This (slightly long!) blog is a reproduction of the one originally published at: http://balancephysio.com/blog/2011/10/paracyclist-tom-staniford-on-trigger-point-performance-therapy-and-balance-performance/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BalancePerformancePhysiotherapy+%28balance+performance+physiotherapy%29 .
Balance are sponsors and great friends of mine, and this blog featured my own explanations, experiences and thoughts regarding Trigger Point Performance Therapy- a method of home-massage and physical maintenance taught and encouraged by Jonathan and the great people at Balance Performance Physiotherapy in London. The introductory paragraph was written by Jonathan to set the scene. I realise it’s quite a long overall post but has a great deal of information which I hope you might find interesting or useful.
Tom Staniford has been kind enough to shares his thoughts on Trigger Point Performance Therapy and how it has helped him as an elite cyclist.
Tom came in to contact with Balance Performance via one of Europe’s high end cycle specialists based in London’s Covent Garden – Cycle Fit. Our podiatrist Mick Habgood, and cycle specialist physiotherapists got involved to help make the interface between Tom and his bike as pain free and efficient as possible. Mick produced custom fitted and very unique orthotics for Tom’s cycling shoes. After Fran explained Tom’s rare condition I knew that TPT had to be something worth considering. But given the pathology involved and the ongoing pain Tom experiences daily I wasn’t entirely sure how well received my suggestions would be. But it was an absolute pleasure to meet Tom down at Exeter University and some his team there that have been supporting the paracyclist for some time down in Devon with physiotherapy and strength and conditioning. Going through the the Ultimate 6 techniques aiming to reduce the tension in the key areas influencing toms movement quality we soon realised there was something in it for him. My only reservation was on how Tom would feel the next day after the TPT session…..
Below is Tom’s description of his Trigger Point Performance Therapy experiences:
TPT & Balance Performance Physiotherapy
Trigger Point Performance Therapy, you have to admit, is a pretty cool-sounding name for a brand. Especially one which claims the ability to help ‘unlock your body, release your strength, find your inspiration’.
I’ll be completely honest with you and say that in the past my attention-span for peripheral training focus, recovery methods and ‘miracle’ products has been somewhat lacklustre. However, a physio screening and bike fit with new sponsors Cyclefit and their partners Balance Performance in Covent Garden last year threw up some interesting physical feedback- some of which I was already aware of, and some of which I was not.
It was at this point that Jonathan, of Balance Performance, suggested I might benefit from some TPT therapy to address certain physical weaknesses which were holding me back not just on a performance level, but a personal level. I was initially dubious due to my aforementioned laziness/fear/complacency but resolved to give it a go.
This blog aims to pass on some of the thoughts, feelings and observations I’ve collected whilst using Trigger Point Performance Therapy products under Jonathan’s expert guidance. It should be stated from the outset that I’m not a qualified physio, Doctor or healthcare professional. I never have been. I can offer only my own opinions and explanations gleaned through rigorous testing of the products over the last year.
So who am I?
My name is Tom Staniford and I am a UCI C3-classified paracyclist. Last year I rode for British Cycling’s Paracycling Talent Team and Rapha Condor CC. For all of this season and next season I will be riding for Cyclefit in the UK. I am also, following a win in June 2011, the British National Paracycling Criterium Champion.
One of the main reasons I am supported so well by Cyclefit and Balance Performance (apart from my devastating blend of wit, intelligence and charisma), is that I present a fantastic opportunity for these experts to apply their skill to addressing how best to manage, and more importantly overcome, various physiological factors.
I have a rare genetic disorder known as Lipodystrophy. Very little is known about it due to its rarity, and it often presents itself differently in different individuals. My own condition (as yet the only known example of its type) means that I do not store fat subcutaneously (under the skin), yet I can store small amounts on my liver and other internal organs. Low body fat (generally between 2 and 4% on my arms and legs) means I do not have very much in the way of fat stores for endurance, my thermoregulation can be a bit hit-and-miss and I have quite a gaunt appearance.
On the bike, in addition to low fuel stores from fat, I struggle to build muscle due to the lack of immediate fuel under the skin and chronically low testosterone. Fat exists as a fuel source but also as a protective barrier around joints. With no such cushioning available, my muscles have tightened around my joints in order to protect them as best they can- leaving me with markedly poor flexibility. In some cases the lack of protective body fat or muscle has resulted in the partial fusion of bones such as in my wrists and ankles.
