Self Massage as a Tool for Recovery

You have followed all the suggested post ride recovery procedures such as stretching, glycogen restoration, hydration, and more but your legs still feel tired and heavy post training. As a result of intense exercise, there is an accumulation of fluids caused by microscopic tearing of the muscles. These fluids are naturally removed through blood circulation, but the process can be accelerated through massage. While it is beneficial to visit a massage therapist periodically, you will see larger gains through daily self- massage. It’s easy and requires only a few minutes.

You will need to learn a few basic massage strokes:

  1. Gliding – Used to warm up skin in preparation for deeper massage. Long, gliding, light pressure strokes.
  2. Squeezing – Warms muscles and begins increasing blood flow. Light squeezing of each muscle group.
  3. Press and Glide – Increases blood flow and flushes out toxins. Similar to gliding but with deeper pressure.

Self-massage is most effective when done within 48 hours of a training session.  I find it easiest done immediately after showering.

Begin by elevating your legs against a wall. Liberally apply a form of lubricant such as massage oil, baby oil, or lotion to the entire leg. Start at the base of ankles with the gliding stroke. Work past calves, back of knees, hamstrings, and glutes. Repeat to front of leg. Always stroke towards the heart to help with circulation.

Repeat the process, this time squeezing each muscle group, and then move on to the press and glide stroke. Apply just enough pressure so there is only slight discomfort, never press to the point of pain. Spend about 10 minutes massaging each leg. Your arms will likely begin to fatigue before 10 minutes, give them a rest periodically if need be.

You should experience improvements in recovery shortly after beginning a self-massage routine. Studies have shown that massage can decrease delayed onset muscle soreness by up to 30%.  Remember, it is usually small improvements that tend to bring about large gains in performance!

3 comments on “Self Massage as a Tool for Recovery
  1. Christopher Kelly says:

    How does massage compare with the use of a foam roller? Should I use the foam roller right after riding rather first thing in the morning as I currently do?

  2. Erin Disterheft says:

    Hi Christopher,
    Foam rollers are a convenient way to perform self massage. Self massage can be performed either by hand, foam rollers, or a combination of both. For the timing of massage, the closer it’s performed prior to completing a workout, the more effective it will be. The purpose of massage is to increase circulation and remove waste products accumulated during exercise. The sooner this is done, the better. You can continue using the foam roller in the morning as well, but add a session immediately following your rides.

  3. Christopher Kelly says:

    I’ve only just noticed your reply, thanks Erin!