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6 Benefits of Acupuncture for Triathletes

As we all know, running a triathlon is an amazing feat of strength, fitness, and endurance. It’s no wonder that we need to take exceptional care of our bodies both leading up to events and afterward – but have you ever considered trying acupuncture before?

There are many different benefits of acupuncture for triathletes that are backed up by science. You can expect incredible injury recovery times and new performance highs with regular sessions. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the long-term pros of acupuncture before and after your training.

1. Acupuncture can help improve blood flow

Traditionally, acupuncture works to the concept of ‘qi’, or energy release through the body’s channels. As the practice has evolved over the years, acupuncturists have learned how to promote blood flow through the body’s arteries with careful needling.

To keep at the top of your triathlon game, you need a healthy heart – and a cardiovascular system that’s constantly pumping blood all around your body. Acupuncture can help relax and open arteries to provide more efficient blood flow to and from your vital organs. That’s all thanks to the steady release of nitric oxide released through gentle needle stimulation.

2. Acupuncture can relax your muscles

Whether you’re cycling, running, or swimming, sore muscles will restrict your movement. Over time, inflammation can prevent you from achieving a full range of motion and flexibility – which is why it’s crucial to relax your muscles before and after you take on a triathlon.

Acupuncture can help relax your muscles by promoting an efficient flow of blood through your arteries. This can help to reduce inflammation, relieve fatigue, and gradually relax your muscle tissue of debilitating strain.

That means whether you’re suffering from a calf strain or frozen shoulders, acupuncture can help keep you flexible from race to race.

3. Acupuncture can help to improve endurance

Each leg of your triathlon will provide different types of physical challenges. You’ll need incredible stamina to take on all three sections and beat your personal records. Gaining stamina and improving your endurance takes a lot of time and effort – but with acupuncture, you may receive a significant boost to your performance levels.

Acupuncture works closely with your nervous system, which you rely on for energy and endurance. By regulating your nerves, needling can help to keep your energy levels at peak performance for upcoming physical activities. 

What’s more, both your brain and any sensory tissues across your body once again benefit from improved blood flow, meaning you won’t hit the gray wall as quickly as you expect. In fact, you may expect a performance boost of as much as 60% with regular acupuncture sessions!

4. Acupuncture can help you recover quicker

Recovering from each triathlon will take time, energy, and a rigid training schedule. You may expect less muscle fatigue and faster energy recovery by introducing acupuncture into that schedule. 

Acupuncture is also great for improving sleep. If you struggle to get your recommended eight hours each night in between events and training, regular needling sessions may help your muscles to relax. That’s additional energy restoration, too, allowing you to bounce back quickly for the next big race.

Regular sessions every 6-8 weeks may be enough to help you improve your bounce-back efficiency. It’s vital to keep in touch with an acupuncture specialist who can help you keep track of your body and its performance.

5. Acupuncture may prevent injuries as well as heal them

Common injuries you experience on the road and in the water vary from rotator cuff strains to ankle sprains. You’re also at risk of tennis elbow, tendonitis, knee pain, shoulder arthritis, and bursitis. By looking after your body and knowing your limits, you can avoid many of these problems – and with acupuncture, you may find you prevent some injuries altogether.

Not only can acupuncture provide homeostasis to prevent specific injuries, but it can also help promote a speedier recovery from common triathlon maladies. Needling can both reduce inflammation from muscle tissue trauma and regulate conduction between your nerves.

6. Acupuncture can help with pain relief

Whether it’s stopping you mid-race or preventing you from training as you’d like, pain can be a frustrating, restrictive barrier. With acupuncture directed across the whole body, you’ll release more endorphins. 

This provides short and long-term pain relief across all major muscle groups – it’s a fantastic painkiller you can produce without needing any extra medication. It’s almost instant, and it will likely last longer than you expect.

The knock-on effects from here include anti-inflammatory properties and a wider range of motion and flexibility. That means you can easily transition from stage to stage without fear of pain letting your body down. What’s more, you’ll even get an immunity boost from the nerve and hormone regulation acupuncture can provide!

How effective is acupuncture in between triathlons?

While it sounds like acupuncture is a miracle cure for all triathletes’ complaints and concerns, you’ll need to keep a regular schedule with a qualified specialist. It’s only so effective providing you book sessions every six to eight weeks. Your own needs and suggested schedule may vary, so it’s worth setting up a plan of action with an acupuncturist.

Getting acupuncture in between races and training is all about maintenance. While needling can be great at relieving pain and restoring mobility right away, a professional acupuncturist will help you look at the bigger picture.

What do you want to achieve from your triathlons in the future? Are there any physical barriers or pain blocks preventing you from achieving new personal bests? How can an acupuncturist help you reach peak performance?

Naturally, you don’t need to have all the answers. The first session at a reputable clinic should give you opportunities to explore what you’d like to achieve physically in the next year. Of course, why not look beyond that?

While some triathletes may find acupuncture daunting, it’s long been proven to offer incredible pain relief, muscle relaxation, and injury recovery benefits. Could the key to your next big race success lie in a session of needling or two? It’s certainly worth a try.

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Banner photo: Ashley de Lotz. Contributed by Moses Alvarez of Lycoming Orthopedic & Sports Acupuncture

Head of Content at Better Triathlete | Website

Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler