I was just weeks away from the most important five minutes of my athletic lifetime, and I was in desperate need of a miracle. I ended up instead with a Recoveryair PRO Compression Vest from Therabody.

To my surprise, the end results were, well, pretty miraculous.

My first jiujitsu competition was equal parts excitement, anxiety, and wear-and-tear aches from top to bottom, the last item a reward for decades of (semi) heavy weightlifting. Adding to the mental trauma was that I lacked any type of real athleticism. My deficiencies in speed, strength, and agility can confirm that my greatest strength was behind a keyboard instead of lining up behind the D-line, despite four-plus decades of getting “linebacker ready” with tons of squats, deadlifts, and power cleans.

But I was all in, with no margin for error or time to rest the minor tweaks and twitches training had brought on. After 40, without any warning or reason, each workout brings a new surprise: Some days you may feel like you’ve went toe-to-toe for five rounds with UFC lightweight Dustin Poirier, while others have you feeling like you were tossed around the mat by a 110-pound middle school student who just skipped middle school algebra to tear your limbs off.

What does this all mean? For me, each session ended different and varying levels of fatigue and soreness. On those days when bridging a heavier opponent was needed, my lower body, primarily my hips and hamstrings, were shot. When I needed to constantly shift forward, backward, and laterally to avoid being passed, my shoulders would feel the burn. For the first time in forever, it took 60 minutes of tapping out to realize the importance of recovery.

I tried it all. From cryotherapy to chiropractors, ice baths to heating pads to massage, whatever it took to reduce soreness the next day i was ready and willing to try.

Then Therabody‘s RecoveryAir PRO Compression dropped on me, and I was all in. Why not give these a try? Compression therapy seemed like the option for a body that’s been pressed, pulled, twisted, bent, and tossed in directions and positions my body probably wasn’t meant for. So I began incorporating Therabody’s Vest (along with their RecoveryAir boots) as a new layer of nightly home recovery.

But would an awkward- and oversized-looking instrument be the difference between keeping me fresh and ready for the next day’s workout or holding off another challenge for another TBD?

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Why I needed The Therabody RecoveryAir PRO Compression Vest

By now, most of us who’ve picked up a weight have picked up a Theragun or similar percussion-type tools. Press it against your muscles and voila, loose and ready to hit the gym. The brand has gotten the attention of Poirier, NFL wide receiver DK Metcalf, Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger, as well as Eagles All-Pro offensive lineman Lane Johnson. Did I forget to mention Cristiano Ronaldo uses one of these as well?

But now, Therabody’s biggest test to date may be a 5’6″ BJJ novice. And so far, I’ve learned that this sport,  a lung-busting combination of fitness and finesse, will leave even the strongest and most elite athletes bent over, hands on knees in search of their breath after a few short rounds.

From a scientific perspective, the jury is still out on the long-term effectiveness intermittent pneumatic compression has on overall recovery and athletic performance. While some studies show little evidence of performance benefits, other studies have shown that this type of lymphatic drainage massage can increase blood flow, which can lead to reduced fatigue and enhanced performance.

I’m no science geek, I just needed a good night’s sleep, free of any fatigue-induced tossing and turning, which is why I turned to the RecoveryAir PRO vest and its claim to reduce soreness, so when I placed my arm in the sleep then zipped up, I plugged the hose attachment into the device’s compression system (sold separately) I was ready for an upper-body reset.

With the RecoveryAir PRO, it comes with five types of treatment programs — a warmup, recover, an interval, even a pressure isolation option to pinpoint certain areas. I chose to customize my sessions — a high-pressure “wave” option that ranged from pressure levels from 20 mm/hg (light inflatable pressure) to 100 mm/hg (bone-squeezing).

I chose a pressure setting around 85, and when the air began inflating the vest, you begin feeling a comfortable pressure filling up one half of your upper body. The more pressure, obviously, the tighter the vest becomes — you can make it go from a 30-minute mild and comfortable massage to feeling as if you’re being worked on by an anaconda, which felt kinda nice. For some, it may be a bit too tight, but the system’s technology is equipped to monitor any signs of any overconstriction, but after a try or two, you’ll get a good feel as to what pressure works best for you.

It comes with a bluetooth-enabled smartapp control, which I didn’t really take advantage of, but its four-hour battery life made it easy to set up and use virtually anywhere.

When the half-hour session is complete, you’ll be tempted to set it for an additional 30 minutes. But if one round was enough (plus you have to switch sides), you get the feeling that your arm feels “lighter” than before compression, and that’s a good thing.

But the next morning was the big test, and when I woke, the usual aches that had kept my training erratic had diminished in a major way. It made training manageable the next morning. And the next night resulted in the same results, less discomfort, more training. The trend continued until fight night arrived.

The decision

Did Therabody and its RecoveryAir PRO make me a better athlete? No. I lost my match but went the distance. My expectations were exceeded, however, after making it through 12 weeks of a grueling training schedule, which now included a new and extended appreciation for recovery. Because of that, this compression vest, along with the RecoveryAir PRO compression boots, played miracle worker in helping complete this challenge.

Sometimes we think, we think (myself included) of recovery and rehabilitation as interchangeable, and that’s just not true. If you’re thinking about purchasing the TheraBody RecoveryAir PRO to fix a pulled hamstring or another nagging injury, you’ll be disappointed. If your objective is to get rid of soreness quicker and more efficiently and get back to the track gym, or mats, then you need to check these out.

And quite frankly, in layman’s terms, compression simply feels good — really good — after a long training day. It’s not cheap — you’ll be shelling out $399 for the vest along with at least another $699 for the compression system. But if you’re really in need of recovery, you’re probably already shelling that amount out on massages and other gadgets (have you seen the prices of a good massage chair?).

Bottom line: If a massage-like recovery instrument to help get you proper rest in order to help you reach your training goals is what you’re seeking, you’ll be using Therabody’s RecoveryAir PRO quite often. One warning: Your next fight may involve fighting off family members for the next session.


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