A targeted sports massage for a triathlete can work on the muscles primarily used in the competition. This will include the back, neck and shoulders for swimming, and the lower back for cycling and running. Finally, it should work on the legs for all three events.
A proper massage will leave you feeling better, though you may not know why. How can simply rubbing and putting pressure on muscles actually benefit your body and performance in a triathlon?
One of the primary benefits of a sports massage is that it boosts blood circulation in areas near the skin that may not get as much circulation normally. Working a muscle will momentarily push blood out of an area, and then allow blood to rush back in with fresh nutrients like oxygen. You can see this process at work: When you put pressure on skin, it pales as blood rushes out, while releasing pressure makes it redden as blood rushes back. When done well, this massaging process will also help your body pump blood to the heart, while pushing metabolic wastes (like lactic acid) out of your system. One sports massage technique involves stroking in the direction of the heart on limbs to best assist circulation.
Perhaps most important is how a massage can help a triathlete's recovery. An experienced massage therapist working closely with a triathlete can actually help speed up injury rehabilitation. This largely has to do with how the nutrients introduced by improved circulation help repair tissue.
A masseuse can also relieve pain through sports massage by working on trigger points, which are spots where the muscle is especially tight and sensitive. The location of these depend on the individual athlete and his or her training routine. By stretching muscles and loosening tissues, massage can relieve tightness and get rid of spasms. The process also improves flexibility and helps reduce the potential of future injuries. This can be a great relief for a training routine that puts strain on particular spots in your body.
But apart from these physiological advantages, don't underestimate the psychological advantages of massage. Physical relief and relaxation helps concentration. And you can bet that you'll perform better when your body is more attuned and focused on the competition.