Sports Massage and Running:
If you are a runner, you must have often been told that you would benefit from a Sports Massage. I mean most people would enjoy a good massage right? But why is sports massage so beneficial for runners in terms of training, performance and recovery? I’ll tell you why……..
Bio-mechanically, running requires a lot of repetitive movement. Although a large majority of your muscles are being used, as muscles don’t work in isolation. The main muscle groups used during running gait are the gluts, hamstring, quad and calf muscles. (Basically all your leg muscles) During running, these muscles go through sustained muscles contractions as they contract and relax to create movement. The larger the contraction the more force is created and the greater the power output. Essentially equating to how fast and long you run. The more your muscles fibres are asked to contract the more they are forced to shorten.
If you are running or training frequently this builds up over time. If you’re not great at looking after your body in between e.g. with your recovery and stretching etc, then this can become an issue. Resulting in tight shortened muscles, decreased joint range of motion and reduced circulation. Long story short your ability to perform with be hampered.
Why Sports Massage?
Sports massage aids recovery by stimulating the circulatory system to work more effectively. The circulatory system plays a very important role in aiding recovery. Its role includes oxygen transportation and transferal, nutrient delivery and waste removal.
Better circulation essentially means that more oxygen and nutrients can be supplied to the surrounding muscles. After running muscles will build up waste bi-products. By increasing blood flow to the affected area this helps increases the lymphatic drainage of these waste products, increasing the efficiency of recovery. The quicker you can recover between runs the better and harder you can train. All without the fear of getting injured……WINNING!
Sports massage also aids recovery by manipulating the muscle tissue. Rhythmical pressure to the muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments helps soften and loosen them. The pressure applied during massage helps to break down adhesions in the fascial and muscle tissue helping the muscle to relax. As we know muscles shorten when contracted, massage helps them elongate again. When a muscle can move through its full range of motion it can work efficiently again reducing the risk of injury therefore allowing optimum training.
When, where and how often?
Sports massage works best when delivered regularly. Of course a one off massage is better than none at all. Everyone should feel looser and more relaxed after; however, the results can sometimes be short lived. Sports Massage is accumulative and having regular massages can boost all the physiological benefits described before. My advice would be to look at your training schedule and work out where your peak weeks or races are, then book in a sports massage just before or after these dates. This is when your body with reap the most benefit.
Although you don’t need to be a trained athlete to be eligible for sports massage. Even recreational runners need to look after their bodies too. Sports Massage should be used as a preventative tool to reduce the risk of injury and this applies to everyone. Getting a monthly Sports massage can make you more attuned to your body and recognising when it feels balanced or not. It can often help you pick up on imbalances before they become an issue.