October 31, 2011 cburnham

Products I Recommend: The Bex Runner

One of the biggest limiters in athletic performance and recovery is heat.  When heat starts to build up in the body, we begin sweating losing water and electrolytes, and our circulatory system starts to divert blood away from working muscles and towards the skin to provide cooling.  Neither of those is going to help you put the hurt on your local Saturday Morning World Championships group ride or run.  For almost all athletes, removing excessive heat from the body will result in improved performance.  That is where a group of scientists from Stanford stepped in a developed a device the first non-invasive thermoregulatory device.  Awesome, right? But what is thermoregulatory-thing-a-bobber?  First a little explanation of how we regulate the heat in our bodies.

All mammals have specific regions of the body that work as “radiators.”  A good example is when a dog pants to cool its tongue when hot or Rabbits that cool their bodies through their ears.  What these scientists from Stanford discovered is that when people get hot their bodies divert extra blood flow to the palm of the hands and to the soles of the feet.  Ever put your feet in a cool pool on a hot summer day and start feeling a lot better? That is your radiator pumping the cool blood through out the body.  Through numerous studies (one example here) the scientists discovered that using these “radiator” areas it was possible to cool the body core temperature very quickly.The Standford scientists used this “radiator” concept in the body to develop the CoreControl. A device that uses cold ice water continuously circulated in a metal cooling cone that is gripped by the hand.  That device originally developed in 2000 has been used by numerous athletes, military, and industrial workers with extremely good results.  The problem with it is that it is bulky with a water reservoir, pump, and cooling cone.  Your not going to see it being used during any endurance sports event soon.

That is why I was pretty stoked to see the Bex Runner at Interbike this year.  After talking with the guys from Trigger Point about this simple-stupid product of basically a blue-ice pack covered by a thin fabric that helps to regulate the cold in a hand strap, I got one to try out during training.  First thing, this isn’t feasible to use this on the bike outside since you can’t grip the bars, but I did use this a few times while riding the trainer to see the effects.  If you have ever ridden a trainer with anything less than a hurricane level wind machine you know that heat is an issue.  I was surprised to feel significantly better while wearing the Bex (despite my wrist being tweaked trying to hold the bars with it strapped to my palm) and I didn’t see the down regulation of power near the end of some longer intervals that I usually see.  I also used the Bex during some metabolic conditioning weight workouts with good results. The athletes that could benefit the most from the Bex are runners (hence the name).  Running a 10K in hot conditions?  Conveniently the Bex stays cold for about 45 minutes.  Long enough for a fast 10k and will conveniently stay strapped to your hand without having to hold it in place.
One other use of rapid core cooling that isn’t talked about much is its role in recovery. The faster we can restore hydration (really the most important for cellular function), temperature (second most important), and fueling, the quicker we recover for the next hard training session.  The ability to recover quick is what really separates the Pros from the amateurs.  The more often that you can get in quality workouts, the fitter you will become and reducing your core temperature quickly after a workout can make a huge difference.  You can do this relatively cheaply as well with a cold bath or shower.Of course ,your results with any cooling device may vary.  I am not one to discount the placebo effect and there are studies that don’t show favorable results (here), but there are a lot that do (here, here, and here).  The Bex Runneris a lot cheaper ($24.99) than the CoreControl and could be a useful tool in improving performance and/or recovery.***I don’t have any connection to TP Therapy so this recommendation is not blowing smoke up your keister.

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