Forget about a training schedule in this recent Asheville reality game of…Will the kids be at school today? It’s raining right now. It might be icing in 15 minutes. Have they plowed the streets? Is spin class full again? Instead, just stretch and get a massage.
I don’t mean a luxurious and relaxing massage after touching your toes a few times. This is the time to work on scar tissue, shortened muscles, bundled tendons, frayed ligaments, overexertion injuries, and flexibility issues. The reward will be a quicker muscle that trains and grows faster with fewer injuries to slow you down. The pay is that it hurts while it‘s happening. Just remember that it doesn’t hurt any more than a mile-long climb, and the pain doesn’t last nearly as long.
In order to gain flexibility, the muscle has to remain in a stretched position for at least 20 seconds. It’s best to do that three times. Therapists specializing in sports massage will be able to help create a battery of stretches specific to your problem areas, especially after working on you and getting to know your body.
A flexible muscle, compared to a not-so-flexible muscle, is longer, which means it can reach further and push harder. Stretching also causes a rush of new blood supply. This flushes the muscle of toxins, feeds the muscle nutrients and creates energy. Think of how refreshing it feels after sitting in an airplane seat just to walk around, stretch your arms, and twist.
A challenge for cyclists is the flexibility of the quadriceps and hip flexors. These muscles are constantly flexed and providing power. This lack of flexibility can cause torque in the knee, the hip, the sacrum, and the lower back, ultimately providing an imbalance from side to side.
Get your massage therapist to help create a flexibility plan according to your training schedule. Get a deep-tissue massage after a big training day so there’s plenty of time to recover before you have to push it hard again. There should be at least a 24-hour rest period. The first session back riding should be a light one, even if you feel great. Save it for the next day when your muscles are feeling the most benefit from the deep work.
Communicate with your massage therapist, who will want to dig as deeply as you can take it. Say it needs to be deeper, or holler when it’s too much so that you can‘t properly relax the muscle. The therapist will warm the area up first. Once the digging begins, be sure to breathe deeply, allowing the muscles to fully open beneath the pressure. Holding your breath means the flow of oxygen ceases. Keep breathing. Once she is into the muscle, she will create a grinding motion across the fibers to break up tissue stuck together. This is the part that really smarts. It’s especially effective in the areas where muscle attaches to the bone via ligaments.
Follow up with stretches and a topical analgesic based in wintergreen. Be sure to ice it for 15 minutes before bed. The deep work may cause slight inflammation. Icing it will prevent it from aching or being sore the next day.