Though they all look the same to the untrained eye, triathletes get several different types of massages. The thorough maintenance massage is for the training period. This is a deep-pressure massage that uses all the main strokes (see sidebar) and is good for working on trigger points. It can last between 30 and 90 minutes, ideally done once or twice a week for a triathlete.
Experts sternly warn against getting a comprehensive maintenance massage on the day of a triathlon. Your body needs time to adjust before and after the competition. For the big day, however, it's perfectly fine -- and highly advised -- to have a warm-up massage and cool-down massage.
Taking the time for a 20-minute warm-up massage about half an hour before a triathlon will do wonders. The strokes should be relatively light and painless, but can help loosen tight muscles and invigorate your whole body. Focus on the legs, upper and lower back, and shoulders and neck because of their importance in the triathlon.
The post-event cool-down massage will ease muscle tension and soreness as well as hasten recovery in general. As we discussed earlier, the flushing of blood and fresh nutrients to the muscles will help rid them of metabolic waste. The cool-down massage can be longer and deeper than the warm-up massage. However, make sure not to massage any new injuries. The athlete should provide feedback to let the masseuse know of more sensitive and painful areas.
Because you'll probably have to cough up between 50 and 100 dollars for a thorough maintenance massage, you might not be able to afford them as often as you'd like. Instead, experts say a good substitute is the self-massage.
Massaging yourself isn't hard with the right toys, such as a foam roller, which can be used to work on areas important to the triathlon, including the legs, back and neck. Using the floor, you can press your weight against the roller and bring it back and forth for a muscle massage. Many triathletes like to use the foam roller for the iliotibial (IT) band, running the roller on the floor along the outer thigh from the hip. Some experts also recommend a massage stick for rolling on calves, hamstrings and quadriceps.
We hope we've given you enough encouragement (or excuses) to include a proper massage routine in your triathlon training.