I was checking out some forums about embrocation and wasn't able to find a whole heck of alot except which brands people prefer. Found this: http://www.belgiumkneewarmers.com/which was interesting and somewhat insightful. But I thirst for knowledge. How well does this stuff really work and benefits over clothing articles, such a non-Belgian kneewarmers? I'm a total newbie, show me the light.
For lower back pain the embro can work, but I'd recommend the sticky pads that emit heat. They are branded for this specific issue and in the cold they do act as a mudflap under the skinsuit to not only keep your muscles loose, but also to prevent them from getting wet and cold. My coach uses them a lot for this purpose and I only use them when its super wet and below 40f.
You can find them in most major drug stores (CVS, Duane Reade, Rite Aid, etc)
I use Mad Alchemy and love the stuff. I have the medium heat and I just ordered the Russisch Thee (medium high heat). The medium is plenty good for racing here in Michigan. In fact, I used it bare legged all the way into November (Vets Park was the last race I went just embro). Then I actually used it under my leg warmers/knee warmers. I would also put some on my back, hands and feet for those really cold races (think Bloomer Park and States).
A couple things I learned:
Put it on a good 30 - 45 minutes before start - that way it should be cooking pretty good by race time
When you apply it, really rub in the first application, kinda like it's massage oil or something - you can always add another layer for more protection.
Is it true that embro doesn't actually make you warm, just makes you feel warm? Does anyone worry this might have an adverse effect over time on their knees? I'd hate to think that I thought my legs and tendons and sensitive knee bits were warm when they were really freezing cold and under intense stress. Thoughts?
My limited understand is that embro irritates your skin to draw blood to it. I know it's time proven and more importantly PRO but I think I'd rather have the blood going to my muscles than to keep my skin warm.
I'm sure I must be missing something. Does it penetrate through the skin into the muscle? Then it would make sense to me as drawing more blood to the muscle.
I tried some Qoleum #2 Hot that is intended for 59F and below on Sunday in Frisco. It was below 50, sunny and a little windy. I put it on my hairy legs an hour before my race and wore leg warmers while warming up. In the race my legs were comfortable, not hot, not cold. I'll use it again.
Yeah - Dr Dawn Richardson wrote a pretty condemning piece about the dangers of Embro following the 2005 CX Nats. "Skin care, heat balm and keeping covered
I’m old and grumpy enough to observe two recent skin-care fads in cold weather cycling that I find puzzling and medically counterintuitive. The first is bare legs in the snow. I was a junior back when disco was king and all we had to go by was the CONI (Italian Olympic Committee) cycling manual. The good book strictly forbade riding in bare legs below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. These are words to live by, even with the bad English translation. Your skin can only do so much temperature regulation. Cold, bare legs make it harder for your body to maintain core temperature and prevent hypothermia.
Second and even stupider in my opinion are vasodilating balms in a misguided effort to keep bare legs warm when underdressed. By using heat balms you are dilating the blood vessels, thus losing more core temperature. The physiological response to cold exposure is restricting blood flow to the skin and extremities to preserve core temperature. Heat balms to bare cold legs do the opposite and further threaten core temperature. Cold hands and feet and rapidly worsening brain function means you are underdressed, not that you should slap on more wintergreen and capzasin oil and accelerate core hypothermia. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Hypothermia doesn’t make you manly and it sure as heck won’t win a race."
here's the thing: It is a bridge between being covered up pre-race and when you are creating tons of heat during the race. Rare circumstances occur when it is much better NOT to have the heat lost through embro. When it is really cold and wet switch to clean no-heat thick embro (vaseline if you like crude oil sourced stuff, or a beeswax + oil, or lanolin).
When it is wet, arm warmers and leg/knee warmers trap more water next to the skin and really wick heat away quickly. So you can actually go bare legged during the race and be warmer than someone who has full coverage tights on. But your skin is only so good. A nice layer of something can really help. But not if it is pulling the blood to the surface and cooling you right down.
There is a fine line. For the longest time I was pretty anti-heat stuff, sticking with just an oil or thicker coating saving the heat for recovery massages or what not. But I've been flirting with the heat. Day 2 at VT in the rain we were given some Leg Salsa to try out.
We put it on and were kind of wondering what the deal was. It didn't feel hot. But when we got off the bike after the race - holy crap our legs were on fire. And even after a good shower with a lot of soap they were still warm. It was actually kind of nice. (I just realized that this is what Unoveloce wrote about in the post below mine at the moment)
If you don't shave your legs you've got a natural barrier to heat loss - so maybe that's really the way to go anyway and us clean shaven folks are really just doing it wrong.
Yeah, I've always wondered about this and it doesn't seem as if any real studies have been done, only educated speculation. So, I'll add my own speculation. My legs always seem a bit more full of energy/strength when I embrocate. So, I wonder if the embrocation draws more blood to the legs, both muscles and skin. It may be psychological or physiological, either way my legs have more energy and I've never been that cold in a 45 min. race.
Remember to put it on quite a bit before your warm up and race, otherwise you'll really feel it once you've stopped. First time I tried embrocation, I put it on right before the race and was wondering why this embrocation stuff wasn't all it was cracked up to be. It kicked in on the ride home and really hit it's stride later unloading the car. Now I give it a good hour to hour and a half and really try to keep the legs covered and get a good sweat going before the race.