The Startling Benefits of Compression Clothing

Sunday mornings are my “me time” — a few hours every week where I block off part of the day that I dedicate to myself, doing what I want to do. This means no working, no laundry and no grocery shopping. All of that comes after 11 a.m.

Recently, most of my allotted private time has been spent on bettering my health, where I join the flock of early birds who are feverishly lifting weights, cycling or jogging in an attempt to look like the 2.0 versions of John Krasinksi and Britney Spears. 

As a late blooming New Year’s resolutionist, I’ve only recently begun going to the gym to shed my excess winter weight. A few lat pulls here and a few deadlifts there is more than enough to get my muscles in a panic. Fortunately, thanks to the likes of compression attire, everyone from casual gym-goers to competitive athletes are reaping its benefits for performance and recovery.

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS COMPRESSION CLOTHING?

Compression garments have been around for as long as half a century, unsurprisingly finding its start in the medical field. It’s blend of spandex and nylon helps promote blood flow, particularly preventing edema in diabetics.

In an article written by Greatist, Robert Gotlin, D.O., the director of orthopedic and sports rehabilitation at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, says “Stockings were made so there is more pressure lower [on the leg], and less farther up. […] They can push blood along for those with vascular disease or circulation problems.”

From there, Gotlin says the thinking emerged: if garments increase blood flow, could similar clothing help athletes perform better?

 

 

 

 

Turn on the boob tube and you’ll see virtually every basketball, baseball and football player sporting some sort of compression gear. From arm sleeves and calf sleeves to undershorts, leggings and pants, it’s become the go-to for performance and style.

Companies like Nike, Adidas, Puma and Under Armour have inundated the marketplace with their own lines, claiming their gear supports muscles, improves circulation and speeds up recovery time.

 

 

 

 

SO, DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK?

Remarkably, studies have shown signs of this to be true, and not just marketing hogwash.

During a maximal treadmill test, one study concluded that compression socks helped athletes run longer and hit a higher speed. They also found that compression sock-wearing participants’ running speeds had a higher anaerobic threshold.

An endurance cycling study also showed positive results. Researchers in Australia found an increased concentration of oxygen in cyclists’ muscles when they were wearing compression sleeves. And similar to compression sock wearers, these athletes also took a longer amount of time to reach anaerobic threshold.

Despite these results, many researchers believe this skin-tight gear gives athletes nothing more than a psychological edge. 

“There are studies that show the biggest effect is placebo,” Gotlin says. “People might say they feel and perform better with the garments on, but is it because the garments are doing their supposed function?” In other words, it's possible you're just running on adrenaline.

In summary, whether mind or muscle, there’s something to be said about this new(ish) and improved workout attire. And with moisture wicking capabilities, anti-odor technology and four-way stretch material for improved range of movement, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose … except maybe a few pesky pounds.

 

 

DON'T FORGET THESE... 

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Yoga Flow: A Beginner's Guide to Stretching

A few year’s ago a friend approached me and asked if I’d be interested in trying out a hot yoga class with her. It was a new studio that had opened not far from where we had worked, and I was told I’d have a good time. Despite weighing my options for the evening, it didn't take much convincing for me to accept her invitation. After all, I was newly single, so I had a lot of free time on my hands, the class price was reduced due to a promotional period, and I thought it’d be fun to scope out and try something new.

 

 

 

 

I consider myself not extremely flexible, which seemed to be a deterrent going in. However, as I soon realized, none of the instructors have the expectation of someone walking into class as loosely disjointed as Gumby. “The ability to elongate your spine and touch your toes will come in time,” I was told. Nonetheless, I was a little freaked out upon entering the humid, 100-degree heat of the studio only to see others loosening up with their bodies contorted like a misshapen pretzel. Despite the intimidation, I forged on.

