Massage for the Triathlete

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Our low cost clinic therapist Sarah talks about finding massage as a marathon runner and triathlete and how it helped her overcome some niggles on her way to competing in an Ironman-distance triathlon in 2013.

I’ve always loved sport and when I discovered massage in my early twenties, it was perhaps inevitable that I would end up training as a sports and remedial massage therapist. I first experienced sports massage after running my first marathon and I was amazed at how quickly my legs seemed to recover. I thought that maybe it was just a coincidence, but didn’t have one after my second marathon and really noticed the difference.

Several marathons later, I was enticed into the triathlon world by a friend. She asked me to do a novice race with her and that was it; I was hooked. Meanwhile, I continued to have sports massage to help with my niggles and keep on top of any muscle tightness.

Muscular Effects of Triathlon Training

TriathleteTraining for three sports at the same time can take its toll on your body, especially if you get talked into ‘going long’ by your tri mates.

Swimming front crawl can lead to tight chest muscles, lats, and serratus anterior, not to mention rotator cuff. This can result in rounded shoulders and make you more prone to shoulder injuries.

Cycling can create tension in the hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, and iliotibial bands (ITBs). Tension in those areas can lead to knee, hip and lower back pain.

Running also causes tension in the calves, shins, and achilles problems, as well as similar issues to cycling by way of quads, ITBs and hip flexors.

In addition, because the training schedule for triathlon (especially Ironman distance) is training for a long-haul cycle, swim and run simultaneously it is easy to overtrain and hard to fit in sufficient rest time, necessary for the body to recover and get back to optimal capacity.

Biomechanics is also an issue – my main issue was (I thought) in my knee, but turned out to have nothing to do with my knee at all. I had a problem common to many runners and cyclists, especially those who spend a lot of their working days sitting (before sports massage I too had a desk job).

My hip flexors were very tight and my glutes weren’t functioning correctly. My outer quads and ITBs were overworking to compensate for my inactive glutes, pulling the kneecap out of its correct alignment and causing it to track incorrectly. The result for me was inflammation and knee pain. Tight quads and hip flexors can also affect the alignment of the pelvis, causing it to tilt forwards and result in lower back pain (which I have also suffered).

How Sports Massage Can Help

SwimmingIn a session, we do some basic postural assessments and movement tests along with a case history to get an idea of where your potential problems are. During the massage, we will let you know where you have an excess of tension, or possibly where it is indicated that something’s not being utilised effectively. We conclude with some advice regarding an exercise and/or stretch that you can use to help yourself between sessions.

A regular massage (fortnightly to monthly works well for most people) during your training will help you keep an eye on any developing muscle imbalances and therefore hopefully prevent injuries that can sometimes result from those imbalances. If you’ve had an injury we would work towards preventing re-occurrence by regularly checking the associated muscles.

Research (and some of our clients’ responses) also indicates that sports massage aids in improving muscle recovery following intensive exercise and reduces delayed-onset muscles soreness (DOMs).

When I was having regular sports massage with my training, I saw benefits in terms of how quickly I recovered from training sessions. I also noticed that the niggles in my knee, quad, and lower back lessened. In addition, the education for me in terms of how my body worked and ways I could keep on top of it myself supported my training significantly.

So, what are you waiting for? Come and find out how a sports and remedial massage can benefit you. It’s made a big difference to my life and I would love it to do the same for you.

Would you like more information about sports massage and triathlon training? Call us on 020 8185 7364 or email

Sarah is available at our low cost clinic on Wednesdays and Thursdays 8:30-14:30 or our one low cost Sunday per month until the end of October. You can book online with her via our online booking page.

Note: Sports massage won’t prevent every injury or fix every problem. In some cases we may feel you’ll be better served seeing a physio, osteopath, personal trainer or your doctor either instead of or alongside sports massage, and will advise you if that is the case on an individual basis.

Post by Sarah Bruce-Green with Katherine Creighton Crook

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