Embrocation Basics: Part I
By: Michael J. Zerinskas
BALM Co. - www.balmco.com
With temperatures dipping below 50° here in Colorado, many cyclists and runners are left pondering days in the gym, hours on fluid trainers, and 8oz curls on the couch. With the right clothing choice and a healthy dose of embrocation, you can ditch those winter blues and be back out on your favorite routes no matter how low the temps go.
In this two-part series, courtesy of BALM Co., you will the basics of what an embrocation is, how to use it, and how to choose the right one for you.
PART I - What is Embro?
When athletes refer to embrocation they are generally talking about a cream or gel that is applied to the legs prior to activity. While not always the case, embrocation has a warming effect that ranges from stimulating to ‘holy habanero’.
Embrocation has four main uses:
Warming Sensation: Embrocation provides a varying degree of warmth to the applied area due to increased blood flow, as well as the reaction to the ingredients contained in it. Embrocations are typically rated with a usable range (ex: 45-60°); this is usually based on exposed skin. Knee and leg warmers can be worn over Embro to increase this usable range and further cut through cold and wind.
Increased Blood Flow: Embrocation improves blood flow to the area applied due to the ingredients contained in it, namely capsicum. The compound, which is found in peppers, stimulates nerve endings and directs blood to the area. While your body’s initial reaction to cold weather is to draw blood away from the limbs, embro redirects this process. Increased blood flow allows for faster warm up, increased oxygenation, and the potential for higher power output.
Pre-Activity Massage: When athletes’ muscles are used (and abused) everyday, they build up stores of lactic acid within them. While a post-workout massage works wonders to flush the muscles of built up acid, some always remains. By working an embrocation into the skin pre-activity, you increase the blood flow available to the area, which in turn flushes this leftover acid from the muscles. A pre-activity massage also stretches the muscle, preparing it for exercise. Five to six minutes is all you really need; a cheap investment for your upcoming workout.
Protection From the Elements: By adding a thermal layer to the skin, the skin is isolated from the wind and elements around it. Some embrocations use a visible, thick layer on the skin to achieve this, while others have active ingredients that create a thin layer you can barely feel.