Q: Pro riders get a massage to rid their legs of residual lactic acid after a ride. So what is the best way to get rid of it at home without assistance?
Paul Caley, York
A: You're right Paul a leg massage after rides does have many benefits but getting rid of lactic acid isn't one of them. The reasons we can all benefit from a post-ride leg massage are:
(1) Aid muscle relaxation - something self-stretching rarely ever achieves
(2) Improve lymphatic blood flow to rid the legs of toxins
(3) Allow the whole body to relax thanks to the 'hands-on' power of touch
Lactate, not lactic acid as it is commonly and wrongly known, is just a temporary store of energy when oxygen is at less than totally optimal levels. For instance; you go hard up a hill, your breathing and oxygen transfer reach a point where some of the energy has to come from anaerobic sources (these can go ahead without oxygen). Lactate is produced but it's other metabolic waste that's around at the same time that actually causes the pain you feel.
When you ease off and slow down energy production you then are able to provide oxygen for the lactate that's still circulating in the muscles and blood stream to be converted for immediate energy or into glucose/glycogen.
So massage is great for leg efficiency, recovery and reducing injury prone areas like tight hamstrings, lower back or neck/ shoulders. If you don't have a masseuse or willing partner on hand you can give yourself a leg massage without too much difficulty. For a good DIY massage oil, try mixing baby oil, camphor oil, rubbing alcohol and capsicum. You can experiment with various aromatherapy oils or try a commercial product such as Kool'n'Fit sports conditioner or Physio Sport massage oil. Concentrate on the ankle, calfs, knee, quads, hamstrings, buttocks and lower back during self-massage. When seeing a professional talk with them and work out between you what are the most relevant areas.
Another good way to aid leg recovery is to jump in the shower and alternately shower your legs with warm and then cold water for a few minutes at a time.