What is a sports massage?
Sports massage is exactly what it is in the name. it is a targeted therapeutic treatment to address unique physical and biomechanical needs of athletes. Many high level and recreational runners and athletes use it to allow for better training load absorption, better recovery after training session and for overall recovery after a bout of exercise.
Consider Incorporating Massage Into Your Training Plan
Regular massage, even it is only 30 minutes a couple times a month, can have a significant benefit to your overall wellbeing and recovery after exercise, especially after your long runs. Runners put so much effort into training, but very few athletes put effort into taking good care of body that helps them perform. Scheduling mid-training appointments can also reveal places that are tight and places that should be addressed in post-workout mobility. Massage is not a luxury – it is an investment to make your training more efficient.
Are you new to sports massage?
Book your massage either well before your race (several days or weeks) or right after the race. Occasionally, sports massage can bring on muscle soreness that takes several days to recover from. Do not experiment with new-to-you bodywork before a race because you don’t know how your body will respond to it. A sports massage—if done right—is not a trip to a luxury spa. Be ready to be moved around a bit and be prescribed homework to follow after your massage. Sports massage should address whole body while spending more time on the areas that need attention.
What about pain?
A sports massage does not need to be painful to be beneficial. Work together with your massage therapist, give him/her feedback. You are the best judge regarding what needs to be addressed. A massage therapist can feel tightness and restrictions with his/her hands but ultimately it is YOU that needs to guide the session. The ‘do whatever you need to do to get it out’, ‘no pain no gain’, or ‘bite the bullet’ does not work and it may cause some discomfort afterwards. So, speak up!
What to do before a race?
Those who are familiar with massage can benefit from a pre-race rubdown in the seven to two-day window prior to an event. Getting treatment less than 48-hours prior puts all runners—even those who are massage veterans—at risk of race day soreness.
How about after the race?
The light-touch, free massages often offered at finish line festivals can help calm the nervous system by allowing the body to commence its natural repair state quicker. Even better, schedule a recovery massage after your long run or after a race with your massage therapist; the masse will feel very different than your regular sports massage; it will be focused to help your muscles to recover faster. Book it within 24-48 hour after the race to get the full benefits.
How to find the perfect massage therapist?
Before booking an appointment, ask questions about the therapist’s education and experience, like “What is your training?” “How many years have you been practicing?” and “Do you work frequently with runners?”. Word of mouth can be an excellent way to find a massage therapist. Remember – a massage therapist that you connect with well and that addresses YOUR needs is the best one for YOU. Seek referrals if possible and ensure s/he is a licensed massage therapist. Look for a massage therapist that works with a team of other health care professionals or has a good relationship with the medical profession; he or she will be able to refer you to another healthcare professional in case that you’re experiencing other issues that do not resolve with massage.
Hydrate before your massage
Dehydration can stiffen the fascia and muscles, which translates to a more painful massage. Ensure you’re sipping adequate amounts of H20 before you hop on the table. This is more important to do before your massage; enjoy your normal hydration regimen after your massage.
- As for the commonly held belief that extra liquids are needed post-massage: that’s a myth.
- Massage does not release or flush out any toxins from the body, which means it won’t dehydrate you.
- Massage helps with recovery from lactic acid but doesn’t get rid of lactic acid.
- There are no ‘knots’ that need to be released; your muscles can be in a state of hypertonicity and massage can calm this down.
- Massage does not ‘fix’ things, but it can allow your body to ‘fix’ itself.
Your massage therapist is not your doctor!
If you are dealing with a serious injury, and don’t have a diagnosis, definitely see a sports physician or physical therapist. Massage therapists do not and should not diagnose; but they are able to sense if something does not feel right. And while a therapist can identify and attempt to alleviate any tightness in the body, if a problem area doesn’t feel significantly better three days post-massage, you should likely consult a sports doctor or a physical therapist as well. Once a diagnosis is given, your massage therapist can work with that information and use massage as a helpful tool in recovery.
Don’t Schedule a Post-Massage Workout
Doing so is simply counterproductive. Let your body process what massage gave you. Wait until at least the next day to get back out there. Taking a bath and relaxing a bit can be more beneficial.
Do you want to learn more? Please contact us, we would be happy to answer all of your questions.
Runners’ Edge Alaska strives to help recreational and elite Alaskan runners of all ages to return to running safely, effectively and pain-free …for life.