With every detail of diet and training already in place, acupuncture was used as the means to gain an edge in performance. Throughout the tour, the team received acupuncture treatments twice per day, usually in the morning before the race (to enhance performance) and at night in the hotel before they went to sleep (to enhance recovery). The treatment was designed to promote recovery and relaxation of their muscles, which is believed to be an important factor contributing to their victory (1).
In a recent study, The Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine released a study on acupuncture and cycling. The researchers at the University of Alberta, Faculty of Rehabilitation established the positive effects of acupuncture in 20km cycling performance. In the research, 20 male cyclists from age 18 to 30 were selected from students, and the general public. They were randomly divided into three groups (A. Acupuncture group, B. Sham acupuncture group, C. No treatment group) to receive their specific treatments before the tests. They were asked to cycle 20km as fast as possible for three times a week. The conclusion; the acupuncture group was found to place higher in a rating of the “perceived exertion scale” (RPE). The research demonstrated that acupuncture improved RPE and this lead to less exercise-induced pain in the lower extremity, as well as a faster record time (2).
So how does acupuncture make you a faster and stronger cyclist?
In acupuncture, being in a good state of well-being requires one to be balanced, and this is achieved by energy or Qi that runs freely through our channels or meridians. The channels communicate to each other helping blood circulation and energy flow (3).
Imbalance occurs when the channels are blocked due to many reasons such as stress, injury or the overuse of joints and muscles. When this balance is disrupted it leads to pain, discomfort, and illness, slowing down recovery and metabolism (3).
Acupuncture supports our natural healing system by influencing the flow of energy. By stimulating specific points along the meridians, it removes blockages that may be in the channel and restores communication within the body (4). “Better Qi flow – makes your bike go!”
In the views of western medicine, acupuncture promotes blood circulation and regulates the vaso-mechanical aspect of the nervous system. Cyclists will be able to enjoy improved exertion of power on the pedal as locked joints and tight muscles become loose and free movement is restored as a result (5).
The benefits are not exclusive to just the muscles and joints, Acupuncture can deal with other health issues such as sleeping and digestion which can impact performance and energy. For example, acupuncture can support energy and endurance issues by balancing the lung, liver or kidney functions (6). Acupuncture is a great aid in improving cycling performance and energy and as such it is well worth considering as part of the training regimen.
1.The Tour is Coming: How Acupuncture Helps Cyclists Win! – Boulder Sports Acupuncture – Boulder, CO [Internet]. Boulder Sports Acupuncture. 2016 [cited 27 January 2017]. Available from: http://www.bouldersportsacupuncture.com/news-and-information/tour-coming-acupuncture-helps-cyclists-win/
2. Dhillon S. The Acute Effect of Acupuncture on 20-km Cycling Performance. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine [Internet]. 2008 [cited 25 January 2017];18(1):76-80. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18185043
3.] P. How Acupuncture Can Relieve Pain and Improve Sleep, Digestion and Emotional Well-being – Division of Center for Integrative Medicine [Internet]. Cim.ucsd.edu. [cited 25 January 2017]. Available from: http://cim.ucsd.edu/clinical-care/acupuncture.shtml
4. Maciocia G. The foundations of Chinese medicine. 1st ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 1989.
5. Wimmer R. Treating Long-Distance Cyclists [Internet]. Acupuncturetoday.com. 2007 [cited 26 January 2017]. Available from: http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=31596
6. Maclean W, Lyttleton J. Clinical handbook of internal medicine: the treatment of disease with traditional Chinese medicine. Vo.1. Lung Kidney Liver Heart. Campbeltown, NSW: University of Western Sydney Macarthur; 1998.