 

 

 

 

Throughout the 90-minute session, I put my body in positions that I never knew were possible. The stretching of the spine, hips and shoulders felt so painfully good that, at moments, my eyes had watered like a leaky bathroom faucet. Pairing that aspect with the excessive heat meant I stumbled out of the room not only sopping wet but also physically and emotionally exhausted. Despite the self-inflicted torture, I craved more.

Fast forward to today and I’m still a practicing yogi four times a week. With that said, I feel better and more alive than ever before. And bonus, I’m now able to stretch my hands beyond my toes, flat to the ground.

If yoga has got you apprehensive, do yourself a favor and research its benefits. Upon a quick search it’s not hard to find the impact it has on one’s health. From improved flexibility, muscle strength and posture to lowering your blood pressure, blood sugar and boosting immunity, the ongoing lists and positive case studies will have you reading for days.

 

 

 

 

Although there are significant differences in climate between hot yoga and more traditional forms, such as power yoga, the poses themselves are vastly similar. If you’re thinking of becoming a yogi, but aren’t quite ready to test it out in a instructor-led class, here are a few beginner poses to help you get on your way to revival:

 

MOUNTAIN POSE With your eyes closed, stand tall and still with your chest open and broad and your hands at your side. Keep your feet together, perhaps with your big toes touching, and feel the floor and the sensations in your legs and back. If you’re stiff, separate your feet slightly. Let your arms rest at your sides, with fingers together. 

DOWNWARD-FACING DOG In the downward-facing dog, your body forms an inverted V-shape. With feet hip-width apart, hinge forward at the waist and press your flat palms into the ground, hips in the air. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, slightly in front of your shoulders, and the arms, shoulders and back should line up in a straight, diagonal line. At any time, you can take a break by resting in child’s pose, and then come back into down dog again. 

CHILD’S POSE From downward-facing dog, simply bend your knees and lower your butt to your heels as you bring your chest toward the floor over your knees. With your knees apart, rest your belly and chest between the legs. Lower your shoulders and head to the floor and stretch the arms out in front of you.

PIGEON POSE From all fours, move your right knee forward between your hands. As though you were doing a lunge, slowly straighten your left leg behind you, keeping the knee and top of the foot on the floor. Now rotate the right knee toward the right wrist and bring it down to the floor with your right calf flat on the floor and your right foot resting under your left groin. Lower your upper body over the bent leg, either all the way to the floor or resting on your elbows. Inhale slowly.

 

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Dance Footwear Fit for Your Workout

Last January your sole focus was hot yoga. The year prior was marathon running. The year before that you had a basic gym membership that barely got swiped. Your last three workout resolutions, for a lack of a better word, failed miserably — not because you didn’t try, but because you simply chose the wrong one for you.

This year, try an unconventional exercise that’s fun, motivating and will test your limits when it comes to body and mind strength. Without a doubt, you’ve got to try barre and Pilates. 

 

 

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Barre workouts are all the rage. Drive anywhere within a six mile radius and you’re bound to stumble across a studio or two that promises to sculpt your core and tone your rear. Unlike other exercise classes (yes, I’m looking at you CrossFit), you won’t be required to use a dozen different types of equipment. In fact, all you’ll use here is, you guessed it, a ballet bar.

Barre’s short yet impactful history is credited back to 1959 when Lotte Berk, a German ballerina who injured her back, came up with the idea to combine her dance conditioning routine with rehabilitative therapy. Berk’s understudy, Lydia Bach, brought the workout to the U.S. in 1971, and its influence has expanded ever since.    

As opposed to other trendy workouts, barre’s core-focused movements are performed and held in tiny, one-inch increments. Similar to a dancer, you’ll oftentimes find yourself leaning and holding posture on your toes and heels. Although some studios are OK with you going barefoot, sticky grip shoes are definitely encouraged, such as the ones featured below.

 

 

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Bloch footwear is an industry leader in the realm of dance and athletic footwear. For three generations, the brand has received high praise for its dependability, innovation and style. 

