Having recently signed up to being one of the massage therapists on the famous (or should I say infamous ?) Wellington to Auckland Cycle challenge in 2014 (see http://www.dynamoevents.co.nz ) I came across this brilliant illustration why having an effective massage routine is not just for the professional cyclist !
Read on thanks to http://semiprocycling.com/everything-a-cyclist-should-know-about-massage
Episode #50 – Everything a Cyclist Should Know About Massage
Massage is an important part of a PRO cyclists routine, but where does it fit into a Semi-Pro’s schedule? This episode covers types, benefits and timing of massage for cyclists.
As Semi-Pros we know what massage are, after all it’s why we shave our legs right? Yeah right!
Massage to me is still a luxury and an indulgence and used very infrequently. With the rise of mobility information I feel I have most of my major movement issues covered-but it still has it’s place.
We know the pros get them all the time, and maybe you sneak them into your recovery or prep as well, but there is a lot of false information out there surrounding why we should be all massaging it up on regular, so I’m here to address those and to talk about types and timing.
So let’s get stuck in…starting with the types of massages.
Types of Massages for Cyclists
We’re all aware of the “Sports massage” – also called Manual Therapy. It’s a physical treatment primarily used on the neuromusculoskeletal system to treat pain and disability. It most commonly includes kneading and manipulation of muscles, joint mobilization and joint manipulation.
It’s not just masseurs that use manual therapy, you can get this type of rub from physiotherapists and chiropractors use specifically directed manual force to the body, in order to improve mobility in areas that are restricted; in joints, in connective tissues or in skeletal muscles.
It’s a skilled hands on version of what the mobility work I have spoken about in length. It’s all about solving specific issues that may be plaguing you.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage is designed to relieve severe tension in the muscle and the connective tissue or fascia. This type of massage focuses on the muscles located below the surface of the top muscles. Deep tissue massage is often recommended for individuals who are involved in heavy physical activity (such as yourselves). It is not uncommon for receivers of deep tissue massage to have their pain replaced with a new muscle ache for a day or two.
It’s deep and hard, getting elbows and forearms into the mix, Deep tissue massage is applied to both the superficial and deep layers of muscles, fascia, and other structures. The sessions are often quite intense as a result of the deliberate, focused work.
If a practitioner employs deep tissue techniques on the entire body in one session, it would be next to impossible to perform; it might lead to injury or localised muscle and nerve trauma, thereby rendering the session counterproductive.
The term “deep tissue” is often misused to identify a massage that is performed with sustained deep pressure. Deep tissue massage is a separate category of massage therapy, used to treat particular muscular-skeletal disorders and complaints and employs a dedicated set of techniques and strokes to achieve a measure of relief.
So again it’s another to treat specific areas that you may be having problems with.
Why Should Cyclists Get Massages?
The next question I’m going to answer is why, why would you want to get a massage, and why is it so important to cycling performance. Other than relaxation Massage therapy has numerous benefits for athletes. Believe it or not though, it’s only recently that studies have started being done on what rubs actually do for your body. Aiding recovery is a biggie when thinking about reasons to get a massage. But it may not be for the reason you have always been told.
Dr Mark Tarnopolsky is a researcher and author of a new study just completed at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. In Feb 2012 he published a largely self-funded study, where Tarnopolsky and co-author Simon Melov performed muscle biopsies on both legs of healthy young men before and after hard exercise, and a third time after massaging one leg in each individual.
As Tarnopolsky and his team began comparing those tissues samples from his subject’s massaged legs versus the tissue from the unmassaged leg, they found that the massaged leg had reduced exercise-induced inflammation by dampening activity of a protein referred to as NF-kb. Additionally, massage seemed to help cells recover by lifting another protein called PCG-1 alpha, which is responsible for producing new mitochondria, the small organelles inside each cell crucial for muscle energy generation.
With the addition of other proteins, all contributed to muscle recovery from massage. This new evidence somewhat refutes the popular belief that massage eases pain by helping the body clear lactic acid concentrations. In fact, the team saw no effect of massage on lactic acid concentration.
The excellent website Save Yourself has this to say this popular belief- “After spending time looking into it, it simply is not true or really even possible for a massage can flush out “toxins” like lactic acid out of your body.”
Ok back to the study, it’s believed to be first work on a cellular level basis to document the true effects of massage on reducing inflammation and helping cells recover. From a cyclist’s perspective, this study confirmed what most of us thought we knew all along. So a massage is not going to flush out lactic acid from your system, but may help with reducing inflammation. That’s one big fat reason right there!
Regular massage can also help manage and prevent injury by bringing awareness to areas of the body that are not functioning or responding as efficiently as possible. If the therapist understands the nature of the various injuries or dysfunctions they can treat the athlete accordingly. Think of it more like body maintenance with a professional running their eye over you rather than taking guesses.
This reason takes commitment though – the real benefits arise from frequent massage therapy and from working with a massage therapist that understands sports massage and your body. I believe that if you are serious about your sport and performance, it is essential to integrate massage therapy into your training program.
The ideal frequency for massage therapy is twice a week for an elite athlete, once a week minimum. For a recreational athlete, it would be once a week to once a month based on need.
In coaching, one of the key components to success is a strong athlete/coach relationship built upon trust and effective communication. Similarly, it is key to establish a relationship with your massage therapist so he not only gets to know your body but also is able to work out with you what type and depth the massage should be for what you need in that microcycle (week) or training cycle. Massage should be periodised, and when you integrate it into your yearly plan, it will really reap huge benefits.
Your therapist should be in tune with your body and should have the experience to know how much is beneficial.
When Should Cyclists get Massages?
During Training Weeks
Recovery weeks are a good time for more specific work. PLace it on your a day you’re off the bike, traditionally that’s a monday for most people. So if you’re on a 3 week 1 week schedule that’s rub once a month. So after a block of hard riding after a hard weekend of riding and sets you up for the rest of our riding/training week. Expect to feel muscular tenderness until Wednesday or Thursday, but by the time the weekend comes around you’ll be smashing it.
Then, in a competition week, it is all about what works for you as an individual just as with a taper, but the pre-race massage needs to be timed carefully. The massage should be taken close enough to the race in order that the full benefits of the deep tissue work are realised during the actual race, but not so close that post-massage muscular tenderness remains and hampers your performance on the day. It’s quite normal to experience muscular tenderness following deep tissue work. The realignment of deep muscle fibres is painful and the pain may last up to 48 hours after the session.
Every athlete’s body responds differently to massage; you don’t want to find out the week before your race that deep tissue work makes you uncomfortably sore.
If you must get a massage within a few days of your race, keep it light—as in “Swedish massage. If you’re traveling to your event and want to get a massage in a new city, research therapists before you leave. “Ask about experience. What is the primary clientele? How many years have they been in the business? What’s their specialty?” Look for offices with therapists who specialise in sports, clinical, and rehabilitation massage.
And don’t expect a therapist to work miracles right before a race. Don’t decide to get a massage the day before thinking it will fix any issue you may have created in the previous week. Time face down on the table that close to competition is mostly for calming nerves, not for fixing serious problems.
Bringing up another study that found the psychological benefits alone might be worth the investment. A 2011 study found that athletes with a regular massage routine were twice as likely to finish their goal race than athletes who had no bodywork done. This may be because massage has been found to aid psychological recovery from intense efforts, like long rides, and significantly increase perceived performance, even if no actual performance boost was found.