Every basketball fan knows about LeBron James cramping during Game 1 of the NBA Finals. There are a lot of reasons why athletes, including equine athletes, experience muscle cramps. For example: oxygen deficiency, potassium issues, Glycogen deficiencies, fitness levels, stress, and simple over-exertion. Muscles cramps are serious and can be debilitating.
In Game 2 of the NBA Finals, LeBron was on fire. He scored 35 points and led his team, the Miami Heat, to victory over the Spurs. When asked if he did anything different to prepare for Game 2, he reported that he took a Yoga class in the morning that seemed to help.
Let’s take a look at this from a practical view and not a technical one. In this article, I will give you some examples of athletes that massage has helped. The short of it is, certain types of massage and stretching can help prevent cramping and improve physical performance dramatically.
As beneficial as Yoga is, Shiatsu massage is much more effective and can make a big difference in one session. I work on a lot of cowboys who have never been able to touch their toes while standing, no matter how much stretching they do. After one Shiatsu treatment, they are blown away when they get off my table and can touch their toes. Sometimes they will pick up a good 14 inches after just one session.
Back in the late 80’s I worked with Olympic hopeful, Deveric Lampley, who was ranked 4th in the nation in the 100 and 200 meters. He was running close to record times held by Ben Johnson and Carol Lewis. Before my work with him he kept pulling hamstring muscles and having lower back issues. Shiatsu massage made a big difference. Yet, it was not clearing up the entire problem. Besides being an amazing sprinter, he was also a personal trainer.
Deveric had a well-developed abdominal area and was proud of how he looked. I told him that his abs were over-developed. Since he didn’t want to change his program, off to the acupuncture we went with treatment to his abdominal area. After treatment, his abdominal muscles were not tight anymore. Coupled with Shiatsu massage, his hamstring issues disappeared.
Another client of mine, Bob Wieland, is probably one of the most interesting and inspirational people you would ever want to meet. He had his legs blown off in Vietnam while bringing a fallen comrade from the field. He was disabled but determined. He decided that since his legs were gone, he wanted to take a walk across America… on his arms. This walk across America took him three years, six months, and eighteen days.
After finishing his journey, Bob decided it was time to do something a little less strenuous… marathons! To him, that was a stroll in the park of only 26.2 miles rather than 3,000 miles. I worked with Bob the second year he did the New York City Marathon, applying Shiatsu massage techniques to his arms and body during the race. By doing this he lowered his time from the previous year by more than 17 hours. Next, I went with him to the Los Angeles Marathon, and we lowered his time by more than 18 hours. During these races, he was exerting himself practically non-stop for almost 100 hours. After New York and LA, Bob decided to do the Iron Man Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii, and I accompanied him there, as well. The Iron Man took him 130 hours to swim, bike, and run. During the triathlon we only had eleven hours of down time. Keep in mind that these types of races, on your arms, are much more demanding than a Championship basketball game.
The point of these stories is that without bodywork athletes can easily become dead in the water when taking their body to its maximum physical capacity. LeBron James, Deveric Lampley, and Bob Wieland are top athletes who put demands on their bodies that the average person does not understand. As one who has worked with World Class athletes, I can tell you without hesitation, that massage, not just fluffy massage, but real problem fixing sessions, will put an end to cramping. Why? Because Shiatsu massage allows the muscles freedom of movement by increasing blood flow, and VO2 max (volume of oxygen) is at its max efficiency.
Just like in the cowboy world of tight muscles other sports can limit the muscles’ ability to perform. Like the race horse that could only finish last in a 6-furlong race, after receiving two Shiatsu massage sessions by one of my students, he won a 7-furlong race. That is the power of Shiatsu massage; one must use the right tool for the job at hand.
I believe a main factor of LeBron James’ cramping episode in Game 1 is that his body simply was not as efficient as it needed to be. Overly tight muscles use oxygen at a very high rate. Yes, the air-conditioning was out in the arena, and it was hot. Yes, he is an amazing athlete that works incredibly hard while he is playing. But he was the only player to cramp that night. Couple overly tight muscles with incredible demand, and problems occur. This would also explain why he felt his yoga session, stretching and relaxing his body prior to the next game, made a difference.
Shiatsu massage before, during, and after massive physical exertion can make an even bigger difference. This also applies to our equine athletes. Massage can be key to helping prevent horses from tying up.