 

 

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Take the Bloch Contour Barre, for example. Designed with optimal performance and stability, its patented Dynamic Resistance Technology® provides reinforced support and shock absorption that you can feel between movements. And with its no-slip sole, you’ll be able to focus more on the workout at hand while achieving better results.

Similar in design to the Contour Barre is the Bloch Balance Pilates. Both shoes are made of a hardwearing, long-lasting fabric upper that won’t deteriorate after months of practice. However, despite both having similar construction and a sleek profile, the most notable difference between the two is its toe-less look for added airflow. 

 

 

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Unlike barre, Pilates is a mix ‘n’ match hybrid of several exercise programs, integrating key components to help increase flexibility, core strength, posture and more. With that being said, between the sweat dripping off of you and the dude to your right, the Balance Pilates is a worthwhile investment for the sake of maximizing grip and cleanliness.

So this year, take a chance on a new form of exercise. And who knows, maybe barre or Pilates is what you were looking for all along.

 

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3 Questions to Help You Find the Perfect Workout

Happy new year, folks! Looking at the calendar we are now seven days into 2016 and your proclamation to get fit. Since Thanksgiving you’ve exhausted your bad eating habits with deep fried appetizers, hearty meals and platters of desserts. Heck, you were on such a roll that you even had two slices of holiday fruitcake that was meant purely for decoration.

Regardless of how out of control the last seven weeks have been, you’re ready to turn over a new leaf (likely in the form of lettuce. Lots and lots of lettuce) and build your best body ever. With this newfound commitment to health, it’s important to set yourself up for success by asking yourself (and answering) these basic questions:

 

What is my fitness goal?
What workout(s) would suit me best?
How can I stay motivated?

 

Let's go ahead and target each of these questions below...

 

 

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WHAT IS MY FITNESS GOAL?

Whether you’re looking to lose weight, build muscle, increase endurance and flexibility or improve heart health, deciphering what you want to get out of exercising is a big first step. Instead of just putting it in your mind what you want done, write your goals down on paper. This makes your objectives appear more tangible and within reach than just a thought in your head.  Next, take a deep breath and get after it in the steps to follow.

 

WHAT WORKOUT(S) WOULD SUIT ME BEST? 

Depending on your answer above, you’ll want to cater your workout to target your specific goal. For example, if it’s important for you to put on 10 pounds of muscle, climbing the StairMaster isn’t going to build up your arms and pectorals in time for the summer cabin.

 

 

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According to the Journal of Applied Psychology, resistance training is the key to getting buff. Kettlebell exercises and training programs such as CrossFit will help you achieve this look more quickly and efficiently than, say, Zumba, spin class or kickboxing. Although the latter won’t get you ripped, it will help you lose weight, lean out and increase your endurance. 

To help move the needle on your flexibility, balance and core strength, barre is another great go-to. Barre classes use a combination of postures inspired by ballet, yoga and Pilates, focusing on isometric strength training combined with high reps of small range-of-motion movements. Oh, and there’s more: barre can also improve posture, reduce stress and is perfect for pregnant women due to its low impact workout.

 

 

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HOW CAN I STAY MOTIVATED? 

This is a big one. In fact, it very well could define your success or failure. Throughout the tenure of your resolution, take into account these five ways to stay committed to regular exercise:

1. Shift your thinking

Adjust your perspective from being a couch potato to an athlete. Remember, any form of exercise is better than none, whether it’s a 15-minute power walk or a 15-mile bike ride.

2. Schedule a regular workout time

Stay consistent when you exercise. Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, make it a habit to work out at the same time every day for the first few weeks. Soon enough, you’ll feel bad if life gets in the way and you do miss your daily dose of cardio.  

3. Keep it fun with variety

Humans by nature despise redundancy over and over and over (OK, I’ll stop). Focus on body toning one week and cardio the next. Not only is it a nice change of pace, but you get to target more trouble areas than just your hips.

