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By Dom Walker
As a cyclist and sports massage therapist who has been treating cyclists and runners for a number of years, I am often asked whether a regular massage can be a beneficial component to a training program.
The simple answer is absolutely! A regular massage will help improve your movement, increase circulation and promote recovery and in turn improve performance however, the key word here is REGULAR.
Massage shouldn’t be seen as a luxury or indulgence and only used when every muscle and tendon in your body has seized up but, as an integral part of your training with a therapist who understands sports massage and your body.
Here’s the reason why…..
One of the great benefits of massage is that it relaxes tense muscles, improves joint range of motion and reduces the potential for injury.
Cycling and running requires sustained, repetitive muscle contractions, the greater these contractions, the more force is generated and in turn the more muscle fibres are recruited and therefore shortened. Whilst all this translates into increased power, speed and distance, it also means adhesions and minor scar tissue forms between the muscle and the surrounding fascia. Left untreated, it is these adhesions and unwanted muscle tightness which can restrict movement and joint range of motion which over time can lead to abnormal movement patterns that can cause overuse injuries.
Recovery is another benefit of massage. Regular massage can help reduce pain and the intensity of muscle soreness following a big run, ride or swim. Pain can alter how we move and even inhibit healing so, a well timed massage can help us get out of that stress dominated response of our nervous system and into a more relaxed state.
Massage can also improve the circulatory system delivering increased oxygen and nutrients to muscles. Better circulation means better recovery however, one thing to keep in mind and contrary to popular belief, massage won’t clear out the lactate or lactic acid build up in your muscles. Lactate is cleared from your system fairly quickly once stopped and is not the reason for muscle soreness which is actually caused by cell damage in your muscles.
Cycling and running go hand in hand with massage but it is important to remember that the benefits are cumulative. A one off massage here and there will provide some relief for a short time but won’t give you the same benefits when used as part of your training plan – quicker recovery, injury prevention and the benefit we all want, improved performance.
Dom Walker is a Remedial Massage Therapist and leads the massage team at Physiosports Brighton. See his full bio here click here