About.com spoke with Kiera Nagle, MA, LMT, licensed and national board certified massage therapist, and Julie Skovran, trainer and therapist at Life Time Fitness LifeSpa in Lakeville, MN, about self massage and how it benefits mountain bikers.
About.com: How does self-massage help cyclists avoid injury?
Skovran: By opening up joint space, the body has more efficiency in movement. Also, with a technique called “lifting,” the cyclist has more even contractibility through the quadriceps.
About.com: Do you have any tips for cyclists who have never tried self-massage before?
Nagle: My advice would be to look at a book or a video, such as Body Rolling: An Experiential Approach to Complete Muscle Release by Yamuna Zake and Stephanie Golden or Massage for Dummies by Steve Capellini and Michael Van Welden. Another approach would be to book a session with a massage therapist who specializes in Sports and/or Orthopedic Massage and explain to the practitioner when booking the appointment that your goal is to learn a few strategies for self massage that you can use at home between your appointments for self maintenance practices.
About.com: Do you have any tips for cyclists' home practice in-between sessions?
Skovran: Practice stretching the front side of the body, through yoga or other home practice methods. Quadricep stretches, abdominal lengthening, and chest opening exercises will help the cyclist with better respiration and freedom of movement off the bike.
About.com: What parts of the body should this population focus on?
Nagle: The obvious answer would be to focus on the muscles of the leg, including the calf muscles, such as the gastrocnemius and soleus. It is easiest to perform self massage on the limbs and extremities. I would also suggest using a foam roller, or ball, to assist with self massage of the big muscles of the upper leg- especially the hamstrings and quadriceps, the IT band, which is often very tight. Sitting and rolling on a tennis or lacrosse ball can also help with self massage of the glutes. However, the cyclists who I have treated also really need attention to the hands and forearms, which
are often very tense from gripping the handlebars. A really neglected area would be the pectoral muscles- these are often shortened in the rounded-back position that cyclists assume when leaning over the handlebars. It is easy to isolate the pecs between the thumb and forefinger of the opposite hand, and softening these tissues will allow a cyclist to open his or her chest and bring their shoulder blades together in a standing posture.
About.com: When should cyclists get in the habit of self-massaging (before or after a ride)?
Nagle: Cyclists should perform self massage both before and after riding, especially when preparing and completing long rides. Stretching and self performing massage before the ride can assist with warming up the muscle tissues. Self massage and stretching after the ride can assist with preventing soreness and future injury.
Skovran: If a cyclist has a goal of better speed and time, they would best benefit from a professional massage such as BodyWork in a series before an event. As a recovery tool, cyclists work hard and need the unwinding benefits and opening of the body benefits after the event.
About.com: When do you advise a cyclist to see a professional massage therapist?
Nagle: If a cyclist is experiencing a repetitive strain injury, has chronic pain or inflammation, or notices that their range of motion at the joints is becoming more limited, they should see a professional therapist. In addition, for avid cyclists who are biking all the time, a monthly massage performed by a professional can help to maintain optimal muscle health.
Read the first part of this interview here.