What happens to your body during a massage and why is it beneficial to you?

Massage helps return muscles to a relaxed state and has been used by cyclists since the early 1900’s to improve performance. As it turns out, it is beneficial to more than just your muscles.

Sports massage is a manual systematic manipulation of the soft tissue of the body which realigns your muscle fibers to improve blood flow, muscle function and nutrient delivery. It has been used by cyclists for the better part of a century to improve performance. Whether you are a seasoned rider or a newbie, the repetitive motions involved with riding a bike will result in specific muscles and muscle groups tightening up and becoming painful. If left untreated, this tension in the overused muscle compounds and begins to spread throughout the body which will impede performance gains and potentially lead to injuries.


The massage therapist will always rub the muscles upwards and towards the heart which squeezes carbon dioxide-rich blood to the heart and lungs. From here it is cleaned or filtered and returns to the muscles as oxygen-rich blood. This process is something the body does on it’s own, but a massage merely assists and speeds things up.

A rider gets a massage at the end of a long day during stage 2 of the 2012 Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike stage race held from Robertson Primary School in Robertson, South Africa on the 27 March 2012..Photo by Karin Schermbrucker
During multi-day events like the ABSA Cape Epic a daily massage is highly beneficial to optimize recovery. | IMAGE: Karin Schermbrucker / Cape Epic.


Massage has many beneficial effects for cyclists. It can be used as post-ride recovery, pre-ride muscle stimulation, mid-ride relief and as rehabilitation. A regular sports massage by a qualified sports therapist is highly beneficial to keep muscle fibers correctly aligned, improve blood flow, decrease lactic acid, reduce toxin build-up, reduce pain, decrease the risk of injury and improve cellular metabolism. Your range of motion, blood pressure levels and heart rate will also benefit.

The body might be the biggest benefactor of regular massage but many athletes feel the psychological benefits of sports massage contribute to performance gains too. The reports of improved moods, a general feeling of well-being and sharper mind experienced from a sports massage create the ideal platform for athletes to improve motivation and boost training efforts.


Professional riders typically have many massage sessions per week. For semi-pro and recreational riders the benefits of a regular maintenance program every 4 weeks or so are plenty. Additionally, a deeper massage around 3 days before a big event will allow sufficient time for the body to recover and have you in good racing condition.

The possible side effects of a sports massage are a bit of tenderness and some stiffness for 24 to 48 hours. If you are seeking relief from tense or painful muscles and could do with the positive spinoff of some general relaxation, then a sports massage from a qualified sports therapist may be just what you need.

| IMAGES: ABSA Cape Epic & Pexels |

| REFERENCES: National Center for Biotechnology Information & International Journal of Neuroscience |