Do we really need a sports massage

Massage in triathlon - what it really brings


Sports massages: what do they bring the triathlete? - (Photo: © Peter Atkins / Fotolia)

We explain what the massages in triathlon bring and whether the typical sports massage (still) exists. We also show alternatives such as trigger point, Thai massage or osteopathy.

Suddenly everyone is there: in the finish area of ​​competitions, emaciated triathletes wait in front of the massage tent for one of the coveted seats on a lounger. Otherwise they usually only allow themselves to be processed by professional hands in the training camp - in normal training operations, regular massages are usually too expensive for most.

How sports massages benefit the triathlete

But even if it's not cheap fun - the prices are on average around one euro per minute - massages are extremely beneficial for regeneration. This is undisputed among professionals such as physiotherapists and training scientists, and studies have proven it too.

For example, it can be measured that the heart and breathing rates are falling. The main effects are, on the one hand, the loosening of the connective tissue and the muscles, in which tension and hardening are released. In addition, the massage grips increase blood circulation, especially by promoting the exchange of tissue fluid with the smallest blood vessels, the capillaries. This causes metabolic waste to migrate out of the muscles more quickly, which also benefits the immune system.

But massages are not only good for the body: They also work as a soul massage, so to speak, free the mind and make it fresh for new services - all of this promotes overall well-being.

How often should triathletes be massaged?

And how often should you press the massage bench during the season? The physiotherapist Melanie Paulacher from Bad Aibling, who works in professional cycling, advises: "At least once a week would be perfect with high training volumes, every two weeks would also be okay."

Alternatives to the classic sports massage

So far, only where is the best place for a massage? And what can you take from the sometimes unmanageably large offer that is now available? For example, flyers from some massage practices or wellness departments of hotels read more like the menus of exotic restaurants: How about, for example, Abhyanga (Ayurvedic oil massage), Lomi Lomi Nui (Hawaiian - so goes particularly well with long-distance triathletes 😉 temple massage) - or Hot stone? (warm stones, mostly made of basalt, are placed on certain parts of the body)? Or how about Gua Sha, Tuina (both Chinese massage techniques) or seemingly simple, with lots of aromatic oil?

A little more like "hard" body treatment - and sometimes less tempting - sound like trigger point, reflex zone or connective tissue massage, acupressure, lymphatic drainage or anti-acidosis treatment (a treatment against acidification of the body tissue concerned). The classic, or muscle or sports massage, sometimes only leads a shadowy existence and seems to be more of a basic offer. Is that enough, or may it be something more or different? Do the other methods do more, or are they at least a good addition on occasion?

Sports massage: the one for everyone?

The simple answer: “There is no such thing as a classic sports massage,” says physiotherapist Melanie Paulacher. On the one hand, it always depends on the situation and the time. After a hard race or training session, when the legs and the entire body are drained and possibly painful, light stroking is enough.

Before the race, on the other hand, you can get a little harder, the intensive kneading of the legs can then be part of the activating warm-up program. In the training camp, massages should definitely be adapted to the volume completed. It also plays a role whether in or outside of the competition season, or whether there are injuries or “contaminated sites” such as wounds or complaints that have not yet fully healed. In addition, every masseur has his own methods and different training. From the hodgepodge of techniques and grips that have been learned at some point, most masseurs choose what they think is best, depending on the situation, athlete and experience.

From Abhyanga to Zen massage: the differences are not always that great

With the methods you can also see it relaxed because the helping hands and normally all possible tissue structures catch up with them - usually also those that they have not specifically aimed at.

For example, the important connective tissue, the fascia, is also included. Through fascia rolling and training, it has come into focus in recent years. It is actually logical that when the muscles are grasped, the envelopes surrounding them are also tackled - regardless of whether this is specifically intended or not. Of course, you can still focus on it and, for example, work with the help of a so-called connective tissue technique, which sounds a bit old-fashioned.

Paulacher explains that she often uses this around the knees for cyclists or triathletes. And another method, which can also be distinguished from pure muscle or sports massage, is the so-called lymph drainage. So a tip would be to ask about such a method the next time you have a massage, in which fascia and lymphatic vessels are the focus - especially after large training volumes.

And whether with or without (a lot) of oil, with or without music, Chinese, Indian or Hawaiian: As with eating in exotic restaurants, this is ultimately largely a matter of taste. And certainly also depends on the sympathy, ability and commitment of the therapist or masseur - no matter what he or she officially does. This is also supported by the fact that some massage providers (such as the Wellness Hotel Klosterbräu in Seefeld) only offer massage treatments in general and are paid for by the minute. The therapist then searches with the “customer” for what appears to be the most beneficial at the moment.

Don't just think about your legs - also think about your back

However, you can definitely focus on the body region: Besides the legs, which triathletes usually think of first when it comes to massage, there are other areas that can be done good - especially the back and neck, of course. Stiffness, tension and shortening are particularly common there, against which manual techniques from physiotherapy, among other things, can generally help.

Strictly speaking, it is no longer a question of massages, not even varieties or subspecies of it. With the exception of the Thai massage (sometimes also referred to as Nuad Thai), which is a special tip for triathletes.

Extra tip: Thai massage

It works more from the joints than the muscles. It is also practical that you keep your clothes on, usually not being oiled, although there are sometimes Thai massages with aromatic oil, and not just lying down. Typical moves include pulling your arms up and back on your knees, as well as lifting one leg against the resistance of the other - this stretches and opens, for example, the often shortened backs of the legs and the hip flexors. It is also good that completely different movement patterns and directions come in than the triathletes usually do.

Many stretching and stretching positions are similar to yoga, from which Thai massage also emerged. That's why some call it "passive yoga" (practical for lazy people, but not always painless! Our own test has shown that it can be quite painful in some places and in some postures to feel your tension and shortening so clearly) . The Thai treatment is accompanied or prepared by powerful grips that target reflex zones, among other things.

And if there is no one on hand to help? Of course, then, it is a way of simply massaging yourself. But that cannot replace an experienced masseur, emphasizes Melanie Paulacher. Self-massage is rather outdated, especially since you can't relax as much because you have to work yourself. And if it hurts, that is, if it were important right now, you stop anyway and don't catch the neuralgic points. With the exception of the now well-known form of self-massage with foam rollers such as the Blackroll. Or with other aids such as small balls, rollers or plastic rollers, which are now part of the repertoire of professionals.

Conclusion: From Ayurveda to Thai to Zen - in the end it doesn't matter what name the massage or treatment has. The main thing is that the team of masseur and athlete go well together, and that massages are regularly included in the training program as an important balance.

Tags: health, pain

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