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More athletes wearing compression clothing

February 9, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
You may have heard of Spanx, the undergarment worn to make bodies look smooth and sleek. But there's a different kind of fitted fabric many athletes wear for improved performance rather than pride, which in turn has attracted mainstream exercisers.

"The average Joe now says 'Hey I'm working out and I'm spending my time, if I can feel a little bit better, why wouldn't I?'" said Gregg Hemphill, VP of Marketing for SKINS America.

"This will help them get through that initial soreness stage as they're trying to get themselves back into shape. They're going to be a little less sore and feel a little fresher the next day and want to get back in the gym," said Hemphill.

The fabric's ability to compress helps increase blood flow, which flushes out lactic acid and gets more oxygen and nutrients back to muscles. The end result is speedy recovery time.

"We call it 'Venus return:' increasing the blood flow back to the heart so you can get fresh clean oxygen in the blood back to those muscles faster, keep those muscles firing and performing much more efficiently than they normally would," said Johnny West, sales director for 2XU's compression line.

Also, muscles normally vibrate during exercise, but compression wear keeps them contained which helps in turn to reduce injury.

"Our muscles in general are designed to fire up and down. As soon as we start doing any sort of activity, they'll start sliding side to side, so now that muscle is much less efficient," said West.

Keep in mind this is not like what your grandmother wears for varicose veins. There is a difference between medical compression and sport compression.

"We're not medical professionals, we're fabric experts. We take what the medical experts say and we translate that into fabric-type of garments," said West.

This isn't just tight fitting clothing, it is technologically one notch down from medical grade, providing circulatory and injury preventing benefits. The average cost of shirts and tights is over $100.

You'll find fitted wear from Nike, Adidas and Under Armor types certainly look and fit great but don't offer the same characteristics, although these are brands shine at wicking away moisture.

Fila also offers a line called Fila's Body Toning System. It's not exactly the same as the compression wear featured in this story, but rather resistance wear that offers control with double-layered panels Lycra material that is designed to flatter the female figure.