By Val Sanford
With cooler weather heading our way (finally) and cyclocross season upon us, now might be the time to try embrocation to help warm those muscles up. Here are some “pro tips” from a top maker–Bluerub.
PERFORM BETTER IN COLD WEATHER
If you cycle in cold weather, use an embrocation product like bluerub’s MUSCLE to increase your comfort while riding. You’ll add warmth and increased circulation to your legs, so you can ride farther and go longer.
HOW EMBROCATION WORKS
Embrocation products blend warming ingredients like capsicum, mint essential oils, clove oil, black pepper essential oil, camphor, and menthol to signal the body to “warm-up” the area where it was applied. When used before cold-weather exercise, it acts as a signal to tell the body to increase circulation to the legs. You’ll feel the cold less, and your legs will thank you.
7 PRO-TIPS FOR USING EMBROCATION
1. EMBRO AFTER YOU KIT UP
You’ve got the idea now that embrocation is all about warming! So you’ll want to put on your kit first. That will keep all those warming oils away from the parts of your body you definitely don’t want to ‘warm-up.” Think capsicum blended into your chamois. Yikes!
2. APPLY ABOUT 30 MINUTES BEFORE YOU RIDE
Typically, you’ll feel the effects of embrocation about 30 minutes after you apply it. But everyone’s body is different, so you’ll want to do some experimentation before a big race. This means you’ll need to be thinking about your pre-race/pre-ride routine and make sure you’ve given yourself plenty of time.
Remember, though, that embrocation products won’t replace your warm-up. You’ll still need to stretch, warm-up, and do your pre-ride physical routine.
Pro-tip: Apply CHAMOIS first, for the obvious reasons.
3. REALLY WORK IT IN
I’ve heard some say they channel their inner massage therapist to really work the embrocation into the muscles and to thoroughly cover the skin. Roll down your socks, roll up the legs of your bibs, and really spend a few minutes working it in. While legs are the most common spot, you can apply to your lower back, shoulders, neck, and ankles.
When you use something that is also a recovery product, like MUSCLE, you’ll get a double benefit from the massage in helping relieve any leftover pre-ride stiffness or soreness in your muscles. You can even reapply after your shower to give sore spots some relief.
Pro-tip: not all embrocation products are non-staining. So do a spot test before going all-in on your favorite kit.
4. AVOID YOUR EYES, MOUTH, AND OTHER SENSITIVE PARTS
You know how much you hate it when you’ve been cutting peppers and then touch your eye or your lip? Well, that’s what it’ll feel like if you touch your eyes after applying embro. Wash your hands with warm soap and water, or use a wipe (although this may not get all of it off your hands). You can also use single-use gloves to apply and then toss. It’s not an eco-friendly solution, but it can save you on a race when you don’t have access to warm, soapy water.
Pro-tip: Fill your bottles, pack your phone, snacks, and other essentials before applying embrocation, just to be on the safe side.
5. KEEP YOUR LEGS WARM
Embrocation creams don’t actually add any extreme cold-weather protection to your legs. So if you’re riding in chilly weather – especially if there’s a breeze — you’ll need to protect your legs from the elements. Try using knee warmers or even thermal tights (with our without embrocation). Be mindful of how cold it is and be aware of how it’s affecting you.
Pro-tip: Use an embrocation even when the weather isn’t cold. It is a great transition solution between cool weather when tights are too much, yet you want a little extra warmth before getting out for a ride.
6. SHAVE YOUR LEGS
Embrocation products come in a variety of forms: oils, balms, salves, creams. bluerub’s MUSCLE’s is a lightweight cream that goes on smoothly. If your legs are hairy, it can get caught in the hair and not be thoroughly or evenly applied. The embrocation will wash off more fully and easily on smooth skin. Plus, you know you look great with shaved legs! (Try SHAVE for smooth, soft skin.)
Pro-tip: Don’t apply on just-shaved legs. Give your pores a little breathing room before using warming oils like those in an embrocation product.
7. WASH BEFORE YOU SHOWER
I love settling into a hot, steamy bath after being outside in the cold, wet weather. But hot water can reactivate the essential oils and give you the surprise of your life! Okay, not the surprise of your life, but you could definitely feel like jumping out of the water!
Use warm, soapy water to remove the embrocation before getting into a hot shower or bath. No-rise wipes can help but may not get all the oils off, so test it to be sure.
Pro-tip: Don’t use the same washcloth to wash your face. Some people like using a loofah to help remove the embrocation. Just like your washcloth, keep it ’embrocation only’ to avoid any accidental application to your face or nether parts.
So those are our pro-tips for using embrocation cream during cold weather rides.