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Sore muscles can put a damper on anyone. From athletes second-guessing performing their routine workout to the average employee considering a day off work, muscle pain is a universal ailment that not only impairs mobility, but hurts motivation as well. There are many potential causes for muscle soreness, ranging from over-exercising to dehydration, but there is one factor that is often overlooked as a primary culprit. Poor blood circulation is recognized by the National Institutes of Health as a common cause of sore muscles, especially within the lower body. Inadequate blood flow is a serious condition, and if you’re frequently experiencing muscle soreness, you should consider getting checked out to see if your blood circulation is an issue.
It’s important to understand that poor blood circulation can mean more than just the occasional muscle discomfort. According to Poorciculation.org, there are a variety of potential symptomsproduced by inefficient blood flow, ranging from experiences of numbness to fainting and dry spells to potential memory loss. Muscle soreness is one of the main ways your body can notify you that your blood circulation isn’t where it needs to be. If you’re someone who frequently lifts weights or runs long distances, it’s common to withstand a few sore muscles here and there, but extended episodes of pain may require a professional medical opinion.
More often than not, poor blood flow is the result of unhealthy habits. Everything from frequent trips to the fast food drive thru to being a regular smoker can add up to negatively impacting your blood circulation, especially if you’re also overweight. Studies have indicated that lack of exercise is also one of the more common factors that leads to unhealthy blood flow, which is why exercising has an essential role in maintaining circulation.
While there are many reported benefits that massage therapy can provide people with a variety of ailments, increasing blood flow is one of the most commonly recognized advantages. Researchers from the University of Minnesota cite massage therapy as an excellent method for improving blood and lymph circulation. This is because positive manipulation of muscle tissue helps trigger increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients into the bloodstream. This in turn not only speeds up blood circulation, but also means that muscles are now getting adequate oxygen and nutrients as well, eliminating pain. Of course, receiving a massage is one of the easiest ways to ease tension in sore muscles, which is why many health professionals regard massage therapy as a potential form of alternative treatment for both of these conditions.
A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago explored the relationship between massage therapy and blood circulation. The study featured a number of healthy subjects who were submitted to extensive periods of exercise, until they began reporting soreness in their leg muscles. After finishing the workout, half of the participants would then be provided with traditional Swedish massages on their legs, while the others would not.
After the end of the workout, all subjects were required to report their muscle pain from a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being no pain and 10 being unbearable discomfort. The group that received massages reported no muscle soreness 90 minutes after receiving their massage therapy. The other group reported lasting pain that stayed with them up to 24 hours after their workout.
The main reason for lasting pain after a hard workout is because those who experience any variation of exercise-induced muscle injury will also endure an overall reduction to their blood flow. When sore tissues are manipulated through massage therapy, the stimulation in oxygen and nutrients to the source of discomfort is what boosts blood circulation, hence pain relief.
Dr. Nina Cherie Franklin, a researcher at UIC and lead author of the study, believes that her team’s research helps shed more light upon the overall health benefits that massage therapy can provide for athletes and non-exercisers alike.
“Our study validates the value of massage in exercise and injury, which has been previously recognized but based on minimal data,” Franklin said in a statement. “It also suggests the value of massage outside of the context of exercise. We believe that massage is really changing physiology in a positive way. This is not just blood flow speeds–this is actually a vascular response.”
Of course, it’s important to note that it doesn’t take enrolling in weekly massage classes to experience any blood circulation benefits. Keeping a personal massager at home for whenever you begin to feel the effects of muscle soreness may be what can keep you away from the ice pack and off the couch. A quick 10 minute self massaging session could help enhance your blood circulation, leaving you refreshed and energized the next day.
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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: