This article originally appeared in the Capital Bicycle Club Newsletter February 2013
I recently visited with my friend and colleague, Amy Murry, LMP. She works as a Licensed Massage Practitioner (LMP) here in Olympia in her practice, Human Body Works, that thrives on endurance athletes. Over the years, we have had the pleasure of co-managing a number of active cyclists. In this interview, I wanted to find out more about her practice and why massage is such a good fit for cyclists. I hope that you will learn something new about this healing art and how it might help you enjoy your time on the bike and get more out of your workouts.
Why is massage important for cyclists? With all of the gadgets and equipment available to cyclists, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the care of the muscles that power it all. While cycling, our legs push and pull by lengthening and shortening, tensing and relaxing … over and over. Massage deals with creating a better environment for muscles to heal after this kind of highly repetitive exercise.
What are some of the benefits of massage therapy for cyclists? Massage therapy reduces adhesions, increases circulation, increases cellular metabolism, speeds up recovery time and increases tissue flexibility. Massage therapy scheduled within a training cycle or around big, intense rides is ideal for flushing through those muscles and smoothing them out. It encourages the body to rest, recoup, and rebuild.
Do cyclists need to get regular massage treatment to see any benefit? No. While a regular massage program is ideal for injury prevention and to optimize recovery during training, just one good massage can open up old adhesions and provide incredible stress relief.
Does massage reduce inflammation? Yes and No. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation in muscles post exercise and injury. When massage therapy is applied to adhesions and ropey muscle tissue, however, it actually brings about a healthy level of controlled inflammation to the muscle. This increases circulation to the cells, and is vital for recovery by bringing nutrients and oxygen to the cells and carrying away waste products.
What is an “adhesion” and how do you find them? Adhesions come from the chronic stress of Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) to our muscle tissue. Eventually, over time, repairing the same areas over and over leads to an over development of scar tissue that can harden and affect circulation and movement. Experienced therapists know what healthy flexible tissue feels like and feel your muscle tissue for consistency, plasticity, smoothness, and bounce back. Sports massage therapists are also trained to work on common areas of concern relating to a particular sport.
Many people use foam rollers. Do they also need massage? My clients who foam roll regularly make my work a lot easier. They are a great flush and can reduce muscle tension after exercise. A foam roller doesn’t have the tactile response, pointed focus and feedback a therapist can provide, however. And, like anything, using the foam roller too hard can be damaging. Used cautiously and cooperatively, foam rollers can help body work last longer and take the edge off pre-massage.
When should massage visits be scheduled? Most people prefer to schedule massage therapy on their ‘off days’ so they can rest, hydrate, and allow the work to settle in. Some like to come in immediately after a hard workout, and the latest science would back them up. Massage therapy after a strenuous workout actually increases cellular mitochondrial growth! At minimum an athlete should see a massage therapist on a monthly basis, and more often during the build phase of training or after a big event. This helps maximize recovery, prevent injury, and increase muscle efficiency. Keep in mind, though, that all deep work should be done at least 3 days before a long ride or event. Massage one to two days before an event should be a lighter flush and is certainly a nice time to clear your head, as well!