And it is definitely a bizarre sensation – starting from the feet moving upwards – the squeeze created by the pump that basically compresses you almost like a deep massage, but from every angle. It took about five minutes to feel accustomed to the feeling of the boots – but I stayed zipped in for about twenty minutes.
The next time I used them was Saturday evening, after a busy day of volunteering at the beach, coaching at a cross-country meet, and dog walking – basically being on my feet all day. Usually I would lie down and do 10 minutes of ‘Legs-Up-The-Wall’ or Vipariti Karani but I was excited to chill out in the boots, and managed 45 minutes of ‘boot-time’ after dinner.
Next morning, race day, I set my alarm an extra fifteen minutes early to give me time for a short ‘recovery pump’! The effects of the boots can also help to warm up muscles, and so I set the dial to about 60% compression and sipped on some black coffee with honey whilst my muscles were squeezed! It was a new approach, but it seemed to work – when I got to the start line I felt ready to go after only a five-minute jog, and had a great 30km, finishing first woman in 2:06:24.
After the race I did a short, easy cool down jog, and went to teach a yoga class, but eventually I made it home where I zipped straight back into the boots for a longer bout of recovery. Setting the dial to about 80% compression, which felt pretty intense to me, I managed another 45 minute session.
But how was I really going to know if they had made any difference to my recovery? Normally it takes two days for muscles to fully reveal the effect of a big effort such as a race – aka DOMS (delayed onset muscles soreness). I hadn’t completely floored myself at the 30km since it was planned into my marathon training as an indicator of fitness, but a race is still a race. On Tuesday my legs were feeling slightly tired, but ok – and better than expected so I went for a short swim to loosen up. However the true indicator of how effective the boots had been in my recovery would be Tuesday night’s track session. The workout was a ladder: 1600m, 1200m, 800m, 400m, 800m, all at a hard effort level with 1 lap easy jog/ active recovery in between each repeat. Amazingly my legs felt great, even ‘springy’ and any anticipation I had before the workout was gone after the first mile repeat – the recovery process had worked!
Overall, the recovery pump boots were excellent and I would definitely recommend them! I’ve seen images of a few elite athletes using them on Instagram, but I think they would be most useful to the every day athlete, the weekend-warriors, or an athletic-family household – people who could really use a few extra ways and means of recovering from training and racing whilst balancing it all with the demands of every day life! The deep tissue active compression is really key to the boots’ effectiveness, and I could literally feel it working – even just for 15 minutess!
Look out for Hawaii REAP at Oahu and island endurance events in the future, or add a pair of boots to your wish-list!