Massage is as integral to a professional cyclist’s daily routine as riding the bike is. What does massage do for a cyclist? First and foremost massage promotes recovery by flushing the toxins up to the heart so that new oxygenated blood can circulate. If you notice, the massage therapist will always rub the muscles upwards towards the heart. The massage is actually pushing out the muscle’s carbon dioxide rich blood to the lungs and heart which is then filtered to come out as oxygen rich blood that goes back into the muscles. The body will do this naturally but massage drastically speeds up the process. In addition to this, massage prevents injury with the help of stretching.
When To Get a Massage?
Everyone responds differently to massage but here is a guide to the routine that a pro cyclists would employ the week before a race:
Four days before the race he would have had very good deep tissue massage. This gives ample time to get over the legginess (heavy legs after a massage) that is typically experienced after a deep tissue treatment.
Two days before the race Cav would have arrived in Milan. He would have gone for a ~100km soft pedal ride. After he got back he would have had a nice gentle flush out massage. Traveling wears the legs out. You may be in limbo, but it’s not actually resting the legs. You can’t ever really putting the legs up and truly rest them. Proper resting is laying on the bed and having the legs up keeping all weight off.
The day before the race Cav would not have had a deep tissue massage. He would have had a relaxation massage. Often many of the PROs come to the massage table just for some chit chat and motivation right before a big race. It’s part of their routine – just like riding is. Riders are emotionally very close to the masseur because they spend a lot of time with them. Along with the muscle therapy they provide, the masseur also is a great person to bounce some thoughts off and to talk things out.
Day of the race, no massage, and WIN!
How can everyday cyclists use massage to their benefit?
Each person is very individual with their massage needs. What is constant for most people is that you would want to avoid having a deep tissue massage within the coming days before a big race until your body is adapted to this. Joe Blow cyclist would not want to have a deep tissue massage if the goal is to feel good the next day. A deep tissue massage will feel like you’ve just lifted weights or gone for a massive ride in the following days after if you are not used to it. Expect about 2 days to recover. After you’ve recovered you’ll start feeling the benefits. Calves and the buttocks (the piriformis muscle – where Andy used his damn elbow and makes me scream) are most sensitive places for cyclists after massage. They are used in so many everyday movements so the soarness is amplified. If you insist on getting a massage the day before a race, make sure it is a light massage just to make those muscles supple.
Many of us cannot afford nor justify a massage whenever we feel like it, so when is the best time for a massage for us regular cyclists? The best time for a massage is the day after a block of hard riding. This falls on a Monday for most of us. This is after a hard weekend of riding and sets us up for the rest of our riding/training week. Again, expect to feel leggy until Wednesday or even Thursday, but by the time the weekend comes around (when most races and events are) you’ll be floating.
You’ll still reap the benefits of massage if you go once every two weeks. This will still allow the body to keep it’s adaptation to the deep tissue massage and will help enormously in your body’s recovery process.