Train­ing

Ped­alling a bike takes heart and mus­cle. A good mas­sage helps you strengthen both.

Bicycling (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - By Chris­tine Bucher

Think you know all there is to know about the ben­e­fits of mas­sage? Think again – re­search shows that it could save your life.

LONG HOURS IN THE sad­dle and hard work­outs can leave your mus­cles rid­dled with knots, and scar tis­sue cre­ated as they re­pair them­selves. And be­cause all your mus­cles are con­nected, those sore spots can spread through­out your body if not treated – a tight lower back cre­ates an achy hip that leads to a twinged knee. That’s why so many cy­clists swear by mas­sages; they help loosen tight spots, flush toxic chem­i­cals, and keep your fi­bres smooth and lim­ber so you can ride pain-free. Now a new study finds that the same ben­e­fits that re­lieve post- ex­er­cise pain might also boost heart health. Re­searchers asked 25 vol­un­teers to crank out leg presses un­til their quads and hamstrings cried for mercy. Then half of them re­ceived a mas­sage. A sep­a­rate group of 11 re­ceived a rub­down with­out do­ing any ex­er­cise. Re­searchers tested all the sub­jects in two key ar­eas: sore­ness and blood flow.

The first set of find­ings con­firmed what many of us al­ready know – a good mas­sage helps re­duce mus­cle pain af­ter a hard work­out. The ex­er­cis­ers who re­ceived a rub­down re­ported that they were free of sore­ness 90 min­utes later, while the ex­er­cise- only folks were still hob­bling the next day.

More sur­pris­ing were the re­sults of a sec­ond test that mea­sured blood flow through the sub­jects’ arms. Re­searchers found that leg­pressers who re­ceived a mas­sage en­joyed im­proved cir­cu­la­tion for up to 72 hours. Com­pare that with the ex­er­cise- only group, who ex­pe­ri­enced ham­pered cir­cu­la­tion for more than 48 hours. Be­cause re­searchers tested cir­cu­la­tion lev­els in a part of the body far from where the sub­jects re­ceived a rub­down, the re­sults sug­gest that mas­sage trig­gers a full­body re­sponse that im­proves blood flow.

“That’s im­por­tant, be­cause as we showed, ex­er­cise-in­duced mus­cle dam­age slows cir­cu­la­tion,” says co-au­thor Shane A. Phillips, PhD. It also sug­gests that mas­sage could pro­mote car­dio­vas­cu­lar health off the bike as well, he says. That’s a com­pelling rea­son to get reg­u­lar rub­downs, even if you’re not train­ing hard.

HOW THEY WORK

When a mas­sage ther­a­pist glides his or her hands across your mus­cles, blood ves­sels open and waste can be flushed. This helps re­duce ten­der­ness af­ter a hard ride or work­out. “The in­crease in blood flow speeds re­cov­ery from mus­cle in­jury by pro­vid­ing more nu­tri­tion to the tis­sue, and

maybe also by im­prov­ing the re­moval of waste prod­ucts,” ex­plains Phillips.

Mas­sages also have a re­ju­ve­nat­ing ef­fect. When mus­cles are stressed, the fi­bres of the fas­cia that cover them suf­fer mi­cro-tears. As they heal, these fi­bres be­come stronger, but they can also form scar tis­sue, called ad­he­sions, which can limit your range of mo­tion and cause dis­com­fort. Deep pres­sure ap­plied by a ther­a­pist to the fas­cia breaks up these ad­he­sions. You’re left feel­ing fresh and re­ju­ve­nated, and ready to tackle the next big climb.

WHEN TO GET THEM

Tim­ing is ev­ery­thing when it comes to mas­sage. Wait too long, and those ad­he­sions will tighten and mul­ti­ply. Here is a timetable from li­censed mas­sage ther­a­pist Ja­nine Ver­straeten, who has worked with Spe­cial­ized-lu­l­ule­mon, the cur­rent women’s time trial world cham­pi­ons.

BE­FORE A BIG RACE OR EVENT:

Go for a deep-tis­sue mas­sage three to five days be­fore a phys­i­cally de­mand­ing ride to break up ad­he­sions and en­sure your mus­cles move freely. Ver­straeten also rec­om­mends go­ing for an easy spin and then lightly rub­bing your mus­cles one to two days be­fore the event to boost blood flow and flush out waste. You can use your hands, a foam roller, or a mas­sage stick.

FOL­LOW­ING A STREN­U­OUS EF­FORT:

Your mus­cles will be sore, so get a light rub­down within 48 hours of the event (try a softer Swedish mas­sage, or give your­self a quick kneading). When your mus­cles are less ten­der – three to five days later – get a deeper rub­down to break up ad­he­sions be­fore they be­come tight and painful.

FOR REG­U­LAR MAIN­TE­NANCE:

If you ride sev­eral times a week, a monthly mas­sage will help keep your mus­cles lim­ber and free of knots. Opt for a deep-tis­sue rub­down, which might also in­clude triggerpoint ther­apy (con­cen­trated pres­sure to loosen iso­lated, painful spots). If you’re train­ing hard, Ver­straeten rec­om­mends a mas­sage ev­ery two weeks. Ca­sual cy­clists should get one as needed.

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