The problem is unless you're getting frequent and consistent massages, as in at least once a week, your benefits are very limited. And therein lies the bigger dilemma. Unless you're a professional athlete or rolling in extra cash, the cost of weekly massage is prohibitive to most of us.
So when I first heard of Trigger Point Technologies (TPT) and their series of therapeutic self-massage products, I was both skeptical and intrigued. I've always thought the whole point of massage is to relax and have another person work on areas you couldn't anticipate. How could doing it yourself really work?
After speaking with Cassidy Phillips, inventor of TPT products, I was pretty impressed with his approach and athlete success stories. I had nothing to lose by trying the products.
"You wouldn't drive a car without oil in the engine," Cassidy explained. "So why would you exercise every day and not add oil to your muscles?"
Phillips describes this analogy by saying the "oil" for our muscles is blood flow and oxygen. "If you create elasticity by force-feeding blood and oxygen into the center or belly of the muscle, you'll have more power which results in better performance. Plus your muscles are able to handle longer and more intense activity without breaking down."
Being an avid cyclist that still enjoys mixing it up with the "boys" on weekends, I figured I'd be the perfect guinea pig to determine if I noticed any difference when riding hard. My plan was to give it about six weeks, using the products almost daily.
Using the products
TPT's full kit consists of a massage ball, footballer, quadballer and baler block. While everything sounds like it's a ball, the only product here that resembles a ball is the massage ball. The massage ball is where Phillips got his start and triathletes may recognize the "Have you seen my balls?" slogan at big race expos.
An included DVD went through how to use the products, except the quadballer. Apparently the quadballer is something relatively new and an updated DVD is in the works.
Rather than get into a long and technical explanation of how these four different products are meant to be used, (You can do that at Trigger Point Technologies' Web site), I'll simply describe some of my findings and results.
But as a point of reference, the idea for most of these therapeutic exercises is to place the ball or any of the "ballers" on the floor and roll over the top in short movements. It's kind of like kneading dough when making bread. You want to slowly roll out the bubbles. In this case, the bubbles are muscles blockages -- those little bumps you feel when massaging your muscles.
For starters, my first few times of using the products on more sensitive areas, such as quads, IT band and calves were very painful and therefore slightly awkward. I found I had to support my weight with my elbows so as to not put too much pressure on the muscles.
Most surprising was how tender my calves were just above the ankle. Cassidy explained this was a key area to work with the footballer.
I was definitely sore for the first few days, the same kind of soreness you get after a deep massage. The key, which Phillips explains in his video, is to breathe deeply when performing these exercises. And, of course, it's important to drink plenty of water after manipulating your muscles through massage.
According to Phillips, the TP Massage Ball, FootBaller and QuadBaller's dense materials replicate the feeling of a human thumb, changing shape after five to seven seconds of pressure. The trigger point of the targeted muscle is then forced to relax, relieving the spasm.
Within a couple days I found I could apply more pressure and by a week or so, presto, my muscles weren't really sensitive. And those little aches and pains on tough hill climbs were going away on my rides. I really did feel more power and less nagging aches.
Even my lower back, which is always kind of stiff from all the riding and hill climbing, was starting to feel better -- especially in the mornings. Granted, I could probably have achieved the same kinds of results by getting daily massages but at $60 a day or more, not many of us can afford that.
After about a month of using the products at least five days a week, I figured I was in pretty good shape and started slacking on some of the exercises. A week or two later I found some of the sensitivity return on areas I was neglecting. All it took was a couple days of working those problem areas and my muscles got all their elasticity back.
If you're like me and don't want to drop all your extra savings on professional massages, you'll be extremely surprised at what treating yourself with this daily routine can do for reducing injuries while enhancing performance and recovery. Best part is I can do this in about 15 minutes a day while watching TV. It's a routine I plan to keep for life.
To put this in perspective, I'm 45 years old, have been exercising, competing and racing since I was 10 and can honestly say I've never felt stronger and more fit than I do today. These self massage products from Trigger Point Technologies feel like they've taken my fitness level up one more notch and, most importantly, I feel I'm at much less risk to have strains or injuries. In a nutshell, this will totally enhance your athletic experience.
The total package retails for $129.99, roughly the cost of a couple massages. For more information on TPT, call (888) 31-BALLS (22557) or visit their Web site at www.tpmassageball.com.