Let me start this review with a little background on my thoughts with respect to compression, ice, and recovery. This topic is definitely worthy of an entire post at some point, but I think a quick idea of where I stand on the subject is relevant before reading a review of this product. I started out very skeptical of the whole compression craze. I don’t really enjoy wearing spandex when I’m not actually working out, and I think calf guards look ridiculous. With that said, I couldn’t resist the urge to try them, and I currently own a pair of 2XU Calf Guards and 2XU Recovery Tights. I do not race in calf guards and never will, but I am definitely a firm believer in compression to aid recovery. Also, I advocate ice baths after long or intense brick workouts as a means of quicker recovery. With that said, let’s review the 110% Play Harder Juggler Knickers.
The premise behind 110% Play Harder products is pretty simple: combine compression and ice to create garments that aid in recovery for athletes. They sell compression shorts, pants and sleeves that have built in compartments for the ice sheets, which are included. It’s brilliant, and honestly I’m surprised nobody thought of it sooner (I’m also a little disappointed that I didn’t think of it first). The Juggler Knickers have pockets for the ice sheets that cover quadriceps, hamstrings, knees (front) and glutes (butt). The ice sheets are very thin when you initially receive them. To transform them into usable cold packs, soak in water for a few minutes (they expand as they absorb the water) and then freeze them for an hour or two.
My lovely wife actually discovered the product and sent me the link in the fall of 2010, it quickly peaked my interest. Our current place of residence does not have a bath tub, so I was really missing out on ice baths after training. I received the Juggler Knickers as a Christmas gift, and although I thought they were really cool, they sat in my closet until this spring. As I’ve mentioned before, I wasn’t doing much training in the first part of the year as I was focusing on my job and the wedding. With the wedding behind me and the fresh air beckoning, I started training seriously again in May.
After 10 or so uses, I believe the Juggler Knickers deliver as advertised. Similar to an ice bath followed by compression, I find that the next day I do not suffer from the acute muscle soreness/pain that usually occurs. Sure, I feel tired, and my legs have that dead feeling the next day, but my muscles are not tight or painful, as is often the case otherwise. Ultimately, this allows one to arrive at the next training session ready to absorb more work than would be the case, which hopefully leads to improved fitness and faster racing. I also think that they are good for joints as well, probably reducing swelling from the impact of running (there is an ice pocket directly over the knees). As I said, I believe 110% Play Harder products have a similar effect of an ice bath, but are much more convenient. In my case, it was out of necessity because I don’t have a tub. But there are other benefits; you can take them with you to the race site in the convenient insulated thermal bag, for immediate ice/compression. Also, you aren’t stuck in an uncomfortable and freezing cold tub; you can move around the house or watch TV while relaxing and still enjoying the same benefits. One message we always hear is that age group athletes suffer because they do not have time to take recovery seriously. This is just one trick to help “multi-task” a little bit during recovery. Of course an ice bath and a nap is ideal, but it’s not always possible.
I’ve worn the Juggler’s almost every week this spring and summer. I put them on after almost every Saturday ride/run brick session, and even a few particularly hard rides. I truly believe they improve my recovery. My typical post-brick Saturday afternoon usually involves a protein smoothie while wearing 2XU Calf Guards and Juggler Knickers (which don’t fully cover the calves, a trouble spot for me), and each Sunday I wake up feeling pretty good considering the work I put in the day previously. I’ve also purchased additional ice sheets, which are now branded, which is cool (see pic below). I rotate them for about an hour in the pants and an hour in the freezer, so my muscles are constantly staying as cool as possible.
The Juggler Knickers cost $150, which is a bit steep for a pair of stretchy pants with ice packs. However, when you compare this against 2XU Compression Tights ($100-$150) and other compression products, it seems to be in line with the market. Further, the value is not the components that make up the pants, but rather the benefits they provide. I also believe they should include more ice sheets. For $150, it would be nice to have some spares, and enough to fit in every compartment. Until this is the case, I recommend also ordering the replacement sheets for $15, which will enable you to cycle ice sheet and/or fill all of the possible compartments. One last recommendation would be to offer a full-lenth pant with calf ice sleeve capability. For me, calves are probably the most sore muscle after a fast run. To make up for this omission, I often wear my 2XU Calf Guards under the knickers. With my extensive use, I am also starting to see a little bit of wear in the fabric. Hopefully this will not continue and develop into a tear or hole, but I’ll update if this is the case.
Overall, I would recommend the 110% Play Harder Juggler Knickers to anyone who trains and races regularly. This includes cyclists, runners, triathletes, weightlifters, team sport athletes (soccer, basketball, etc), and anyone else who experiences muscle fatigue or soreness. I believe that the Juggler Knickers (and likely other 110% Play Harder products, which also include women-specific items) improve recovery by reducing swelling and muscle soreness, enabling and athlete to return to training faster. In particular, this is a necessity for the serious athlete who does not have regular access to a bath tub for ice baths, frequently travels to races, or requires a little flexibility/movement in their post-training recovery time. Even in an environment in which it is difficult or inappropriate to wear ice in your pants (at work), they can still be worn discretely under regular clothes as compression pants. $150 not cheap, but I believe they provide good value and I personally will continue to wear them on a regular basis as long as I’m doing intense training or racing.