What is Recovery Systems?
Recovery Systems developed a product which claims to bring athletes to greater heights and to treat patients who struggle with oedema. Using intermittent pneumatic compression technology, Recovery Systems claims that it will help both athletes and patients recover better.
How does it work?
When we exercise anaerobically, our muscles produce lactate. Recovery Systems claims to aids recovery by using active compression to accelerate the body’s healing and recovery process by removing metabolic waste, one of it being lactate. Athletes who work out at higher intensities would be familiar with the swelling, burning sensation of lactate, and how uncomfortable it feels. Recovery Systems claim that by using their product, it would remove the metabolic waste and aid recovery.
It works similar to compression socks – the only difference being that Recovery Systems claim that their product works better. It has an alleged compressive force ten times that of a standard compression sock!
Recovery Systems also remarked that it decreases the inflammation and speeds up the delivery of nutrients for repair to the muscles faster than any traditional mode of recovery like massages.
Does it work?
If you’re like me, you would most probably be sceptical about products you hardly see in the market. I know I wasn’t fully convinced about the product’s promises at first. Regardless, I was lucky to have the Recovery Systems Blue Max sent to me for review.
Could it be just a placebo?
There is another perspective that suggests that compression systems only acts as a placebo. However, from my knowledge, even if the subject is a placebo, it still works. There are many anecdotes online which paint the compression products in good light. Who’s to say that none of them are merely experiencing a placebo?
At this point, I’m in no position to give an objective view about how compression would aid recovery, but there are articles online which could provide a better understanding of compression products.
Increased muscle oxygenation
This graph shows a 32% improvement in muscle oxygenation after a 30-minute session with the Recovery Systems Blue Max. At this point, I am convinced that the promises of Recovery Systems aiding blood flow hold. On the other hand, I am no expert to comment about how improved muscle oxygenation would support recovery.
What’s inside the box?
The product comes nicely packaged in a lovely box that seems to be very portable. The zips undo easily and you can easily access the goods inside. Looks perfect for the travelling athlete. The product looks like it’s designed with portability in mind; for athletes who are frequently overseas.
The first set I received came beautifully packaged. The control unit was in a styrofoam box to prevent knocks during the delivery, and the boots were wrapped nicely in plastic. There were some problems with this unit but I contacted Recovery Systems, and they delivered a replacement immediately. I was able to swap my suspected faulty Control Unit for another one on the same day! I was amazed at how fast they were able to reply to my queries and send a replacement.
Inside the box
The first few times I used it, I left my whole leg including my toes in the boots. Not a good idea. The compressive force made gave me the impression that I was going through the ancient Chinese foot binding (ouch!) This is why you should make sure your toes are exposed! The cutouts are there for a reason.
This is the only interface you will have to familiarise yourself with. To be honest, once I got it set-up, I only used one and only setting. Whenever I’m ready for a session, I just slip my legs into the blue socks and press ‘Start’.
There are two modes available; Mode A for healthcare, and Mode B for therapy. For athletes, we use Mode B. You can set the duration you want; I usually leave this at 30-minutes unless I am short of time. You can also set the pressure you are comfortable with; I leave this at max. Lastly, you can choose which part of the leg you want the machine to compress. I always keep the four parts on. I suppose this is helpful for athletes or patients who are suffering from injuries to a specific area. For example, if you want to avoid compressing your knee, you can tap part three to turn part three off. Once you are ready, press ‘Start’ and let the magic happen.
The replacement control unit I received had some sort of gel that I assume was used to make the cord end to control unit interface more airtight.
The cord end goes into the side of the control unit. Do note that you can only plug it in one way – it’s something like a USB port. There is a small ledge that you should watch out for before inserting the cord.
The garments come with zipping that allows you to find a better fit for your legs.
That’s all in the box!
What are the benefits of using Recovery Systems?
1. Compounded Marginal Gains
Recovery Systems claim that by using their product after every ride (especially tougher ones), you get compounded marginal gains. This means that you bounce back as a stronger version of yourself compared to the version of yourself without the help of Recovery Systems. In other words, you get stronger faster.
Having fresher legs, you can aim to reach further during subsequent workouts, allowing you to push yourself further. Repeating the cycle of hard efforts followed by significant recovery, it is easy to see how the idea of ‘compounded marginal gains’ is born.
By this logic, you should be able to see a drastically improved version of yourself after a period of training and recovering with the Recovery Systems.
If used right before the start of the event, the increase of muscle oxygen in the limbs is a great way to prime your body before the competition or workout. Combined with a proper warm-up, your muscles should be in prime form for whatever you face during the competition.
Initially, the pressure from the Recovery Systems gave me a shock. I was not prepared. It felt like those compression things from clinics where they would take your blood pressure, except that this was much stronger. When the pressure releases, I could feel the blood from my body flow into my legs. There’s this warmth that seeps into my legs, following the rhythm of my heartbeat. I guess this is where the process of recovery takes place.
The Recovery Systems would usually leave a mark. I find that the marks are more obvious especially after a session where you accumulate a lot of lactate. Anyway, the marks go away after a while; nothing to worry about.
It was comfortable
There were occasions where I just fell asleep during the Recovery Systems session and wake up after the session completes. Other times I find myself waking up in the middle of the night having the blue boots still on me. Once you get used to it, the compression system soothes you to sleep.
The Recovery Systems Blue Max became an instrumental part of my work out. I even look forward to it; especially so if my legs don’t feel well. After a hard high-intensity interval session, I would immediately slip on these blue boots (after of course showering and a recovery drink).
It has been a long time since I experienced the sore, swollen, and stubborn legs after a high-intensity workout. Long gone are the days where I struggled to climb the stairs at work after a hard work out the day before. Perhaps I may have grown stronger; maybe the training intensity hadn’t been as severe as it should have been. It is hard to put the finger on it, but it may have been so with the help of the Recovery Systems.
After using the Recovery Systems for about three months now, I might be overly reliant on them for recovery. In this case, it may be both good and evil; however, you look at it.
What about the gains?
Since the claims are based on the idea of compounded marginal gains, I won’t be able to give you an immediate answer. I would most probably have to use it for a much more extended period to see actual gains. Nevertheless, there were times I felt magically better on the bike the following day after a hard day. I’ve been using this system ever since I’ve received it for review and it has been marvellous.
Some may argue that we should let our body recover on its own. Others claim that the natural speed of recovery is too slow. In the world of competition, marginal gains are everything. Recovery Systems’ products may be what sets you ahead of your game.
We also have to understand that using the Recovery Systems’ product alone will not make you any faster. It certainly would not help if you use it every day but spend the majority of the time being a couch potato. True gains can only be made if you put in the hard work. The product only claims to give you more bang for your training buck – not magically turn your legs into Peter Sagan’s.
Maybe you have experienced trouble recovering. You know this when you can hardly walk after rides. Chris Froome once said that he only recognises that he has pushed hard enough if he can not even stand up while showering. If that is the case, you could maybe give Recovery Systems a try. As a hardcore athlete, you deserve it.
When I looked through the slides that Coach Mike presented regarding the medical uses of Recovery Systems, I was taken aback. There were many applications from which Recovery Systems can be utilised – especially for post-surgery patients. This was what I feel would be the most appropriate use for a product like Recovery Systems. If you are a patient suffering from Lymphoma Oedema or similar symptoms, why not give Recovery Systems a try?
Click here to find out more about Recovery System’s products.
He is currently an undergraduate of Sports Science and Management in NTU.
“Life is too short to stay comfortable at home. Get on your bike and live life to the fullest!”
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