Triathlon Training: Benefits Of Massage

Written by: Cliff English

Are you an athlete who cringes at the thought of making massages a part of your regular training habits? Coach Cliff English explains why seeking massages before your muscles seize should be an integral part of your training plan.

I definitely cannot say massage therapy is a foreign recovery modality concept to most triathletes, and even the most stalwart holdouts can be seen on occasion receiving a post-race massage or two. It seems massage is still viewed as a luxury and an indulgence and is used very infrequently. Most will still wait until every muscle has seized up and muscles and tendons are about as tight as the weave of carbon on your carbon-fiber bike.

Sure, if you wait until that point, you will garner some brief relief from your ailments. However, for an athlete at any level, the real benefits arise from frequent massage therapy and from working with a massage therapist that understands sports massage and your body. I believe that if you are serious about your sport and performance, it is essential to integrate massage therapy into your training program. To help convince those that are still unsure, I have enlisted the help of certified massage therapist Briana Averill to strengthen my points. Averill is a licensed and nationally certified massage therapist in Tucson, Ariz. She works with runners, cyclists, triathletes and swimmers ranging from the weekend warrior to Olympic medalists.

Massage therapy has numerous benefits for athletes. Massage can speed up recovery after a large day of training, a race or a big block of training. According to Averill, “Massage increases blood flow to the muscles to help speed healing by flushing out the metabolic waste.” Averill says it can also give the athlete a chance to reconnect his mind and body and decompress. In a similar manner, “active recovery” can be utilized in the weeks that you do not have a massage scheduled, and it is also a very effective means of flushing metabolic waste.This would usually entail a light 30-minute swim or a 60-minute bike ride at a lower-end aerobic effort (zone 1).

Averill says that regular massage can help manage and prevent injury by bringing awareness to areas of the body that are not functioning or responding as efficiently as possible. “The therapist, if he understands the nature of the various injuries or dysfunctions can treat the athlete accordingly if it is within his scope of practice to do so,” she says.

The ideal frequency for massage therapy is twice a week for an elite athlete, once a week minimum. For a recreational athlete, it would be once a week to once a month based on need.

In coaching, one of the key components to success is a strong athlete/coach relationship built upon trust and effective communication. Similarly, it is key to establish a relationship with your massage therapist so he not only gets to know your body but also is able to work out with you what type and depth the massage should be for what you need in that microcycle (week) or training cycle. Massage should be periodized, and when you integrate it into your yearly plan, it will really reap huge benefits.

“Every person is different and what is highly effective for one person may not be for another,” says Averill. “But in general, for big load weeks, getting a good, deep flush once or twice a month is great, but not so deep that fatigue is increased in the muscles.” Averill cautions that your therapist should be in tune with your body and should have the experience to know how much is beneficial. Recovery weeks are a good time for more specific work. Then, in a competition week, it is all about what works for you as an individual just as with a taper.

“Some of my clients have responded well with deep, specific work early in the week before a race,” says Averill, “while others just prefer a nice, easy flush mid-week to a few days before.”

Ideally, I like to have my athletes get a massage the day before either a day off or the day before a light “active recovery” day. This is a good example of how to effectively use massage as a key component in a microcycle. A deep massage the day before a key track session or bike interval session will leave the athlete feeling sluggish for that session, and for most it would end up being a tough day of training.

When possible, schedule your pre-race massage early in the race week and then definitely get a post-race massage either right after the race (highly recommended) or the day after with your regular therapist. Throw in an ice bath lasting three to five minutes somewhere shortly after the race, and you will get the type of recovery that most pros use. This combo will have you recovered and ready to start another block of training in no time!

For daily preventive maintenance, it is also recommended to do a little self-massage with a foam roller, a TP massage ball, quad ball, roller stick or pretty much any self-massage torture apparatus you can get you hands on.

The rollers are effective to roll out the quads, IT bands and calves while the smaller balls are perfect for getting into glutes, adductors and soleus muscles. Remember that while a healthy dose of pain is always part of a triathlete’s daily regimen, too much may not always be a good thing.

Staying on top of your recovery with frequent massage is a great way to keep your body fine-tuned and running like the world-class machine that it is!

Coach Cliff English has over 15 years of experience coaching athletes ranging from age-groupers to Olympians, first-timers to Ironman champions.