4. Get an accounta-buddy

You’re more likely to succeed if you have someone to exercise with. Having another person by your side to motivate, encourage and vent to can be therapeutic, especially if you begin to hit the wall seeing results. 

 

According to a recent Forbes Magazine article, 92 percent of people do not achieve the resolutions they set out for themselves, whether it’s fitness related or otherwise. This year, be a part of the other eight percent and crush your fitness goals by educating yourself, believing in yourself and never giving up. Godspeed ahead!

 

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Hello New You: 8 Resolution Essentials

Twelve percent of all gym memberships are started in January, and after 24 weeks, most of those new members have quit or just stop coming to the gym. Many of those who start diets on January 1 are doomed to fail; research has shown that 95 percent of the time when people “diet” they gain back the weight, plus 5 more pounds. 

 

 

 

 

Face it, diets SUCK, because the entire focus of our world becomes food — what we can’t have, what we can have, what we’re “allowed” to eat, and then … we begin to dream of all the things we would rather eat. There are all kinds of addictions and issues that people have, but we rarely hear or talk about sugar, which trigger the same areas of our brains as heroin.

My name is Franki, and I am a sugarholic. I crave sweet things, they make me happy but they don’t make me healthy. Everyone has their own path to finding their peace with food. I’ve traded in refined sugar for raw fruit and Stevia, as well as taking a look at what made me go on those sugar binges. When I want chocolate, I have dark chocolate, which has high levels of fiber, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese, as well as a good dose of antioxidants and flavanols that may improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure, and may also improve brain function. Please note that I don’t do that every day, however. 

 

 

 

 

The best solution I’ve found for a new me didn’t come from a gym or from some new-fangled diet. It came from taking a pretty major look inside, and realizing that diets don’t work, but setting a goal to be healthier does — especially when I did it for me, not for anyone else. Well, OK, there are some other people I work on being healthier for: two little people, to be exact.

I come from a family with a lot of heart issues, and where people die young. By working out, eating healthy and getting regular checkups, I increase the length of time I get to spend with my kids. By setting a good example, eating my veggies, treating fast food as a treat instead of a daily thing, and going for walks, runs, hikes and bike rides instead of sitting on the couch, I am helping my kids establish habits that will last them through what will hopefully be long, happy lives, where they can and will be comfortable in their own skin.   

One of the first things you need to establish these new and better habits is the right gear. There are a few basics that if you don’t have, you’re destined to failure because you won’t be comfortable in your new routine, whether it be at the gym, walking or running around your neighborhood, or taking a hike with your family.  

 

 

 

 

BASICS A great workout starts with the same thing a great outfit does — the right foundation pieces, specifically, sports bras that do more that squish the girls and kinda-sorta-but-not-really keep things from moving around in painful ways. A busty girl needs more support (as well as to avoid black eyes), and these bras from Shock Absorber give you the ability to do inversions in a yoga class, and NOT have anything move. Nothing kills continuing a workout plan like pain, and these bras will help you eliminate that issue.  

 

 

 

 

PANTS There are a couple of ways to go with workout pants: yoga pants, and compression. Yoga pants have the benefit of a flared leg for those who might not be so comfortable wearing something that is tight all the way down, while a compression pant supports the muscles and helps with recovery. Personally, I say tailor the pant to the activity — running or biking in yoga pants tends to be distracting, and can get caught in the chains. Remember the golden rule: you’re in the gym to look and feel better for you, and it should never matter what you think other people think you look like. Besides, if we all had perfect bodies, none of us would need to be in the gym working out, now would we?

 

 

 

 

TOPS The right top avoids chafe, and doesn’t have those teeny-tiny underarm seems that make the sleeves roll up and pinch. Nothing kills your run, or your set while lifting, like not being comfortable. This time of year warmth is also a factor, even in the gym. These great tops also have moisture wicking technology to avoid the dreaded half-moons of “boob sweat” without having to resort to wearing black.

