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Gear Review: The Stick Self Massage system
By Rob Manning

Stick it to yourself.

The Stick Fitness System is a very effective bargain.

For years cyclists have known about the benefits of therapeutic massage. Tour de France contenders receive massages between stages to aid in recovery, and many athletes in other sports have seen the same benefits. Massage helps the body recover in a myriad of different ways, from increasing circulation and working out knots (known as trigger points) to stretching and lengthening muscle fibers. When injuries are involved, massage can help to bring fresh blood and nutrients to injured tissue and speed recovery. While it’s impossible for each of us to have our own personal masseuse, we do have The Stick.

What is it?
To put it simply, it’s a stick with a bunch of rollers on it. That’s a very overly simplification of “a space-age plastic that allows for necessary flexibility of the tool which provides maximum compression of the muscles (the Stick contains no rubber or wood.)“ The Stick lets you become your own personal masseuse and rub away all those trigger points and sore spots.

How does it work?
The whole concept is pretty simple, actually. By gripping the ends of the stick and compressing a muscle (for example, the quadriceps on the front of the thigh) you can roll the stick up and down the muscle. As you continue to massage the muscle, you’ll encounter some number of “bumps” or sore spots that feel like little knots. These are the trigger points that can rob a muscle of its strength. By working them out with the rolling action of the tool, the muscle is able to function optimally. It can stretch, contract, twist and compress to its maximum capacity without inhibition. The local increase in blood flow is also a great way to “flush out” lactic acid and help recover from lactic acid buildup after a long hard ride. It was even used by 7 time TDF champion Lance Armstrong to help him recover in between stages. What can’t it do? Well, maybe wash the car, but that’s trivial, right?

Due diligence.
Here at MBT, we do a lot of riding and are always looking for a good way to recover a little more quickly than the next guy in the group. Our care package consisted of a Marathon Stick, Full Body Stick, TriggerWheel and FootWheel. The two latter items are designed for searching out and annihilating trigger points in various parts of the body, while the sticks are used for general massage and trigger point location/massage.

For plantar fascitis and other problems, the FootWheel is invaluable.

We spent a goodly amount of time after rides rubbing ourselves down with the Sticks and TriggerWheel, and at first, we didn’t notice much of a difference. After keeping up the treatment for a few rides, we started to feel looser, less sore after rides, and able to ride harder for longer periods of time. We didn’t “feel the burn” nearly as much as we had prior to putting the massage tools to the test, which translated into more enthusiasm for riding hard and reckless. When we went too hard, we did find that the stick cut down on next day soreness and stiffness, which is always a welcome benefit.

We were even further amazed by the number of different places these tools can be used. Between the Stick and TriggerWheel, almost every part of the body is covered. The TriggerWheel was absolutely fantastic at searching out and breaking up stubborn trigger points, and since the user controls the pressure input, there’s no excess pain or bruising that you sometimes experience out of a deep tissue massage.

The FootWheel deserves a bit of special mention here. Some of our staffers suffer from Plantar Fascitis (pain in the soles of the feet) which becomes quite pronounced after long rides. After a couple weeks of rolling it out, so to speak, that pain very nearly disappeared completely. They, and we, were shocked at how well such a simple tool works at reducing pain and soreness.

Overall, we were incredibly surprised as to the capability of The Stick and its cohorts. There are plenty of people out there who claim to know the answer to muscle soreness and pain, but very few actually have any cajones to back up those assertions. The Stick is definitely one of them, and it’s something we’ll be keeping in our bag of tricks for a long time. Check them out over at www.thestick.com/ and give yourself a much deserved rub down.

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