Triathlon Training: Benefits Of Massage

*Remember, you do not have to be an athlete to benefit from regular massage therapy! Everyone can benefit from making regular massage therapy a part of their health and wellness routine!!

National Massage Therapy Awareness Week: October 24-30, 2010

Discover why everyone should make massage therapy a part of their health and wellness routine.

A soothing massage can help you unwind, but that’s not all. Explore the possible health benefits and risks of massage therapy, plus what to expect.

By Mayo Clinic staff

Massage is no longer available only through luxury spas and upscale health clubs. Today, massage therapy is offered in businesses, clinics, hospitals and even airports. If you’ve never tried massage, learn about the possible health benefits of massage and what to expect during a massage therapy session.

What is massage?

Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Massage therapists typically use their hands and fingers for massage but may also use their forearms, elbows and even feet. Massage may range from light stroking to deep pressure techniques.

There are many different types of massage, including these common types:

  • Swedish massage. This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration and tapping to help relax and energize you.
  • Deep-tissue massage. This massage technique uses slower, more forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
  • Sports massage. This is similar to Swedish massage but is geared toward people involved in sport activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
  • Trigger point massage. This massage focuses on trigger points, or sensitive areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.

Benefits of massage

Massage is generally considered part of complementary and alternative medicine. It’s increasingly being offered along with standard treatment for a wide range of medical conditions and situations.

Studies have found massage helpful for:

  • Stress relief
  • Managing anxiety and depression
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Blood pressure control
  • Infant growth
  • Sports-related injuries
  • Boosting immunity
  • Cancer treatment

Beyond the benefits for specific conditions or diseases, some people enjoy massage because it often involves caring, comfort, a sense of empowerment and creating deep connections with their massage therapist.

Despite its benefits, massage isn’t meant as a replacement for regular medical care. Let your doctor know you’re trying massage and be sure to follow any standard treatment plans you have.

Use massage as another health care tool

Brush aside any thoughts that massage is only a feel-good way to indulge or pamper yourself. To the contrary, massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being, whether you have a specific health condition or are just looking for another stress reliever. You can even learn how to do self-massage or to engage in massage with a partner.

Risks of massage

Massage is generally safe as long as it’s done by a trained massage therapist. But massage isn’t appropriate for everyone. Discuss massage with your doctor first in cases of:

  • Unexplained pain or other symptoms
  • Burns or open wounds
  • Cancer
  • Blood clots
  • Fractures
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Pregnancy

Some forms of massage can leave you feeling a bit sore the next day. But massage shouldn’t be painful or uncomfortable. If any part of your massage doesn’t feel right or is painful, speak up right away. Most serious problems come from too much pressure during massage.

In rare circumstances, massage can cause:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Nerve damage
  • Temporary paralysis
  • Allergic reactions to massage oils or lotions

What you can expect during a massage

You don’t need any special preparation for massage. Before a massage therapy session starts, your massage therapist should ask you about any symptoms, your medical history and what you’re hoping to get out of massage. Your massage therapist should explain the kind of massage and techniques he or she will use.

In a typical massage therapy session, you undress. Undress only to the point that you’re comfortable. You generally lie on a table and cover yourself with a sheet. You can also have a massage while sitting in a chair, fully clothed. Your massage therapist should perform an evaluation through touch to locate painful or tense areas and to determine how much pressure to apply.

If you want, your massage therapist may use oil or lotion to reduce friction on your skin. Tell your massage therapist if you might be allergic to any ingredients.

A massage session may last from 15 to 90 minutes, depending on the type of massage and how much time you have. No matter what kind of massage you choose, you should feel calm and relaxed during and after your massage. Pain that’s more significant than momentary discomfort could indicate that something is wrong. If a massage therapist is pushing too hard, ask for lighter pressure. Occasionally you may have a sensitive spot in a muscle that feels like a knot. It’s likely to be uncomfortable while your massage therapist works it out. But if it becomes painful, speak up.

Finding a massage therapist

Massage can be performed by several types of health care professionals, such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist or massage therapist. Ask your doctor or someone else you trust for a recommendation. Most states regulate massage therapists through licensing, registration or certification requirements.

Don’t be afraid to ask a potential massage therapist such questions as:

  • Are you licensed, certified or registered?
  • What is your training and experience?
  • What’s the cost?

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/massage/SA00082