You are vigilant about your training and meticulous in your diet and fueling practices. Why then, are you not committed to receiving the bodywork that should be a regular element of your training?
"It's amazing how many athletes don't even think about getting bodywork, especially when they are in season," said Mary Owen, massage therapist with a concentration in sports therapy and myofascial release. "Regular maintenance is always recommended to athletes that are consistently overworking the same muscle groups. But during those tough parts of the year, when athletes are racing, competing and doing their most rigorous training, that's when it's most important."
"I like to compare our bodies to our cars. You have to get regular maintenance on your car. Without proper attention, they break down. Before preparing for a road trip, you take your car in to balance and check the tires, tune it up, and see if it's safe for the road. You should apply the same precautions to your body. Before anything, be it a marathon, a century ride or even surfing...warming up the body, stretching it and getting massaged to make sure your body is prepared for what's ahead is beneficial and will help in the long run (no pun intended)," Owen said with a laugh.
The Best Time for a Massage
Athletes are often confused about the best time to get body work. Right before a race? A week before the big event? A few hours after you cross the finish line? Or should you wait a few days?
"Ideally, athletes should get a tough, deep tissue massage three days to a week before a race or big event," Owen said. "And another massage the day before or morning of the race—but this one should be focused on stretching and isometric approaches, which concentrate on breathing and relaxing while the therapist massages and stretches you,"
"Right after a race is a great time to get a massage," she continued. "But you must make sure it's not vigorous. It should be more of a relaxing massage to calm your tight muscles. If you are in pain, make sure to ice your muscles for a few days and stretch. After three or four days of ice, if nothing is injured, this is the perfect time for a deep tissue massage and myofascial release."
Benefits of Massage
The terms deep tissue and myofascial release are often used together. Many think they are synonymous, but there are differences in these types of massage. Both techniques are very beneficial to athletes.
Deep tissue massage: The therapist works deep into the actual muscles, trigger points and tender points.
Myofascial release: The massage goes even deeper, concentrating on the fascia, fibers and connective tissue of the muscles, instead of the actual muscles.
With any massage—even a relaxing Swedish massage—there's still the benefit of blood and oxygen running through the body, breaking up adhesions in the body and flushing out toxins. But deep tissue, myofascial release, sports massage,?Thai massage and chiropractic work are recommended for athletes to ensure muscles are getting proper attention, and spine and hips are aligned and adjusted properly.
If you are in active training, such as training for a marathon, triathlon or century ride, a massage twice a month is recommended, if money and time allow.