Normatec Recovery System - Is it worth the hype? - by Paul Duncan
Below is an article I originally wrote for Triathlon Canada Magazine. Link to original post below.
You have probably seen about, or heard about the NormaTec recovery system. If you race IRONMAN events, you may have even tried them on for a short amount of time at the race expo.
I was first introduced to the NormaTec recovery system at a Team Every Man Jack training camp in Oceanside, California. We had a “recovery lounge” set up in the team house, and in that room was 8 sets of their recovery boots ready for us to use after workouts all week long. With 50 guys attending the camp, there was a constant battle as to who got to use a pair first after training all day. I used them every day. After camp, I HAD to have a pair.
So what is NormaTec?
The NormaTec system is comprised of a control unit, and separate attachments that can go either on the legs, hips, or arms. The most popular among runners and triathletes are the legs. The attachments use compressed air to massage your limbs and speed up recovery by mobilizing fluid from your limbs toward your core. NormaTec has a patented massage pattern that is believed to be the most effective way to mobilize fluid in and out of the limbs, which is what creates that “fresh legs” feeling after taking the boots off.
A session in the boots can vary in time, you can start seeing benefits from as little as 20 to 30 minutes.
What happens during a recovery session?
A session in the NormaTec boots will start with a “pre-inflate cycle”. During this cycle, the attachments (legs, arms, or hips) will be molded to the limbs exact shape. Once this session is complete (less than 90 seconds), the compression will start in your foot (assuming you are using the leg attachment). Similar to the effect of kneading in a massage, each segment will first compress in a “pulsing” manner then release. This compression pattern process repeats all the way up the limb.
What makes NormaTec different than other brands?
Pneumatic compression technology has been used in medicine for years, but the pulse technology takes dynamic compression to a whole new level, and is tailored to the needs of an athlete. The NormaTec system was the first of its kind, designed to mimic normal physiology in the body, and is the leader for athletic recovery and performance.
Sequential Pulse Technology:
The most important element for compression is the massage pattern. Instead of using “static” compression to “squeeze” fluid out of the limb. NormaTec uses the “NormaTec Pulse Massage Technology”, also referred to as “pulsing”. This pulsing action more effectively mimics the muscle pump of the legs or arms, greatly enhancing the movement of fluid from the limbs after an intense workout. This technology is patented, putting NormaTec way ahead of the technology curve.
Lymphatic vessels and veins have one way valves that prevent fluid back flow. Similarly, the NormaTec system uses hold pressures to keep the fluid from moving in the wrong direction.
The NormaTec Pulse Massage Pattern pulses and releases the hold pressures to prevent fluid back flow, working in partnership with the bodies natural circulatory flow. Each portion of the limb gets maximal rest time without needing a large pause between rest cycles.
Is it worth the investment?
You can be the judge of that. This depends on your commitment to the sport. The quality of your workouts are directly effected by the quality of your recovery. While the NormaTec boots will not make up for a crappy diet and lack of sleep, they sure do help reduce soreness and move metabolic waste out of your limbs. If you use them on a regular basis, they definitely pay for themselves in a short amount of time if you consider that your average massage cost is $70+. No massage therapist can move the amount of fluid that this system does, and you can’t beat the convenience of a portable system that you can use whenever and wherever you want.
In the athletes that I coach, their biggest limiter is generally not the weight of their bike frame, or how aero their helmet is. The biggest limiter for the typical athlete is the quality of recovery, and this device will play a huge role.
Retail price is currently $1595 for a pulse system. If you are interested in purchasing a pair please feel free to email me for my friends and family discount.