 

 

 

 

LAYERS Whether walking, running or going for a hike, layers on your core will be your best friend. Even in cold weather, you’ll heat up fast while having fun, and being able to peel down a layer is a good thing.  If you’re in one of those areas where someone forgot to tell the weather it’s actually winter, a good layering piece is perfect for when it’s too hot for a coat, but too chilly to go out with nothing.  

 

I hope you enjoy these gear suggestions to help you craft a new you in the new year. If you’re rocking out your workout in any of the looks shown here, tag us in your selfies or pics with #zapposWRW — we’d love to see your style! 

 

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Get Moving with Active Clothing!

I had once believed that to be a runner you had to start with a perfect size 5 body and ripped muscles. Then, I met some of the amazing women of Zappos5Kers and began my own journey as a runner with their help and inspiration. 

Laura, Macy, Precious, Cody, Geenah: each one has been inspirational to me, proving that the biggest thing you need to be a runner is the desire to get off of the couch. They also gave me the foresight to recognize that my 14-minute mile was the same distance as someone else’s 5-minute mile.

Laura has gotten me through many races with encouragement and coaching, and her agreement that running oftentimes sucks, but nothing beats the feeling of crossing that finish line. 

Macy has shown me that determination, making a plan, and sticking to it pays off. She’s the “Beast Beginner” featured on our Zappos Running page, and she just ran yet another half marathon. 

Precious and Cody remind me of the reason I run, because they run for the same reason — to set a good example, and to make sure they’ll be around for their kids.  

Geenah has shown me to find joy in completion, rather than competing with anyone other than myself.

All of them are some of the most beautiful women you’ll ever meet. While I don’t think any of them are a size 2, they have all shown me that you can choose a goal and meet it, whether it is to finish, to be healthier or to be stronger, no matter what your numerical relationship with gravity or the number on your clothing tag. 

Running as a curvy girl has one challenge beyond getting up and taking that first step out the door: finding the right gear. I hope that someday companies will realize that those of us with the greatest need for technical workout gear are not a size XS. Until that time, I have some suggestions for gear that will go the distance with you as you get up, get out and chase that goal. 

 

 

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Cool weather is great for running — you don’t quite so much feel like melting. However, you’ll want some great pieces that wick away sweat to keep you warm and dry. 

 

 

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Even when its cold, I’ve always preferred a crop to longer running pants, simply because they always seem like they ride up less and cause the dreaded chafe. And a fun pattern makes it easier to be seen if you’re running in those dusk or early morning hours before or after work. 

 

 

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Do not run without a great bra — you’ll save yourself pain and breast damage. I also highly recommend a good compression sock when you’re just starting; it makes recovery a lot faster, and reduces pain. 

 

 

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Momma always said, “Safety first!” This time of year, when the sun goes down early and comes up later, make sure you’re being seen with reflection gear. Oh, and just because it’s cooler out doesn’t negate you staying hydrated. 

 

If you’re hitting the road in any of the gear you’ve seen here, tag us in your selfies or pics with #zapposWRW — we’d love to see your style! 

 

 

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Add Spin to Your Style in these Indoor Cycling Essentials

With summer long gone and autumn nearing its end, it’s inevitable that the shift in colder weather will put a damper on your outdoor activities. And with the hangover of Halloween still fresh in our minds and Thanksgiving and December holidays not far from reach, what better way to battle the bulge than to do a little indoor cycling?

Great for those of any age, indoor cycling, aka spin class, is one of the most popular and beneficial group class workouts available. According to an article by the American College of Sports Medicie, in this instructor-led 40-minute class, you’ll receive four incredible benefits, such as cardiovascular exercise, lowered stress levels, an increase in muscular endurance and quick-burning calories. Additionally, this low-impact workout is particularly great for those recovering from previous injuries, people who have back pain or arthritis, and even pre-natal and post-natal women who are wanting to stay in shape.

