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We are probably all aware of how receiving a massage can do wonders for alleviating sore muscles in our body or aiding us during a period of recovery. But what’s relatively unknown is how exactly the experience of a massage impacts our brain. From the psychological side effects of a massage to the production of the chemicals that alter our moods, there are many overlooked advantages massage can provide our brains with. Take a look at how your massages may actually be boosting your brain power:
While we often think of exercise as the primary way to strengthen our muscles, working out our brains can have just as much impact on improving muscle coordination as lifting weights. As researchers from the University of Minnesota report, massage therapy helps to relax our muscle tissue, while also reducing nerve compression in the body. When nerves are not compressed, they’re able to function more efficiently, which means they can move faster when it comes to sending massages from the brain to the rest of the body. As connections between the brain and our nerves improve, so does our overall function of other organs and muscles.
Whether you’re feeling excited or fatigued, your emotions are more based on neurotransmitter activity rather than the scenarios life presents you with. One of the more unknown ways massage therapy can affect our bodies is by stimulating the production of our neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals within the brain in charge of our emotions. A study published by the National Institutes of Health analyzed how massage therapy affected the key neurotransmitters in our brain: cortisol and serotonin. Cortisol is often referred to as the body’s stress hormone, and when too much of it is produced, you can feel more anxious, experience impaired cognitive performance or elevate your blood pressure, according to AdrenalFatigue.org. Serotonin, on the other hand, is a neurotransmitter that can impact everything from mood, sleep and arousal to appetite, and not producing enough of it can lead to irritable moods or even depression.
The results of the study indicated that massage therapy was able to positively impact the production of both of these neurotransmitters. The researchers noted that the average participant experienced decreases of cortisol at an average of 31 percent, while serotonin increased by an average of 28 percent. These results help support the facts that massage therapy can do wonders for not only decreasing stress and improving mood, but also illustrate the vast effects this practice can have upon our brains.
In a similar function to neurotransmitters, neurohormones are responsible for releasing cells into our body that can influence the way we feel. According to researchers from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, massages can also stimulate our body’s production of neurohormones, which can have a beneficial effect upon our brain. Dopamine is a specific neurohormone that can directly influence our happiness and enthusiasm, and massage has also been found to elevate levels of dopamine. All of these side effects of massage are what can help lead to a healthier and happier brain.
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Endurance athletes who take part in marathons, triathlons or century bike rides typically have fitness goals of strength and stamina. Your body needs to be strong enough to carry you long distances, and it needs to have the proper training in order to function for extended periods of time.
Before a race it’s crucial to plan a training program to prepare, and most of this will include running or cycling through intervals of faster and slower speeds, up and down hills and longer and shorter distances. It should also include cross training with strength exercises and core workouts such as Pilates for total body training.
Another factor that should be included in a pre-race program is athletic recovery and stretching. Whether you’re a new or seasoned endurance athlete, you’ll be putting your body through more intense challenges, which is sure to leave you with sore muscles from time to time, but it can also increase your risk of injury. To prevent getting hurt and having a setback, you need to take the proper precautions, which include stretching and massage.
A century bike ride will take you 100 miles, and it will certainly test your mental and physical prowess. This may seem like a lofty goal, but it’s certainly an achievable one that many endurance cyclists aspire to complete.
Being able to bike 100 miles requires serious commitment, dedication, planning and training. Once you decide to take part in a century ride, you need to starting working at least eight weeks beforehand to prepare your mind and body for the challenge ahead. Your training program should consist of long and short rides as well as intervals of different speeds, resistance levels, terrain and hills. It’s also a good idea to cross training with weight lifting to strengthen your muscles and exercises such as Pilates that provide stretching and improve posture.
Another key component is nutrition. Your body won’t be able to last long if it is not being fueled properly. Even slight dehydration can completely zap your energy levels and cause sore musclesand cramps. If this does happen, giving your muscles a massage can help. Additionally, eating the right amount of carbohydrates and fats is needed to fuel your muscles and provide you with the nutrients to keep you going mile after mile. You’ll certainly want to pack snacks to stop and eat during your ride to replenish fuel sources, curb hunger pangs and boost energy. Remember not to pack any foods that are too heavy or hard to transport. A muffin may sound delicious, but it can be messy to eat. Also, be sure not to try any new foods in case it affects your stomach negatively and you have to stop mid-race.
Here are some tasty, helpful snack options to pack for your century ride:
Whether you’re preparing for a cycling race, training for a triathlon or simply appreciate the exhilarating cardio workout you get from riding, your body (the lower half in particular) is certainly being challenged.
Most of your focus will be on the meat of your training – developing programs for each ride to incorporate different terrain, speeds, hills and other aspects of riding itself. But it’s also important to remember that your training doesn’t stop once your session ends. In fact, time spent after you hop off your bike is just as important as time spent on the saddle. Cooling down and taking part in athletic recovery reduces your risk of sore muscles and injuries, which can sideline you and set you back in your schedule. This is especially problematic if you are on a deadline for a race.
After each bike ride you should be taking the time to stretch out your muscles and allow your mind and body to return to their resting states. It’s also useful to incorporate self massage into your routine each week, especially after an intense ride. Massage will help loosen up muscles even further, which is important so you don’t create any imbalances.
There are several key muscles you should focus your massager on after a bike ride: