Training for an endurance event at any level or distance can be taxing to both your mind and body. But, when you’re training for an Ironman – one of the longest and hardest endurance events around – you have to use many tools and tactics to not only get through the vigorous training, but to compete at your desired level as well. Jennifer Hills, a triathlete who is training for her second Ironman race in mid-August in Quebec, Canada, enlists the help of an experienced coach with a detailed training plan, as well as a veteran sports massage therapist, to keep her going strong during her intense swim, bike and run training sessions as she prepares to compete her best on race day.
“I absolutely love my Elements massage therapist,” exclaims Jennifer. “I definitely believe that massage with Mark has helped get me through the training process without any major problems. It’s such a rigid, time consuming and exhausting time that can include six to nine months of pretty intense workouts. So, going to someone for massages who knows what he’s doing has allowed me to get through it all without injuries.”
With a massage studio geared toward providing bodywork for many of Colorado’s triathlon, marathon and various other endurance athletes, Mark Mills, studio owner and massage therapist at Elements Massage Boulder, prides himself in being able to relate with what his clients are putting themselves through both physically and mentally as they train and compete. Mark uses his personal experience of being a competitive long distance runner for 30 years and his 26 years of massage therapy expertise to give clients like Jennifer an extra competitive edge by helping them keep their muscles tuned up and their minds strong throughout the training process.
“I understand athletes,” explains Mark. “My body has been through it just like theirs and I know what it takes to train and compete at a high level. Jennifer is training for an Ironman and I ran 100 mile trail races in the mountains so the training isn’t exactly the same. But, anytime you do endurance training, you’re out there beating your body up day-in and day-out. I have a unique perspective on not only what it takes mentally and physically to do that, but also the toll it takes on your body. In order to train at that level, you absolutely need bodywork. It’s a critical piece to keep athletes like Jennifer going strong.”
Getting massages from Mark is such an integral part of Jennifer’s training program that she drives three hours each month from the Colorado mountain community of Glenwood Springs for a two-hour bodywork session at Elements Boulder. Mark tailors each of Jennifer’s sessions to address the specific muscle groups that pertain to her training and how her body feels at the time of the massage. Overall, he focuses on providing a full body deep tissue, cleansing and circulatory enhancing massage that feeds Jennifer’s muscles, which are getting pushed to the limit during her strenuous training sessions. The name of the game is all about increasing circulation and blood flow through the muscles to keep Jennifer’s body healthy and strong.
“If you want to train, perform and compete at a high level, you really need to give yourself the extra edge to keep yourself healthy,” explains Mark. “Massage is that extra edge. It gives you the extra 10-20 percent to really go the distance.”
“Doing monthly massages has helped me to prevent injuries, deal with stress and it gives me something to look forward to during my training sessions,” reflects Jennifer. “Mark knows so much about the body and it’s absolutely amazing how he knows exactly what to do to work on the certain areas of my body that are bothering me each time I get a massage. Massage has made the whole training process a more enjoyable experience compared to if I was in pain or had tight muscles all the time.”
In addition to the physical benefits that Jennifer experiences from receiving routine massages, she also values the mental and emotional benefits that massage provides for her. Jennifer strives to stay mentally healthy during her training by allowing herself time with friends and family and trying not to take things too seriously. She also thinks it’s important to reward yourself and to find things you enjoy doing.
“We only have one life to live so you might as well find things that you find pleasure from,” shares Jennifer. “For me, that includes having a good cup of coffee in the morning and enjoying regular massages. When I’m training for a race, it’s also really important to find a balance between life, work, training schedules and having the support of friends and family. I think that keeping myself mentally healthy during training will help to carry over on race day.”
Jennifer will test her training in only a few short weeks when she pushes her mind and body to go the distance in the upcoming Ironman North American Championship in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec where she will swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a complete marathon (26.2 miles) to the finish. At this point, she’s put in all of the hard work and she’ll start her final preparations next week when she goes in to see Mark for one last massage before she lines up to start the Ironman race.
“I think training for an Ironman is about more than the race itself,” explains Jennifer. “It allows you to see your own strengths and to have confidence in yourself that you can get through the difficult parts in your life. To me, that’s what training is all about and why I chose to do a second Ironman race. I wanted to give myself some of that strength I was looking for.”
Race day will be Jennifer’s reward for the long journey she’s traveled and the miles she’s put in to get there. Good luck Jennifer! We will be cheering for you!