Matt Hanson | Professional Triathlete
5x Ironman Champion/ 4x 70.3 Champion

When and Why I use NormaTec Recovery.

Most of you reading this are time crunched athletes. You are trying to fit in your workouts around busy family and work schedules. You need to be extremely efficient with your time and make sure every workout counts. As a coach, I see this every day. “Recovery time” is often spent sitting at a desk working or chasing kids around. You are probably reading this with hopes of finding a recovery method that will allow you

not only to function the rest of the day, but also to feel ready to workout hard the next. There are a ton of products out there that claim to aid in recovery. Unfortunately, not many of them are backed with solid research showing their effectiveness.

I’m sure most of you know that I’ve teamed up with NormaTec Recovery. But what most of you don’t know is that I did some research with NormaTec when I was still a professor. I have always tried to align myself with companies who put an emphasis on research and ensuring their claims are backed…if you spend any time looking, you’d be shocked at how many companies DON’T do this!!! Currently, I’m taking a bit of down time between the end of the 2017 season and the start of my build for 2018, so I thought it was a good time to refresh myself with some new research that has been released throughout the year. I’ve been planning on putting out a post of some sort showing when and why to use the NormaTec boots. But I’m glad I waited until now since I’ve actually changed my viewpoint in a key area based on a couple new studies. Make that a lesson to you all on the reason you need to constantly be reading up on the information in your field…it can change frequently as technology advances!

So…without further ado, here is the ‘When and Why’ to use the NormaTec Recovery System.

  1. BEFORE physical activity…as part of the warm up.
    This is actually my favorite time to use the NormaTec Boots. I like to wake up, grab some coffee, and sit in my boots for about 30 minutes before heading off to morning swim. This does a few things. First, it forces me to get up a little earlier and just let my body wake up and start functioning before jumping in the water (or before hopping on the bike or going for a run on the days I don’t swim). The NormaTec also serves as an ergogenic aid and can help the body begin the warm-up process prior to actually starting to move. In a nut shell, the sequential pulse compression provided by the NormaTec’s have been shown to increase blood flow and tissue temperature which increases range of motion (one of the key features of the warm up period). Using the NormaTec boots can also increase neural activation as well as other biological functions that help prepare the body for exercise. Personally, I always am able to get into the workout faster when I am deep in my build and carrying a lot of fatigue if I use the NormaTecs before a workout. I almost always use the NormaTecs before the second…or third…workout of the day as well. This is because of the benefits listed above as well as some of the things that I’ll talk about in the next section.
  2. Immediately after physical activity
    So this is one area where I am changing my viewpoint based on some new studies. Previously, I would only use the NormaTecs Immediately after a workout during my taper period. I had read some previous studies on antioxidant supplementation post exercise blunting performance adaptation because they reduce the inflammation post exercise. This inflammation is what signals the body to rebuild the muscles stronger than what they were before. I related this to the NormaTec as well. Sequential pulse compression has shown to do a remarkable job of removing inflammation post exercise. I was a bit worried that removing this inflammation too quickly would possibly blunt the response of exercise leading to a diminished adaptation. So I always waited a few hours post exercise before using the recovery boots to allow my body to “naturally” deal with the inflammation first. However, a few recent studies have shown that using the NormaTec right after exercise could actually increase adaptation to exercise. There is no easy way to explain the exact mechanisms of this, but basically the sequential pulse compression has been shown to increase the signals that lead to protein synthesis and muscle growth. SO, they actually **MAY** be increasing the muscle adaptation rather…this will no doubt be subject of numerous future studies. Pretty cool stuff! The NormaTec boots have also been shown to reduce lactic acid levels as effectively as easy aerobic exercise when done after exercise. So for those of you who haven’t figured out how to flip the “off switch” for the last 10 minutes of a workout or just want to get every bit of intensity you can during the time you have to workout, this can be a great way of helping kick start the recovery process post exercise. Finally, using the boots after exercise has also shown to reduce pain, stiffness, and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). So…essentially you will feel much better if you use the compression boots after exercise.
  3. Before I go to bed.
    After hard workout days, getting comfortable enough to sleep well is often difficult. On the evenings where my legs feel like they are full of lead, I like to sit in the boots for 30 minutes or so as I start to wind down before bed. Most of the time, I’ll ditch the phone, turn off the TV, grab a cup of sleepy time tea and a book and just enjoy a few quiet moments before bed. This is beneficial for many of the same reasons that the boots are effective as a warm up tool. You can increase circulation to the lower extremities without elevating your HR which keeps you in good position to be able to fall asleep as soon as you are done…or often even before you are done!
  4. Managing Inflammation
    Thankfully, I have been quite fortunate and have not had to deal with many injuries the last few years in my triathlon career. However, it is absolutely worth mentioning how the NormaTecs could possibly help with managing inflammation as well. Many of you have likely heard of the RICE method of treating an injury…Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. This method has come under attack in recent research. Essentially, the Ice causes vasoconstriction which reduces the effects of the compression. NormaTecs have been shown to help reduce swelling after injuries (obviously ensure the injured joint is stable prior to use!). I also use it as soon as I can after flying or taking long car rides as both can cause increased swelling in the lower extremities.
  5. OTHER

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    There are actually quite a few published scientific studies available that deal with more specific uses for the NormaTec. One study looked at compression as a way to expedite fracture and other soft tissue healing, so I’d expect to see future studies done on the effectiveness of the NormaTec specifically on these injuries . Another looked at the cross-over effect, demonstrating that if you only use the compression boot on one side, the opposite limb temperature also increased. This has a number of possible implications for rehab and also goes to further suggest its effectiveness as a general warm-up ergogenic aid.


  1. Gary

    December 19, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Hi Matt! Has there been any new research, news, or opinions you’ve gathered to update this post? I’m trying to get the max from my boots and was wondering what the latest has shown for effectively using them or not…..

    • Matt

      January 27, 2019 at 1:28 pm

      There will be a bunch of new research published in the beginning of 2019. I have the research in hand PAoP, but can’t put up a post until it is officially published. Most of it is evidence to support the same protocols I’ve been discussing but for new and exciting reasons. Stay tuned, in the mean time…everything discussed in this post should still be accurate.

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