The golf fairways are turning green, the summer race schedules are published, the bicycles are out of the garage, and your running shoes are ready to ditch the treadmill and start logging miles on outdoor trails and roadways.
The only thing that may be missing in this picture is a physically conditioned body that is prepared to endure all of the strenuous activities summer has in store. To get yourself to the start line without injury and prepare your body for optimal performance this year, it is important for both men and women to incorporate frequent massage into their summer training, performance and recovery plan.
Massage is essential to everyone’s overall health and well-being, but especially if you live an active lifestyle. And, to be clear, an active lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean being a competitive athlete or extreme sports enthusiast. An active lifestyle can mean coaching your child’s little league team, regular recreational gym use or playing flag football with family on a summer afternoon. Either way, massage can play an active role in improving athletic performance for anyone ranging from weekend warriors to competitors.
Top Ways Massage Can Increase Athletic Performance
- Increased Psychological Readiness. Athletic performance is 50 percent physical and 50 percent mental. If you take care of the physical part by putting in the training, mileage, etc. needed to accomplish your goal, massage can help prepare you for the mental toll of competition. Studies have shown that massage increases your psychological readiness to prepare you for tackling a challenging physical activity. Whether it’s running your first marathon, hiking a fourteener or playing 18 holes of golf every weekend, massage can help you block out negative energy (self doubt, anxiety, nervousness) and tune your focus toward accomplishing the physical endeavor at hand. Massage also is also a great mood enhancer that can help with mental preparedness by stimulating our natural endorphins.
- Enhanced Physical Performance. The physical benefits of massage have been realized for years by professional and novice athletes across sporting events. In order to realize peak physical performance, it is important to keep the body’s engine in tip-top shape. Deep tissue and sports massage techniques play an essential role in maintaining and advancing physical performance by increasing blood flow, reducing muscle tension, flushing out toxins, lengthening muscles, increasing overall range of joint motion, and decreasing muscle stiffness. Massage also has been known to enhance overall performance by decreasing exercise-induced fatigue in athletes. In a British Journal of Sports Medicine study, subjects performed a warm up cycle exercise, followed by 30-second high intensity exercises that were interspersed with 30 seconds of active recovery. The subjects’ heart rates, peak power, mean power and fatigue index then were recorded after either receiving 20 minutes of massage or passive rest. The study found that a significantly lower fatigue index was found in individuals who received the 20-minute massage versus rest alone.1
- Reduced Injury Risk. By incorporating massage into your active routine, you are taking a proactive approach to not only avoiding injury, but also increasing your chances of enhancing and maintaining peak performance in the short and long term. The key to reducing injury, though, isn’t massage alone. The combination of massage, stretching and movement creates a more fluid, strong muscle and body structure that can endure higher levels of wear and tear. Massage also is an integral component to balancing muscle groups and soft tissues in your body, minimizing the tendency for stronger muscle groups to overcompensate for weaker ones, which eventually can lead to injury or strain to the stronger muscle group.
- Increased Recovery Time. Each year as you get older and try to maintain the same level of physical performance as before, recovery times seem to become longer and longer. Recovery time is an essential component to overall peak performance because the longer it takes to recover from strenuous exercise, the longer you spend watching the game on the sidelines. Studies have shown that massage after exercise fatigue significantly improved quadriceps performance when compared to rest alone,2 and muscle soreness intensity was significantly lower when massage was used within 48 hours post-exercise. 3 Get back into your active lifestyle more quickly between workouts by incorporating massage into your daily routine. 3