According to the 2013 American Massage Therapy Association consumer survey, an average of 16 percent of adult Americans received at least one massage between July 2012 and July 2013, and an average of 26 percent of adult Americans received a massage in the previous five years.
Massage facilitates the circulation of the blood and other fluids in the body. Self-massage encompasses applying hands-on massage techniques to one’s own body. The benefits to cyclists are plentiful. so long as you learn the proper technique.
Kiera Nagle, MA, LMT, licensed and national board certified massage therapist, says it’s important when massaging the limbs to work from the body part that is furthest from the heart (the hand or foot) upward, towards the heart, to assist with “venous return”—the return of the deoxygenated blood back to the heart to be filtered there for optimal muscle replenishment.
“The facilitated circulation provided by massage can help flush the body of toxins, even natural toxins, such as lactic acid, which builds up in the muscle tissues after intense exercise and can cause soreness,” explains the assistant dean, full-time faculty member and clinical supervisor in the massage therapy program at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine-NY.
Self massage, along with proper hydration, will help prevent or diminish delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which can occur 24 to 48 hours after exercise.
About.com spoke with Nagle 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: Can you provide a basic explanation of self massage for cyclists who may not be familiar with it?
Skovran: Self massage should focus on therapy-based massage that will help open up the strong front body: quads, hip flexors and abdominals, through slow and compressive techniques that help restore balance to the body.
About.com: How does massage help cyclists recover faster?
Skovran: Techniques hydrate the tissue, from cellular level to muscle fibers/bundles, and release adhesions in the connective tissue, releasing toxins through slow compressive strokes.
About.com: How does it improve range of motion?
Nagle: Self massage can improve range of motion by breaking up adhesions- little places in the muscle tissue where the layers begin to stick together, inhibiting proper circulation. The facilitated circulation provided by massage can also increase flexibility of the muscles, allowing for an increase in the range of motion at the joints.
Skovran: Freedom in the joint spaces creates improved range of motion! If self massage doesn’t cut it, a BodyWork massage at LifeSpa works with freeing joint space by opening up the fascia, or connective tissue, throughout the body, through slow and compressive strokes that move in the direction of fibers, and cross fiber directions.
About.com: How does self-massage help cyclists avoid injury?
Nagle: Very often my colleagues and I observe that with athletes, whether they are professionals or just folks who are avid about whatever activity they enjoy (traditional cycling, SoulCycle, and spinning are just to name a few!) they become very focused on performance and engaging in the activity itself- often “pushing through” the pain and ignoring warning signs that could lead to injury. The body “whispers” to us- the little nagging ache will eventually turn into chronic pain if there is no intervention (such as massage, stretching, acupuncture, etc.) to treat it in its initial stages. Performing self massage can increase one’s awareness of his/her own body, in addition to preventing injury by increasing tissue hydration, breaking up adhesions, and improving circulation.