When attending spin class for the first time, it’s not uncommon to feel a bit intimidated by the number of cyclists, the closeness of the bikes, or the unknown of the class. However, here are few tips to help you play off your first experience dressed like a pro.

 

 

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First, comfortable clothing is key. You’re gonna sweat a lot, so a moisture wicking shirt or top is a must, as well as compression shorts or pants. Anything loose will disrupt your performance and will have you sticking out like a sore thumb. Check out brands like Pearl Izumi and Louis Garneau to help get you started.

Next, you’ll need to invest in some cross-trainers or cycling shoes. Cross-trainers with stiffer midsoles will give more cushion and stability to your ride, whereas bike shoes (see: Shimano and Giro) provide greater cycling strength due to the foot clips that attach to the pedals. This footwear preference is ultimately up to you and your total comfort.

Finally, don’t forget the accessories. Stay hydrated with a water bottle, a drying towel to wipe away perspiration, and an athletic bag to hold an extra change of clothes. After an intense class, you definitely don’t want to be driving home with a soaking wet shirt.

Indoor cycling is a phenomenal activity to help keep you fit and motivated through the holidays. Commit yourself to a few classes a week to get started, and in no time you’ll be feeling good and looking great in and out of your cycling gear!

 

 

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Work, Girl: Curvy Girls Need Gear Too

I’m going to start with a disclaimer: When I say I’m a runner, I mean that I am slightly faster than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter. For a while, I was very frustrated and disappointed in myself at my 14-minute miles as I did a slow walk-job combination. Then, a wise woman named Laura pointed out that my minute mile was the same distance as someone else’s 4-minute mile, and that I was still lapping everyone on the couch. 

Recently, ESPN Magazine published its annual Body Issue, each year asking the same question, “What is an athlete?” This issue celebrates elite athletes of every shape and size, and I love that they are willing to bare their bodies as well as their insecurities. For the everyday athlete, these self-doubts can be reinforced with challenges of finding the right gear to fit our amazing bodies.  This is especially true when we need and want gear that works in hot weather. 

Workouts can be a challenge in and of themselves, but when you get "the dreaded chafe" (you all know what I mean, ladies!) because your pants were soaked in sweat, or your chest and shoulders hurt because “the girls” weren’t properly supported, you’re more likely to quit working out — and that just won't do. 

Thank goodness for companies like Nike and Moving Comfort, that recognize that bodies of all sizes and shapes work out. These brands have made curve-friendly tech gear to support the chest and help avoid chafing! Moreover, these pieces have moisture-wicking fabrics to keep you as comfortable as possible (hey, 100°F is still one… hundred…degrees…) and looking fabulous during your hot weather workouts.

Don’t forget the little things that make a lot of difference, like moisture-wicking reflective headgear and a great hydration pack. Lace up a pair of cushioned shoes with support to carry you down the road, and you're ready to go! You might not look marvelous to folks around you when sweating mid-workout, but personally, that’s when I feel my prettiest. 

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1. Shock Absorber Active Multi Sports Bra S4490
2. Moving Comfort Maia Bra
3. Shock Absorber D+ Max Support Sports Bra N109 

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4. Soybu Plus Size Alicia Tank
5. Soybu Plus Size Reese Tee
6. Nike Extended Size Miler Tank

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7. Nike Extended Dri-FIT™ Essential Crop
8. Marika Curves Plus Size Framed Tummy Control Capri Leggings
9. Soybu Plus Size Allegro Capri

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CamelBak Marathoner 70 oz

10. CamelBak Marathoner 70 oz
11. New Balance W1080v5
12. Columbia Trail Dryer™ Cap

If you’re feeling cool while getting hot in any of the looks featured here on Well Rounded Wednesday, please tag us in your photos on Twitter and Instagram using #WRW — we would LOVE to see your style!