I have been a big user of compression gear in the past. Cricket, Basketball, Netball, lifting, running or whatever training I was doing, I would wear some form of compression gear. Tops, bottoms or sleeves it didn't matter, I found that it helped my performance and it played a major role in my recovery. Now that I am paddling more than anything else (apart from strength training) nothing really has changed. Now there are a lot of companies providing compression garments and when a new one hits the market you often wonder what the deal is.
I first came across the brand VIRUS | Action Sport Performance late last year when reading Jay Wild's Wild Life blog. He had some photos of the gear and being a gear nerd I had to have a look. At first glance I was very impressed but unfortunately there were no Australian distributers and postage to Australia was more than the garment. Every now and again I would head back to the website to check and it was with much delight that I found there was now a distributer for Australia based in Melbourne. After a quick phone call to Peter Papantoniou of VIRUS | Action Sport Performance (Australia), I had some of the companies finest compression and training gear in my hot little hands to review.
Aquatic Series Performance Long Sleeve X Form Compression V-Neck, Medium.
Aquatic Series Performance Compression Airprene Aquatic Tech Shorts, Medium.
AirFlex Training Short, size 32.
Stay Warm Long Sleeve Functional Fit Mock Neck Half Zip Top, Medium.
VIRUS is not just any compression wear brand, in fact, they use compression as a chassis to apply their fabric technology on. They have been producing performance training apparel for the American action sports community. Action sports like MMA, motocross, snowboarding, cross fit and SUP for a few years now and have only just recently branched out to Australia.
Technology in use
VIRUS fabric technology uses natural earth elements that enhance performance. Jade is used to create the STAY COOL series. This helps reduce skin temp by up to 5*C and regulate your core temp. Coffee Charcoal is used to create the STAY WARM series. This helps increase skin temp by up to 5*C & regulate core temp, best applied for cold climate use. Bio-ceramic is used to create the ENERGY & AQUATIC series. The mineral compound used in Bio-ceramic has been mined from deep pockets in the ocean. It is an organic compound that not only adds to the recovery of muscle and nerves but it also works as an antioxidant. Studies have proven that this fights arthritis, adds nerve and muscle regeneration and helps relieve toxicities in the human body.
Information about the technology and ranges can be found here.
People that know me understand that attention to detail is very important. What hit me straight up was the attention to detail of these garments. Logos stitched into the waist band and collars, easy pull zippers, slip resistant coatings on the drawstrings and the simple, but effective packaging are the types of things that attract people before they even try things on. The other thing that I like is that there are no gaudy, over the top colours or extra large logos everywhere.
Fit & Wearability
I was a little worried about the fit once everything turned up. Not being able to try it on and relying on measurements had me a little anxious. I have had experiences in the past where the size that should have fit nearly required a 000 call to get me back out of it, the jaws of life one time. All Peter required was my height, waist size, what size shorts I normally wear and chest measurements. What turned up fit perfectly.
The Long Sleeve X Form Compression V-Neck is easy to get on and just as easy to get off. No jaws of life or partner application required. I have had no issues of chafing (which I have had from other "high-end" compression garments) and the X-Form while providing posture support, does not restrict your movement whether it be paddling, lifting or kettlebell swings.
The Compression Airprene Aquatic Tech shorts are very comfortable and like the top there has been no chafing. I have worn these on the water and off the water (currently the air temp in Canberra ranges from -4 - 0 when we paddle in the morning so no "in the water" testing has been conducted). They are a little thicker than your average compression short but they don't feel like you are wearing cycling pants. I would imagine that these would be pretty comfortable for kayakers or rowers to wear.
What I was most impressed by were the AirFlex Training shorts. I have been looking for a pair of training shorts that fit well, were light, didn't get in the way when I was squatting, kettlebelling, flipping giant tyres or SUP'ing and had a pocket that I could fit my phone into. These shorts tick all of those boxes, so much so that you really do forget that you are wearing them. There is no Velcro in the waist band, just two small pieces in the "fly" area to hold it all together and stop you showing off a little to much hip movement. Topped off by the slip resistant drawstrings that should ensure that whether doing burpees, getups or dragging yourself along the ground, your shorts stay where they should be.
