Thursday, 3 April 2014

Kraftit Compression Wear - Review by Deo Azrul

I’ve worn compression attire ever since the build up to my first ever full marathon race in April 2011. Back then, I was just following the trend without knowing much the benefits of wearing compression attire in trainings and races. Nevertheless, I’ve reaped the benefits of compression attire judging from my performance in races as well as the post-race physical recovery rate. Over the years, I’ve started to understand the benefits of compression attire ‘scientifically’ but in laymen terms, I acknowledge that wearing compression attire would help to accelerate blood flow throughout your body. This result in increased oxygen delivery to muscle groups and the improved circulation will help the body to reduce the build-up of lactic acid which means, reducing the possibility of having cramps. This also means it will allow you to work at a higher rate for longer periods.  In terms of recovery, the improved circulation of oxygen and blood help the muscles to experience less fatigue and speed up recovery rate (recovery rate works better if you use recovery compression wear, which I don’t).
Personally, I’ve always known to be a loyalist to a particular brand especially when the brand gives certain level of benefits and satisfaction to me. It has always been the Australian brand of 2XU as my choice for compression attire before this. Despite its relatively expensive price tag, the brand name and reputation were the main factors. The benefits of wearing compression wear, from my observation on other running friends and hearing their testimonials, are pretty much the same (as mentioned above) regardless of the brand. Similar to running shoes, it took a very solid reason to choose from my preferred brand to another. And with the partnership between Team 2ndSkin and Kraftfit, I was made to forge a new allegiance.

Prior to this, I heard very little about Kraftfit, only saw them being sold at one of the running stores in Klang Valley. I also hardly see runners wearing the brand in the local running scene which is being dominated by a handful brands with the likes of 2XU, CWX, Skins and BV Sport. As skeptical I was to Skechers, it was the same feeling I had to Kraftfit. However, as I mentioned earlier, there were not much differences in performance of compression wear regardless of brand, it was not too difficult to switch over to another brand, in my case from 2XU to Kraftfit. But the question then was, would Kraftfit gives the same level of benefits or even more than what I had enjoyed with 2XU?
First time in Kraftfit compression wear and it was all love at first sight
I was called up for a fitting session at the Kraftfit HQ not long after my inclusion into Team 2ndSkin in January this year and a week before my marathon race in Hong Kong. The moment I unbox the compression top (short sleeve) and bottom (long), I felt that they appear smaller than 2XU although the sizing are the same. I thought of taking one size bigger but as I put them on, they fit just nicely.

Three early impressions I had on Kraftfit compression:

1. The cutting.

I love the cutting of both top and bottom (as for me, I fit into S- size for top and XS-size for bottom). For top, the shoulder length just matches my actual shoulder length. It makes the arm-to-body seam of the top placed neatly where it belongs. The underarm is neither too lose that I feel saggy nor too tight that it restricts my arm swing. The length of the sleeve (I took the short sleeve) was also perfect to my eyes. They are just long enough (about half inch above my elbow) that it covers my biceps. The abdomen area  was not too crampy that it still allows my belly to breathe unlike my 2XU top that hug my potbelly really tight (and makes me look pretty ugly too! with the bulging fats). I think the cutting on the belly part is quite important as not many of us, the casual runners, have lean abdomen (don’t talk about 6-pack) so, when you manage to hide the bulging belly wherever possible, that will be great!  Overall, the sizing is just perfect for the top.     
For the bottom, the length is just to my liking. The Kraftfit compression bottom rolls down to about two inches above my ankle. It is just nice as when I put on my socks, the socks would not roll over the compression (unlike my 2XU) that makes me to look like wearing ‘footed leotards’.

2. The material.

The material of Kraftfit compression is pretty much the same as 2XU, that they feel ‘gummy’ and elastic, making them stretchable and expandable. But three significant differences between the two brands: (a) Kraftfit’s material is more cooling and breathable that I did not sweat much while wearing them in the room temperature of the fitting room, (b) it is lighter than 2XU as it is thinner that makes me feel like running without anything on (literally), and (c) it is more slick that I could put them on and off easier.

