Biking summer away? How massage can help you on or off the roads to increase strength, stamina and decrease recovery time

Fort Collins is a pretty bike friendly town. Maybe one of the friendliest. Many of our clients bike year round, but most everyone really puts on the miles in the summer.

Biking is a great, no-impact, high cardio activity that keeps you in shape, gets you around town and allows you to explore the trails of the foothills. A very versatile sport it can also leave riders with leg, back and neck pain.

In this article we’ll talk about some things to watch out for when you are on your bike, how massage can help you recover faster, ride longer and increase strength.

When you’re on your bike it is important to pay attention to your posture. Making sure you get your bike professionally fit is important whether you are riding to work, going to meet some friends in Old Town or hitting the road for a couple of hours. Mountain biking is a much more dynamic sport, posture is still important, but because your center of gravity is changing and your moving from being hovered over the seat to standing, posture isn’t as crucial, although there are some things that you want to be aware of.

You should have a fairly straight line from the back of your head to your tailbone. If your chest is falling forward or your hips are spilling forward causing you to arch your lower back, you’ll need to address that. Sometimes if your chest is falling forward it can be your handlebar height or the height of your seat. Often, is weak or low functioning back muscles.

When you pull your shoulders back you want to use your lats NOT your rhomboids. To do this think of pulling your shoulder blades down towards your hip bones, when you do this you should feel your chest open and your shoulders naturally come back. This will also straighten your back. You do not want to just pull your shoulder blades together. This does nothing for your shoulders or stabilizing the spine and can cause more arching of the low back, leading to more pain and discomfort in the future.

That will fix your shoulders but if your hips are still spilling forward that is usually due to not engaging your core enough. Imagine a bowl on your belly, think of the muscle engagement it would require to hollow out your core to mirror the shape of that bowl. It’s a slight in and up movement of your core muscles.

Now that we’ve got your posture in line (no pun intended!!) let’s talk about how massage can help the rest of your body. The prime muscle used in biking is your psoas muscle. It’s my favorite muscle because it is the only muscle that connects your torso to your legs. There are muscles that connect your torso to your pelvis and your pelvis to your legs, but only one, the mighty psoas, that connects your torso to your legs.

The psoas attaches at the front of your spine just behind your belly button (or there about), from there it moves forward and down, crossing over your pelvis and attaching to the inside of the femur bone (see pictures here).

The psoas is a complex muscle, it is categorized as a deep back muscle, a deep core muscle, a hip flexor and a trunk stabilizer. These are all true, and in biking performs all of these functions. That is why your therapist will ask (or should ask) what causes the pain, or where you feel the pain the most as this will start to indicate what role it is struggling to perform.

When the psoas is weak or not performing well, you’ll lose power on your up stroke, you’ll be relying only on your quads to bring the pedal up. It may even be sore or painful on the down stroke as you are stretching the psoas on each down stroke. You may also have a harder time correcting the forward pelvic tilt or “spilling” of the pelvic bowl as the psoas is tight, bringing the front of the spine closer to your femurs.

After the psoas, the quads and hamstrings are the next group of muscles your massage therapist can help with. Your quads will help your hip with your up stroke, bringing your foot and the pedal up as well as extending the knee on your down stroke. The hamstrings balance out the quads and bend the knee on the up stroke and extend or straighten the hip on the down stroke. Again, why it’s important for your massage therapist to be asking questions about when you’re feeling pain to understand exactly where the misfire happens.

Finally, although not dynamically active, the neck, shoulder and upper back can take quite a beating from being on the bike. A good fit can take away a lot of the stress off the upper body as will engaging the lats and core. Still, making sure your shoulders are relaxed and not in your ears, that your arms are engaged and you’re not sinking into them will also help.

Massage can help to address trigger points, adhesions, facial restrictions and increase blood flow to these areas helping to reduce pain, increase strength and flexibility.

Massage can do a lot for cyclists. Your massage therapist can help to address potential problem areas before they become full-blown injuries. Massage can help you recover faster so you can get back out on your bike sooner with more endurance and power. Massage can also help to heal injured areas quicker, so you spend less time on the bench so to speak.

Your Discover Massage team is trained to help you figure out that “my body is doing this weird thing when I…..” or the “it hurts, but only when I…”. The massage therapists at Discover Massage are trained to look at the whole picture, not just your area of pain. Why does that matter to you? Because you’ll see long-lasting results sooner and keep pain away longer than with other massages.

Ready to book a massage today and enjoy being on your bike even more? Click here to schedule.