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Benefits of Sports Massage for Runners

worldrunning.com Mar 5, 2015

How can runners benefit from Sports Massage? Check out this article from worldrunning.com and then call us to schedule your sports massage.

Sports massage is another valuable tool at the disposal of runners. It can make the difference between making the start line of a big race, or breaking down in training and not getting anywhere near an event. So why does it make such a big difference and how often should you think about having it done?

The Sports Massage Association has a clear definition of the work its members do. They describe it as; “...the application of soft tissue techniques with the aim of managing, manipulating and rehabilitating muscles, tendons and ligaments.” There are indeed various types of sports massage and it is a good idea to speak to a specialist to see which type would work best for you. But you need to think of it as being like tending to a very expensive car. The more work you do on it, the better it will run! And there are plenty of runners who will testify to the benefits of regular massage.

Injury prevention

If all of your key muscles groups are flexible and loose, there is less risk of injury. Muscles that fit together well and work together as a flexible unit are much less likely to rupture or tear, than stiff, sore muscles which are over-worked. And do bear in mind that sometimes regular massage will detect a small injury before it becomes too serious. Loosening up a tight spot before it turns into a niggling injury, can save the day and make the difference between making the start line or not.

Injury treatment

Massage can also be used as a way of treating an injury. Nasty muscle tears require weeks of physiotherapy and massage to break down haematomas, swelling and scar tissue. Once this has been achieved, full range of movement can be restored. Scar tissue can cause problems because it prevents the muscle fibres from binding together smoothly. Knots can also form if the tissue isn’t massaged out thoroughly, and that can impair movement and recovery.

Increased blood flow

Circulation is improved because the lymphatic system is stimulated by the repetitive, continual movement of massaging tissue towards the heart. The blood supply does some good repair work in the body, especially in providing cells with nutrients for growth and repair. It also helps in the waste disposal process, including the elimination of waste products that cells don’t want. That also means getting rid of any lingering lactic acid.

Improved flexibility

There is no better feeling than being massaged in an area that you didn’t even realise was tight. When a good therapist gets into deep tissue and loosens it, you will feel the difference, and really notice it when you stretch before your next run. A study published in Medicine & Science made some startling discoveries. In it, they focused their massage on just one leg of a group of runners for 10 weeks. In that time they noticed the massaged leg gained four degrees of flexibility and 13 per cent strength, compared to the leg that was not treated.

Recovery

Research in the Journal of Athletic Training noted a 30 per cent reduction in post-exercise muscle soreness after a runner had been massaged. It is the increased blood flow to the muscles, stimulated by massage and the increase in lymphatic drainage that really helps, disposing of toxins and loosening of sore muscles and knots in the process.

Reassurance

Remember that the soothing words of a therapist can make all the difference. Confirmation that the tightness you’ve been feeling in a certain part of your body can be a weight off your mind. By the same token, the knowledge that the problem isn’t as serious as you thought is also a massive confidence boost. And don’t forget that massage also release endorphins into your body, which act as natural painkillers. You will feel better because those painkillers will help reduce any lingering soreness. Your mental calm, coupled with the fact that a good massage always makes you feel tired, will help you sleep better too and suddenly the world will just feel like a happier place.

When should I get a massage?

Opinion is divided on the best time to have a sports massage. Some coaches recommend two or three days out from a big race and then again, if you’re an elite athlete, on race morning. Obviously logistics and money can be a factor here. But if you are putting in a heavy weekly mileage in the build up to a marathon, you might want to think about a couple of massages a month. It will be money well spent.

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