From the most serious cyclists to the occasional pedaller, every rider who has spent a decent amount of time on their bike will have experienced the horror that is cramp.
You can stretch, warm-up, and cool-down as much as you want; sometimes, you just can't avoid it after a long day in the saddle. Your quads and glutes start tightening up, spasms set in, and then pain… lots of pain.
Old school athletes will spout the same tired old tricks; eat a banana, make sure you’re hydrated, drink some saltwater, but these tips aren't a guaranteed fix.
We understand human biology more now, and paired with huge innovations in technology, we can do more to prevent cramps, enabling you to enjoy your ride without fear.
For a long time, one of the best ways to stop cramps was through firm sports massage applied to the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. This definitely works, but up until now, it has been impractical. Unless you were lucky enough to have someone trained in sports massage along for the ride, you couldn't take advantage of the benefits of sports massage.
Luckily, modern cyclists have more options at their disposal. A new technology that utilizes the power of massage without the need for a masseuse.
This technology? The portable massage gun.
So what is this technology? Is it worth investing in? How does it work?
In this article, we will cover:
- What is the Massage Gun?
- What is Riders Cramp?
- How to Prevent Riders Cramp Naturally
- The Magic of the Massage Gun
- Better Sleep and Its Importance for Performance
What is the Massage Gun?
A massage gun is a small handheld device comprised of a moving head, motor, and handle to hold. You grab the handle, turn the machine on, and the head moves up and down in a percussive manner. When you hold the head to your muscles, it provides a percussive massage, similar to traditional massage but without the need for a masseuse.
Now, the benefits of massage guns are numerous. Outside of their benefits for cyclists, they’ve been proven to speed up recovery times, reduce DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), and increase blood flow.
Even more incredibly, regular massage therapy has even been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in occupational workers. (1)
This, in turn, reduces insomnia and improves sleep quality through the management of cortisol production. So, besides their use for cyclists, any athlete will benefit from owning a massage gun.
Now, let's look at their usefulness for riders' cramps, starting with what cramps actually are.
What is Riders Cramp?
Muscle cramps happen when your muscles begin to spasm and contract involuntarily, causing immediate and serious pain in the area. Cramps are relatively harmless, but they are debilitating, and when they happen to cyclists mid-ride, it can be very difficult to carry on riding until they have begun to pass.
Cramps can happen for a variety of reasons, and unfortunately, many of them apply to cyclists who spend long periods of time on their bikes. Cramps can happen because you have held a position too long through the poor circulation of blood, dehydration, or electrolyte depletion. Bananas contain magnesium, a crucial electrolyte.
Cramps can also occur due to the compression of nerves, like when you are hunched over in the saddle on a cold day.
How to Prevent Riders Cramp Naturally
The old advice still stands when it comes to preventing riders' cramps. It’s important to make sure you’re hydrated during your rides, to stretch before and after, and to ensure you’re getting high enough levels of electrolytes.
The Magic of the Massage Gun
The Pro Massage Gun is incredible at preventing and reducing cramps, and with its small profile and long battery life, we recommend that someone in the riding party carries one at least.
One of the main causes of cramps is poor circulation of blood flow. One of the major benefits of regular massage gun therapy is improved circulation around the body. This means that using a massage gun regularly is sure to help prevent cramps.
When cramps strike mid-ride, a strong percussion massage can stop them dead in their tracks. This makes a massage gun a handy tool to have when riding in a group, and a lifesaver for those who like to ride alone and don’t have a friend to help massage their cramped muscles mid-ride.
Finally, regular riders may experience something called DOMS. DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and is the pain that you feel several days after a hard ride or a heavy gym session.
DOMS occurs because of tiny tears in your muscles you gain through exercise. As they begin to heal and the tears begin to fill up with new muscle fibers, the muscles feel tender and painful. This can stop you from working out again or riding again until the pain is gone.
In one emerging study, the researchers found that regular use of a percussion-based massager drastically reduced the pain associated with DOMS. This means less pain in the days following a long, high-endurance ride and quicker recovery. (2)
Better Sleep and Its Importance for Performance
One last reason why a massage gun is an incredible bit of kit for a cyclist is its relation to sleep quality.
During our deep sleep, our body does most of its repairing, meaning our sleep is crucial if we want to improve performance. Then you have the REM sleep stage, a stage where we lock in everything we’ve learned. Without a good level of REM sleep, we can’t learn and advance from our experiences.
In addition, our body does most of our healing and muscle building during sleep, especially during deep and REM sleep. Sleep is anabolic, which means it promotes the biosynthesis of complex molecules, such as proteins.
Studies have shown that the use of massage, paired with other sleep improvement techniques, can improve both deep sleep and REM sleep cycles. (3)
With sleep being so instrumental in our recovery and learning, this is just another reason why massage guns are becoming such a crucial piece of tech in the kit bags of athletes around the world.
So, will a massage gun solve all of your problems, propelling you to the Tour De France overnight?... Probably not.
Will it allow you to train harder, sleep better, recover faster and give you a fighting chance to avoid rider cramps?... 100%
- Nazari F, Mirzamohamadi M, Yousefi H. The effect of massage therapy on occupational stress of Intensive Care Unit nurses. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2015;20(4):508-515.
- Imtiyaz S, Veqar Z, Shareef MY. To Compare the Effect of Vibration Therapy and Massage in Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). J Clin Diagn Res. 2014;8(1):133-136.
- Hachul, H., Oliveira, D. S., Bittencourt, L. R., Andersen, M. L., & Tufik, S. (2014). The beneficial effects of massage therapy for insomnia in postmenopausal women. Sleep science (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 7(2), 114–116.