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Defeating the Bear

April 09, 2017

Defeating the Bear…

 For those of you that enjoy distance running, you know that feeling. Towards the end of the race your legs start to feel heavy.  Your mind fills with doubt about your ability to finish whatever remains.  I call it “the Bear.”  It feels like a bear has jumped on your back and it trying to wrestle you to the ground.  No matter how prepared you thought you were heading into the race, that pesky bear seems to appear just when you least expect him to.

 I took up distance running in my late 30s primarily for health benefits, but as someone who played a wide variety of sports growing up and through college, I found that I missed having a physical, competitive outlet in my adult years.  In my case, I wasn’t setting out to win the local 5k or finish in the top 10 for a half-marathon, but finding races to run created specific date milestones where I could test myself against the clock.  It was a way to hold myself accountable for the training and preparation required to complete the distance and achieve my target time.  I looked at a wide variety of online materials and virtual coaches to help prepare me for the shift from couch to 5k and beyond.  However, no matter how many hills I ran in training or fueling strategies I tried, that bear still jumped on my back towards the end of every race I attempted. I needed a different strategy and approach to defeat the bear.

 I had seen runners wearing compression gear at races, from arm and calf sleeves to compression socks.  Admittedly, I was skeptical of the benefits that compression gear would provide.  But, in talking with other runners and doing some online research, the use of compression gear enhanced performance through increased blood flow, quicker recovery and decreased muscle soreness, and less fatigue.  Increased blood flow through my legs sounded like exactly what I was looking for to defeat the bear.  What I didn’t quite understand is that all compression gear isn’t the same.  The benefits depend on the amount of compression….  ATN Compression Socks offer 20-30 mmHg compression, which is clinically effective in increasing circulation and helping to clear lactic acid.  I've learned that anything less (15-18 mmHg, 12-14 mmHg or better yet, a compression sock that does not state the amount of compression) is just a waste of money.

 After buying a pair of ATN Compression sleeves, I set out to see if I could defeat the bear.  Having run races with unproven gear and experiencing disastrous results, I figured I would try my new calf sleeves on a few training runs to see how they felt.  At first, I didn’t notice anything special.  I typically run in the morning and then head off to work.  As I prepare for a race, the number of training miles really add up during the week and I can really feel the impact of those longer training weeks when getting up from my desk late in the day. So, as an older runner, the thing that I noticed first was that my legs seemed to be fresher all day and even late into the day after I started wearing the compression sleeves.  I also noticed that the training grind seemed to be reduced as the runs later in the week were just as easy to complete as the ones after rest days.  What became apparent was that my legs were benefiting from quicker recovery and reduced soreness as a result of wearing the compression sleeves.  I felt great!  It was time to put my ATN Compression sleeves to the test in a real race.

 Race day came and as I prepared to tackle a half marathon, I pulled on my compression sleeves with a smile.  My goal was to defeat the bear armed with my new gear!  My training runs with the compression sleeves helped me enter the race with fresh legs and while I wasn’t ready to run a personal best time, I did want to run hard and see what I could achieve.  The start was typically crowded and the usual thinning occurred after the first couple of miles.  My legs felt fine and I was enjoying the scenery of a Northern California in the fall.  As the middle portion of the race unfolded, I felt great.  My stride was strong and I was enjoyed watching the race mile markers pass.  Mile 10 featured a pretty substantial hill and that can really make for a difficult last few miles as you expend what remains of your leg strength to make it up the hill.  My pace slowed a bit and as I reached the summit, I expected the bear to be there greeting me with his usual embrace.  But, as I crested the summit, I could feel that I had something a bit extra in the old tank.  The final few miles were flat to the finish and I let my compression clad legs fly.  Mile marker 12 appeared and with only 1.1 miles to go, I knew that I had defeated the bear.  Mile 13 ended up being my fastest mile of the race and I finished feeling absolutely great!

 The following day I showed none of the typical signs of having run 13.1 miles at an aggressive pace.  The soreness I usually felt was totally missing from my post race experience.  It was amazing!  The benefits of wearing ATN Compression sleeves for both my training runs and race day really paid off and now I simply won’t run without them.

 Whether you are a runner, planning on becoming a runner, or if you just spend a lot of time on your feet, the benefits of wearing compression gear is absolutely worth the price. With such a wide range of colors and patterns, ATN Compression Socks support your legs and you can show off your personal style too.  Here’s to defeating your bear with ATN Compression Socks!

 by Tim Hall, marathoner