The lack of fat on the soles of my feet has also caused over a period of many years the bones the bones to grow crooked and fuse.
The fact I do not store fat subcutaneously has meant that the vast majority of fatty acids and triglycerides I eat from food are either stored on the liver or remain in the blood. This high fat content in my blood has tricked my body into thinking I have Type 2 Diabetes, thus making my metabolism of carbohydrates almost as tricky as my metabolism of fats. As an endurance athlete this presents some interesting fuel source conundrums!
As a diabetic I generally have poor circulation to my extremities (thus also limiting my recovery and muscle (re)growth capabilities) which is exacerbated by the fact that I have no fat stores for thermoregulation and encouraging an even blood flow across all my muscles.
So why TPT?
In a nutshell, because TPT encourages bloodflow. Better bloodflow means I can manage my diabetes better, my muscles receive the nutrients and oxygen they require to work and grow more efficiently. Better bloodflow will encourage the muscle to relax, improving my flexibility, and also work more efficiently when they are required to.
My first TPT session with Jonathan was on a rest day. Placing aside my doubts and any other obligations I had for the afternoon, we settled down to a brief hour-long session. And it hurt a great deal. In order to properly encourage bloodflow and the relaxation of the muscle you need to push them, so it does hurt a bit at first But it’s a strangely enjoyable pain- like a good massage from a proper sports masseur. The pain is not ‘oh my… I’m actually crying, please stop’. It’s more like a focussed pressure which you control and direct to certain key areas of tenderness of soreness. They important thing to remember is that however much or little pressure you apply is entirely up to you. The more you apply (within reason!) the more effective it will be, but everyone has their own threshold.
After the first session, however, I felt fantastic. Relaxed and balanced. Grounded and centred. It’s an odd feeling, as you do not realise the stresses or impostures you build up in your muscles through the routine and repetition of poor movement. However after that first session I did feel noticeably balanced. It was quite nice to just stand still. And just feel. No tight muscles or imbalances needing to be addressed or overcompensated for. To just stand, completely based and grounded and still. To ‘be’. Complete, with no adjustment or rectification necessary.
Following that initial session Jonathan encouraged me to experiment with pressures, the frequency with which I ‘rolled out’, and the timing: before a ride, after a ride, even during a ride. Regardless of what sport(s) you do, or to what level, the following observations may be useful. The best advice I can give is that you conduct your own experiments on your own body in order to analyse how best you can incorporate TPT into your daily lifestyle or training.
I find that more than 2 or 3 ‘full’ TPT workouts (ie- hitting each of the ‘ultimate 6’ zones) a week tends to leave me feeling sluggish and heavy. Like a really good massage, my muscles become so relaxed that they seem to exist in a state of constant sleepiness. This is okay if you enjoy the feeling, have few other obligations, or can afford a longer warm-up but I prefer to keep my muscles feeling a little bit livelier most days.
For the same reason, full TPT workouts before a ride tend to switch my muscles off and make them think ‘its recovery time’ rather than ‘wake up, we’re going training’. Having said that, though, I find that some brief attention to the soleus and calves (key areas where, for me, I build up a lot of tension, stress and inflexibility) 20-30 mins before a ride is worthwhile. The increase in bloodflow is enough to wake up my legs without sending them to sleep, and I find that the relaxation in my lower legs naturally makes my feet relax a little more- improving my warm-up and foot comfort for the ride. I feel the pre-exercise ‘wake-up’ technique is especially good in period of heavy or very regular training.
Similarly, I tend to keep post-ride TPT sessions quite focussed and short- especially if I am training again later in the day or over the following few days- in order to relax them enough to encourage good recovery, but not so much that they switch off entirely and take a long time to feel like they’re working again!
I sleep better with TPT just before bed, but recover better between sessions if I TPT straight after training. This presents you with a bit of a conundrum- and again, it is only through experimentation with your own TPT products and your own body that you can really work out what works for you. It’s perfectly plausible that you may be able to do multiple TPT sessions before and after training, and then another one before bed- but I just can’t handle that.
