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There seems to be an endless stream of areas that I can invest more time toward in pursuit of that extra “something”. That extra “something” can be in the form of many positive things.

How about a 1% improvement at threshold from drinking beetroot juice?

2 entire watts being saved from a higher hand position on the aero bars?

Or how about quicker recovery time from training sessions? I like the sound of that one!

These are all examples of the termed “marginal gains” that have now filtered down to the Average Joe cyclists. Like me.

It’s hard to see what gains are worth pursuing when my precious time is of the essence. That is something that will never change. However, I have invested time towards some proper tried and tested marginal gains that is worth the hassle to me… They’re almost worth the pain too!



Foam Rolling:

I’ve used a foam roller successfully for many years. Approximately 7 years in fact. I used my foam roller in military scheduled type fashion every night of life when I was running. After moving over to cycling I did not give it the same amount of attention. Running and cycling are very different when it comes to impact on the muscles and joints. Personally I felt there was much less of a reason to worry about foam rolling with cycling as my muscles did not suffer from the general aches I suffered from running. My injury prevention worries went from top priority as a runner to barely a care as a cyclist. 

Trigger Point GRID is the foam roller I have had for the past 7 years. It’s still as good and solid as the day I bought it.

foam-roller

Since August 2018 I have been using my trusty foam roller again and I have definitely seen benefits. I have found that I feel fresher and muscle tightness eases off very quickly on super early morning training rides/commutes. Riding my bike so early in the mornings (0600 most of the time) means I wake up and I am riding pretty soon afterwards with minimal stretching beforehand. Easing the muscles out in the evenings  with the foam roller before heading to bed has helped me feel a lot more human on the bike in the early mornings.

I don’t use the foam roller every night like I did when I was running. I am definitely less militant and I plan to keep it that way. It should remain as a useful tool in the toolbox, not a burdened chore that has to be endured every night of my life. I have actually seen more benefit in terms of muscle soreness reduction when I use the roller on evenings I feel I need to. That is as opposed to rolling every night regardless. That for me seemed to reduce the noticeable benefits.

My stretching routine in the gym is another proper tell tale sign that my muscles are happier also. Tightness in my muscles is noticeably reduced as I stretch before lifting weights/doing core work. I cannot say that I felt my muscles were particularly tight or sore before I re-started foam rolling. That’s clearly because I had become so used to living with tight muscles over a prolonged time. Now that I am back foam rolling regularly I can honestly say the difference is stand out and the time invested is worthwhile.



Stick It!:

As well as my foam roller I also have a stick. It is actually called “The Stick” and I’ve just discovered the version I have is a “sprinter” stick. If there is any one thing in the world I am not, it is a sprinter…. but the Sprinter Stick is working well for me so it’s a non discriminatory stick at least.

The Sprinter Stick has been a friend of mine for the past 7 years also. It’s still as good as the day I purchased it with the only weathering being some roughness on the handle ends…. where the dog had a wee chew!

stick-roller

Routine wise I typically use the Stick after I have finished with the foam roller. I concentrate on my glutes, hamstrings and calves as it allows me to be a lot more precise over smaller areas that I notice are tight when foam rolling.



Massage:

Giving me the most blatant benefit of all is regular sports massage. I’ve started working with a massage therapist that my girlfriend discovered locally and she is amazing!

Angelene is her name and sorting out the mess I get my muscles into is her game.
She is located 8 miles from Inverness. If you are reading this and local to the area I could not recommend her enough. You can find out a bit more on what she does and contact her via her Facebook page here – https://www.facebook.com/rivieramasseuse/

I’ve had regular massage in the past and seen the benefits of it. Especially when I was running competitively at my best. Angelene is simply another step up though. We have established problems in areas I have never known of before and these have absolutely been holding me back over time.

The main issue I have been dealing with is severe tightness and strain in my left groin. It has transpired that a large build up of scar tissue on my left quad is the root cause of this. Over the past 3 sessions, Angi has got me to the point where this is almost rectified, once and for all.

My biggest hope comes from the work she has been doing on my upper and lower back. These are areas I’ve never had time spent on previously and I feel massive release in day to day life from this, never mind when on the bike! The biggest hope I mention here being with regards to my TT bike positioning. Time Trials will be my primary focus for 2019 as I detailed here. Ironing out the problems I have along with the strength and conditioning I have done for my back/core over winter. It is almost inevitable that I will be able to maintain a much stronger/aero position on the TT bike this season than I ever have.

Changing between race, winter, TT & WattBike incurs obvious positional changes all of the time. Factor in lifting weights and doing a lot of core exercises at this time of year. It is no wonder that my back and shoulders will begin to complain. Sitting at a desk all day at work can easily be as much of a contributor here as well. So massage for me is by far the biggest “marginal gain” I can have at my disposal. It might be discovering issues I have but the real positive benefit of that is how they are being dealt with and resolved. To have that peace of mind and to see a continuing improvement in my body is worth a lot more than 10 watts…. Well, maybe not 10 whole watts, but 5 or 6 for sure.