What’s the answer to the realization of world-wide peace and harmony? Massage. Regular, weekly, massage. If everyone spent 90 minutes on the table every week, no one would be angry, stressed, or aggressive. We would all be blissed-out, contemplative, present, and friendly.
Cyclists have a much more practical reason for getting on the massage table: performance. Not just a luxury or an indulgence, a regular massage program is a crucial part of any competitive cyclist’s training regimen. When should you see a massage therapist? Whenever you are ready to take your body maintenance, and your results, to the next level.
Pro cyclists are massaged all the time; race days, training days, recovery days, and of course, spa days with the spouse. Enthusiast-level cyclists would do well to receive a massage once a week to once a month depending on need. Elite and competitive cyclists should consider one to two times a week according to season.
Well-established is the reduction of stress, pain, and discomfort brought about by massage, all beneficial to cyclists. Other crucial benefits include the reduction of exercise-induced inflammation, increased range of motion of joints and muscles by releasing and breaking up adhesions, and maximizing your body’s recovery process. Massage helps you help yourself.
While self-massage is a viable tool for performance improvement (see our post on effective self-massage here), working with a professional therapist has the potential to greatly elevate your game. Since you are responsible for generating the strength needed to put self-massage tools to use, or regulating the pressure of your body weight against the tool, working on yourself will never be as effective as having a therapist do the work while you (try to) relax.
Over time, a therapist gets to know your body — what is normal for it and what is not — which helps to prevent injuries and heal them quickly. Also, a therapist can educate you about anatomy, muscles, joints, and how yours behave. This helps you make informed decisions on how to respond effectively to feedback from your body.
When looking for a therapist, keep in mind that there are many different massage modalities available, some with more or less benefit to cyclists than others. Sports massage, deep tissue, trigger point therapy, myofascial release, and Swedish massage are all modalities cyclists will benefit from. Ask other athletes in your area who their therapists are. You may end up seeing several different therapists depending on what you need according to your training schedule.
More intense massage work, such as deep tissue, and trigger point, should be scheduled thoughtfully. This work should be done close enough to a race to realize the benefits, but not close enough to still feel soreness. Conversely, Swedish massage is beneficial right up to the day before the race, as it’s a lighter touch modality intended for relaxation and to stimulate circulation.
Aspects of sports massage, of course, can be administered right up until race time, as vibration and light compression warms and loosens muscles in preparation for athletic performance.