Finally my favourite, Stay Warm Long Sleeve Functional Fit Mock Neck Half Zip Top. Bit of a mouthful but this top is worth the extra breaths it takes to say. It is part of the Staywarm series and when you first pick it up you wonder how it will keep you warm at all. During my first training whilst wearing this gear I got about a minute or so into my warm-up, which is a balance/plyometric warm-up consisting of some BOSU Squats and one legged, eyes closed toe touching and I was stripping the Staywarm top off. Now I was doing my session in my garage and the temp was not much more than 7 or 8 degrees. The next morning was a paddle and I left home wearing the top. Upon arriving at our location it was 0 degrees. Once I got out of the car I found that I was comfortable so I thought it best to not wear the Staywarm top. Best thing I did. Wearing only the X-Form long sleeve, Airprene shorts and the AirFlex shorts I was warm soon after hitting the water. On the Thursday morning it was -4 with a little bit of a breeze. I thought it best to wear the Staywarm this time around and regretted it within 10 minutes. Luckily the sleeves are easy to pull up past the elbow and the zip, as described, is a half zip so I managed to get some air flow though. In the end it earns the Staywarm moniker. The final test was wearing it out casually with jeans and no physical activity apart from getting my son in and out of the car. Still warm.
Again, I have had some compression gear in the past that after the first wash it just doesn't feel the same again. After the first wear it really needs a wash also. I mentioned this to Peter and he sugegsted that I leave it for a while. Yep, don't wash it. Just take it off and hang it in the laundry or bathroom and let it dry. He said that I would find it hard to smell anything if I did that. As manky as it sounds, that is what I did. After wearing the Airprene shorts, X-Form compression top and the Airflex shorts 9 times for either paddling, training myself or training and demonstrating for others, there was no smell eminating from them and I didn't have to wear them backwards or inside out at any stage. I even tried to prove this to my wife but she was having no part in it, cue throwing compression shorts at her face. Eventually I couldn't take it anymore and they were washed, my mankiness did not result in the gear vapourising or the washing machine vomiting, thumbs up. The better result is that the garments performed exactly the same as they did prior to the wash, straight out of the packaging. No peeling or unstitching anywhere on any of the items
As I mentioned at the beginning, I have worn a lot of different brands of compression. Some were expensive, some cheap but this is the first time that I have worn something that has impressed me like the VIRUS gear has. The fit and finish of all the different garments is exceptional and the pricing is comparable if not better than the other more established brands. The fact that they have got some accomplished stand up paddlers in their portfolio like Connor Baxter and Jay Wild demonstrates that they are not just changing the colours and labelling it "water wear."
I have not worn a brand of compression that once I have finished working out or playing around in it that I haven't wanted to get out of as soon as possible because it is either chaffing me or is just giving me issues. This gear has not caused me any issues up until this time. So much so that I have forgotten that I am even wearing it at times.
As those who have read my reviews in the past know I always mention something that I would like to see added to an item that would, for me anyway, enhance the item. The only thing that I could think of for this review may be for there to be a hooded version of the Staywarm top and like I said for the Flying Objects Travel Cover SUP Race bag, that is nitpicking.
When I started this whole review process I decided that I would have levels of approval. Obviously there would be the Smiling Caveman Heads rating but also, if I came across a product that blew me away, how could I get that across. One way would be to use that product and recommend it but in some instances I would want to be able to go a step further. Luckily Peter and VIRUS | Action Sport Performance (Australia) have given me the opportunity to go one step further and The SUP'ing Caveman is now a regional reseller of the entire VIRUS range. Big woohoo's all round.
If you want to check out the VIRUS | Action Sport Performance then head on over to their website and place an order or if you are in the Canberra area send me an email or call me on 0410 432 177 and you can check out the range.