Sports Massage for Runners
Can sports massage help performance and recovery from running?
In a word, yes! Many of my clients find that massage improves flexibility and reduces their risk of injury and offers many other benefits!
Massage and running go hand in hand, and here's why
Running places sustained, repetitive stress on muscles. The cumulative effect of this stress causes muscle fibers to shorten, and over time increases the likelihood of pain and injury. We see the benefits of training with increased speed, power, and endurance (running further and faster) however, the benefits come at the cost of shortened, tight muscles, which can limit our joint range of motion, decreased circulation to muscle tissue.
Experienced Sports Massage lightens muscles, relieving tightness, and helps restore joint range of motion, and improve circulation. Massage improves the effectiveness of the circulatory system. The system which provides Oxygen, nutrition (glucose and electrolytes), and removes oxidative waste for every cell of our body.
Sports massage offers specific physiological responses, such as, increased blood circulation, increased diameter of blood vessels, and decreased blood pressure. These effects are significant for everyone, but are of particular importance to a runner looking for ways to recover faster, prevent injuries, and improve performance. Keep in mind, though, that “therapeutic” massage means a specific type of massage, which involves applying a deep pressure that is designed to be corrective to soft tissue. This is very different than spa or relaxing massage and it must be administered by a licensed and trained professional.
Benefits of Massage:
1. Dilates blood vessels which promotes circulation and lowers blood pressure
2. Assists return of blood flow to the heart
3. Promotes rapid removal of metabolic waste products
4. Increases the oxygenation capacity of red blood cells
5. Improves pulmonary function by loosening tight respiratory muscles
6. Reduces muscle soreness and fatigue
7. Increases joint range of motion
8. Reduces stress and decreases levels of stress related hormones
9. Improves posture and gait
10. Promotes connective tissue healing
Although you will experience immediate benefits from massage, it's important to realize that like exercise, the benefits of massage are cumulative. The benefits increase with regularly scheduled massages! Getting one massage prior to a race will not deliver the same benefits as a regular program of massage therapy throughout your training. Additionally, massage functions as a preventative program, and as all athletes know, it's much better to avoid an injury than to rehab it.
What's the right Massage Treatment plan for you?
The most important goal is to set a regular schedule for your massages whether it is once a week, once a month, or every two months. Assess your running goals and your budget when deciding how often to get a massage. Take these things into consideration: do you have recurring injuries, are you tackling a new distance, or are you pushing your limits?
Next, consider how much you can realistically afford to spend on massage. Look at your training schedule and note the dates of long runs, key workouts or races. If possible, schedule your massages around these targeted dates. For example, if you are increasing your mileage for a long run every second or third weekend, schedule your massages a day or two after these long runs. Pre-Race Massages should be scheduled 3-5 days before the race and, likewise, Post-Race Massages should be scheduled 3-5 days after a race when muscles are no longer sore to the touch. After assessing your training schedule, budget, and available time, plan accordingly. Massage is a nice training reward to look forward to! And, last but not least, between massages, drink lots of water, stretch after your runs, foam roll often, and eat clean healthy foods to extend the benefits of your massages.
Rick Pitts ACE CPT, CMT
VA Certified massage tharapist since 1996