TdF '11 Part 4 - Pre & Post-Race Advice from a Massage Therapist

By Peg Labiuk | 11/09/11
TdF '11 Part 4 - Pre & Post-Race Advice from a Massage Therapist

Perfecto Insecto, “massage!” May 7, 2011 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

After viewing Tour de France coverage, our e-mail newsletter reader Bill Grandi posed four curious questions. With each being so different, our coaches have decided to answer them in a series. This is his last question in the series, and was answered by Peg Labiuk (nee Peggy Maass), a colleague of Marilyn Trout, and a certified NCCP level 3 coach with a career in international road and track racing. She is a World Championship medalist, World Record holder, U.S. Olympic Team member, former British national team coach and Kreb's Cycle co-founder (British Columbia, Canada).

'11 Tour de France Part 4: Pre/During/Post-Race Advice from a Massage Therapist


I can't remember what Stage it was but it was when Sanchez won the stage after being in the breakaway with Tom Voekler. At one point, he was coasting downhill and shaking his thighs. Phil (Liggett) said it was to get the lactic acid out of his muscles. I understand the value of massage afterwards (towards the heart right?), but is there really value in what Sanchez was doing? What else can be done while riding to help in the lactic acid department? Am I correct that massage before a race is away from the heart (for circulation) and afterwards toward the heart (lactic acid distribution)?



Who better to ask than my exceptional massage therapist, Alain Schmitz, who is a cyclist to boot! I posed this question to him and here's a synopsis of what he had to say:

"Yes I think there is value in what Sanchez was doing. For a cyclist, especially a road cyclist, you are at times in a very compact, aerodynamic, or stagnate position for long periods. So when you see a rider standing up or stretching their quads, shaking their legs out, they are essentially allowing more (oxygenated blood) to flow into the cells. This will also aid the clearing out of metabolic wastes, ultimately improving the athlete's lactate threshold. From what I understand about lactic acid, it is essential in our bodies as a fuel burning source, so long as we have the perfect balance of oxygen:lactate within our muscle fibers. I believe that balance point is your LactateThreshold. A chemical process converting lactate to energy is needed for our muscles to recover. Read the article So, take any opportunity to move around and stretch out while on a long ride.

The reason athletes get massage after an event is to work with the circulatory system. Massage assists blood flow towards the heart which in turn brings more oxygen, nutrient rich blood back to the muscles. It also flushes out the energy wastes created in the tissues, one of which would be lactic acid. Massage also works on the nervous system to calm and soothe. We work the proprioceptors (sensory nerve endings), which are located in the muscle bellies and musculo- tendon junctions. Massage stimulates the lymphatic system to aid remaining wastes that are not taken care of by the circulatory system to be dispersed.

When you are talking pre-race massage you don't want to think necessarily about towards the heart or away from the heart but what is going to tonify the muscle. You want the tissue stimulated, full of blood and ready for action. The types of movements you want in this case are almost like slapping or "tapotement" motions that tone and stimulate circulation to the muscles to prepare them for what lies ahead. You don't want to calm and sooth the nervous system, you want to wake it up so it is ready for action. Pre-race massage ideally takes 10-15 minutes, and is done 10-20 minutes prior to race time."

Wow, thanks for that Alain. If any of you are ever in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and want to treat yourselves to the best massage in the West, request Alain at the Willow Stream Spa at the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Coach Peg

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