What works for me, then, is a short and focussed TPT session on either just my lower leg, or on all areas of the Ultimate 6- I choose what to do depending on how I feel after training. This generally helps me loosen up, warm down properly, refresh my mind and also enable me to do any admin or ‘normal life’ things I need to do later in the day.
If training was particularly hard, or my ongoing recovery is suffering due to stress, lack-of-sleep, forgetting a meal, or anything else which may crop up then I will normally do another short, focussed Ultimate 6 session before bed to enable me to sleep better.
I do a slightly longer version of this pre-bed session the evening before every rest/easy day so I can sleep well and my muscles can really switch off and enjoy moving into ‘rest day’ mode.
The most important method of gauging, controlling, and encouraging the Trigger Point Performance Therapy is your breathing. In simple lay-man’s terms, we are manipulating the muscle to encourage a stronger bloodflow of nutrients and oxygen. If you’re not breathing properly, then you’re not really introducing fresh oxygen into the system.
The technique I use is quite simple- long deep, heavy breaths and motions with the TPT products for the ‘full’ ultimate 6 sessions and sessions before or on a rest day. Use shorter, shallower, faster breaths and manipulations for the pre-exercise sessions in order to encourage your muscles to wake up. As I said at the beginning of this blog, I am in no way a qualified expert, but if you’ve ever had access to an oxygen mask or oxygen tent you will note the drowsy/relaxed effect they can give. I liken this ‘dopey’ sensation of oxygen ‘high’ with overdoing the TPT and switching your muscles off- ideal for rest day sessions, but not really what you want immediately prior to training!
I think the best indication of how much benefit Trigger Point Performance Therapy has given me must come from a 3rd party or slightly independent source. My girlfriend Alice is, amongst other things, a pretty good masseuse and used to give me fairly regular leg massages during intense training periods. We agreed that she would not touch my legs during the TPT trial.
After 3 weeks of solely TPT and no leg massages she massaged my legs and, I know it sounds like a tremendous cliché, could not believe the difference in the looseness, flexibility, suppleness and feeling of my muscles- particularly the problem areas of my calves.
I’ve also noticed a marked difference in how my body feels, and I can also actually discern a visual difference in the looseness of my calves.
I’ve noticed my feet (huge problem area) are much happier- with a better blood flow. I’ve noticed that when my Calves/soleus tighten up, the stress passes down the biomechanic chain and affects the comfort of my feet. Focussing on those two key areas with TPT, then, helps reduce pain, improve my posture and encourage performance. I’ve also discovered it’s incredibly nice when working at a desk or watching a film on the sofa to use the small roller or footballer on my feet.
Just want to make it clear that I’m not an employee of Balance Performance or Trigger Point Performance Therapy. I don’t receive financial benefit or money in return for writing this, and have no connection to either company at this time beyond the fact that Jonathan is a great guy, sent some TPT products my way, and showed me how to use them.
The thing he has always stressed to me, and I hope I have also stressed to you, is to experiment. Go to a workshop, borrow a friend’s, or buy your own products. Use their advice or words above as a starting point, and explore your body. Find out what works. Find out how and when and why certain techniques or timings work best with your body and your training. Everybody (literally) is different, so what may work incredibly well for you may not be true for others. What is true, however, is that everybody can, with some experimentation, find something that is really beneficial for their health and performance.
thanks so much to Tom for putting the time into putting his thoughts down here. To see more about Tom read his profile on:
Jaguar Academy website: http://www.jaguaracademyofsport.co.uk/the-academy/rising-stars/2011/thomas-staniford.aspx
Also Tom’s own site: http://www.tom-staniford.co.uk
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomstaniford
To see the range of products on offer from Trigger Point Performance go to the Balance Performance Shop: http://balancephysio.com/blog/2011/10/paracyclist-tom-staniford-on-trigger-point-performance-therapy-and-balance-performance/
It’s with a great deal of pride that I can confirm the above. Rushed off my feet with training, working at Rapha and Cyclefit and preparing for my birthday tomorrow so can’t write a full blog post for you yet.
Afraid you must content yourselves, therefore, with the links and pics below!
Thanks to everyone (sponsors, friends, teammates- you know who you are) for helping me get there.
British Cycling Report HERE
Cyclefit Article HERE