Massage for Recovery
Professional cyclists often have the luxury of a team masseuse to provide daily massages for both relaxation and performance enhancement. While you may not have the time or the means to afford daily massages, even getting a regular bi-monthly or monthly massage will help with your performance. Massage helps to loosen tight spots, flush toxins, and keep fascia and fibers loose to promote optimum recovery and prepare your body for more efforts. Having lose, flushed muscles means you’ll adapt to training more efficiently.
But what type of massage should you get? There are a few types to choose from that provide more than just a relaxing spa rub down.
The Swedish massage is perhaps the most popular. This type of massage involves long strokes and kneading, moving along the muscles and towards the heart. A whole-body relaxing massage, this type also helps to remove toxins, such as lactic acid. The pressure of the strokes may vary from light to deep; it is good for all types of cyclists, even beginners.
If you have specific areas that feel tight after training, you’ll want to find a masseuse who specializes in sports massage. Unlike a swedish massage, a sports massage involves several techniques. One is deep tissue work. This involves the concept of “matching tissue tension” which helps muscles release and relax. Some massage therapists may incorporate hot rocks or other techniques to assist with loosening the muscles. One thing to note is that deeper is not always better. A well done sports massage will hurt, but not leave you sore.
The next step from Sports Massage is myofascial release. When your muscles feel bound and you have extra taut spots, a myofascial release massage will help facilitate their recovery. The fascia is a web of connective tissue that provides support and structure for your body. While it is part of the musculoskeletal system, the fascia should slide freely and not be restricted. Low pressure, applied slowly, helps the fascia to elongate.
Trigger point therapy is a term that has come into popular use in recent years. Trigger points are best described as an area of hypersensitivity in a muscle that gives a referral of pain. The treatment of the area involves deep compression until the referral pattern lessens or dissipates completely. Trigger point therapy is a more painful protocol, but well worth it to relieve persistent tight spots.
Between visits to a massage therapist, you can easily facilitate recovery with self-massage and trigger point therapy. After a ride, take a warm shower and put your legs up above your heart for about 15 minutes to relax them.
Always massage toward the heart. Use long, smooth strokes and begin with gentle pressure. Gradually work deeper as your muscles loosen. Massage in the natural flow, or direction, of the muscle fibers. Use a natural massage cream or oil to facilitate gliding smoothly over the muscles. If you feel a knot or an area of tight pressure, gently palpitate the area. If the knot is particularly big use firm, direct pressure against the cramped area and hold for up to 30 seconds. Gradually use more pressure until you feel the know release.
Finally, add a foam roller to your recovery arsenal. These come in a variety of materials but all are used in the same manner. They help to provide myofascial release with deep compression that helps to break up or relax tight muscles and adhesions formed between muscle layers and their surroundings. It’s kind of akin to tenderizing your own muscles. Be sure to read the pamphlet or video that accompanies the roller and begin slowly. It takes a bit of grit to massage yourself, but with practice you’ll find it not only aids in recovery, but also increases your training gains.
And don’t forget — there will be a professional massage therapist available while you’re on the Empire State Ride!