3. The design

Kraftfit top and bottom come in the typical color of most compression wear – black. And the white, diamond-shape of its logo on the chest and back (for top) and on the hip (for bottom) makes it really stands out. The typeface of the brand in white and red font also stands out and makes the design simple but classy. Although I don’t really pay much attention to the powerband technology, I like the powerband design crawling around your muscle groups, similar to adidas techfit powerweb design. The powerband technology is said to “provide additional support for key muscle groups, preventing pain and injury caused by over exertion.”

So, Kraftfit passed my first impression test. But I was left with just few days to test them out before my marathon in Hong Kong. I managed to do just two short runs in the compression bottom to test out. Although they were just short runs and could not really simulate an experience of running a marathon, the compression bottom performed well that it didn’t restrict my movement, it is light which I thought would help me when I feel tired deep into a race, it retained the sweat and somehow ‘recycle’ them that helped to keep the body cool and since I did not encounter major problems like chaffing; I decided to use the compression bottom for my marathon in Hong Kong.
It keeps me warm in cold weather... @ China Coast Marathon, Hong Kong
In Hong Kong, it was a cold morning (around 15-degree Celcius) on the race day. Although Kraftfit is thinner than 2XU, it kept the legs warmed before the race and kept the body temperature checked throughout the race. The rolling route (near 600m in total elevation gain, doubled than KL Marathon) which normally would put my leg muscles under tremendous stress and eventually cramped out, was not a problem this time. I can’t fully testify if it was due to Kraftfit compression bottom or other factors, but I would like to believe that the compression wear played a role although minimal. As a result, I finished the marathon within four hours and I could still hop on and off Hong Kong’s public transport, walk around the city before flying back home the same day and got back to work the next day. That explains how much the compression had helped my muscles from suffering excessive level of fatigue during the race which eventually shortened the recovery period.
...keeps me cool in very hot weather... @ The North Face 100km, Thailand
While Hong Kong was a cold race, The North Face 100 Thailand in February was on the opposite end. The high temperature shot up to the high 30s of degree Celcius while the total elevation gain was more than 2000 meters. I wore Kraftfit compression bottom throughout the 15-hour 100km race. At the end of the race, I didn’t suffer from cramps while the material and its thin-ness also kept the legs breathing and cool throughout the hot race. In laymen terms, I feel as if the compression ‘circulated’ the sweat to the body to provide a greater cooling rate and allow longer exposure time under the hot sun. Ironically, I don’t fell stuffy, sticky or even stinky throughout the 15-hour race.

Besides wearing them in races, I’ve also worn the compression bottom throughout the night prior to a race and it somehow conditioned and prepared the legs for the race.  What amazes me is that, normally with 2XU, I would wake up in the middle of the night as I felt uneasy and uncomfortable wearing the compression and would take them off. But I didn’t feel odd with Kraftfit, maybe due to the cooling and light material. So, I reckon that Kraftfit should also work well as base layer garments to be worn day and night in cold temperature conditions which I have yet to try.
...and keeps it fun everywhere else. @ The Music Run, Kuala Lumpur
For the top, although I rarely use it, I believe it can be worn for multi-purpose activities. You can use it during runs, during your workout in gym or even when cycling or maybe swimming. A case with cycling, while I was still looking for nice cycling jerseys to wear during my rides, I used Kraftfit short sleeve compression top for my 100km ride along Guthrie and LATAR Highway as my temporary solution. It was a really hot day but just like the compression bottom, it is made of material that keeps your body cool throughout the hot day.    

Good as cycling top too!
Many people are still debating whether compression wear would improve performance? Is it a myth or fact, it is subject to anyone’s different judgment. But for me, I’ve benefited from a compression wear since my first marathon and over the 25 marathons and 15 ultra-marathons done so far, of which I’ve worn compression bottom in almost all these races. I can also testify the benefits by looking at my results and in most cases, I was back in office or walking around the city on the next day after the marathon – just to stress on the post-recovery rate. If you’re still not convinced, why don’t give it a try and trust me, Kraftfit compression wear would not burn a hole in your pocket as they retailed at a price much lower than the established, international brands.

You can purchase your Kraftfit from here. Protect. Enhance. Perform.

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