One of the biggest trends in triathlon products is recovery devices. From massage sticks to foam rollers to compression socks, athletes are paying much more attention to recovering from their training and paying for a lot of products to help them do it.
This triathlon season I have had the opportunity to use and test one of the latest additions to the endurance sports recovery market, Recovery Pump. The inflatable compression boots have been used for years in Physical Therapy and rehab clinics for patients with circulatory conditions, but only recently began offering products to the athlete community.
What it does:
Your body is extremely efficient at getting oxygen-rich blood through your arteries and into your muscles, but is less efficient at clearing the metabolic waste that comes from anaerobic exercise (lactic acid, CO2 and a laundry list of other waste) out of your blood stream and into your kidneys to clean out. This metabolic waste is a significant obstacle to increasing your VO2 max and Lactate Threshold, two major determining factors for performance in endurance events.
The thigh-high boots each have four separate chambers and are connected to an adjustable compressor through a series of hoses. Each chamber progressively inflates from your feet up, applying pressure sequentially to your feet and legs. This facilitates your body's natural cleansing of metabolic waste. The compression helps actively move metabolic waste from your muscles, just like a long easy walk with compression tights would, but without the demand for additional fuel from your muscles - making it much more effective.
The boots can be used for as little as 10 minutes before a workout to help warm up or even longer (I usually go from 1-2 hours) after an intense training session to promote recovery and be better prepared to tackle your next workout.
Does It Work?
After using it extensively over the whole 2011 triathlon season, I can confidently say that it does what it is supposed to. I first used the Recovery Pump boots in March after a hard day of spring skiing in heavy melting snow that destroyed my legs. I spent 90 minutes in the boots to prepare for a long ride on the bike trainer the next day. I was incredibly surprised how fresh my bike legs felt the next day considering how I was practically limping the day before. I thought it may have been a fluke, but with consistent use over the rest of the season, quality time with my Recovery Pump boots became a staple in my training plan.
The one caveat worth noting is that while it does help flush out plenty of metabolic waste, it doesn't completely repair all your muscle damage from high-intensity workouts. That your body has to do on it's own. But you can get there faster with good nutrition and recovery.
Also, there may be a little sticker shock for anyone considering purchasing their own pair. At $1,195 they aren't a bargain product, but are MUCH more affordable than some other competing products and will undoubtedly have a bigger impact on your finishing time than the $2,000 carbon disc wheel that you only use on race day. Add up all of the massages you get throughout the year and think about having your own in-home recovery device that you can use every single day. It starts to make a lot more sense then.
Plus, because the science behind Recovery Pump is so solid you can even use your FSA, HSA or HRA to pay for it. When was the last time you were able to use those accounts to save some money on triathlon gear?
If you are seriously invested in better performance and want to make the most out of your training and recovery, Recovery Pump is definitely worth some investigation.
Words and photo by Jamie Bull
Editor's Note: Recovery Pump supplied this product for the purpose of this review.