Sports massage is a form of soft tissue therapy I use daily as part of a treatment regimen for various injuries. It can also be used as a stand alone therapy where there is no injury.
I see a lot of runners, especially at this time of year in the run up to spring race season. The increase in training mileage is hard on the legs, often leaving them feeling tired, achy and tight. If you’ve never had a sports massage, read on to find out how it can help your training, race day performance and recovery!
Sports massage is a form of deep tissue massage, where the aims are to:
- Reduce muscular tension
- Stretch out the muscle fibres and surrounding fascia
- Increase blood flow to the soft tissues
- Drain away metabolites post exercise
- Break down soft tissue adhesions
- Improve tissue elasticity and so overall flexibility
A regular sports massage has a cumulative effect and so the benefits increase with each session. Treatment either weekly, fortnightly, or even monthly can really help to reduce your injury rate, improve your flexibility, and ease general aches and pains.
A pre-event massage may be performed either 3-5 days prior to an event, or immediately before. The type of massage and the purpose of it will vary depending on how soon the event is.
When the event is a few days away, the aim of the sports massage therapist is to reduce any general muscle tension, pump lots of fresh, nutrient rich blood into the muscles and drain away any leftover metabolites. Now is not the time for a really deep massage! You don’t want to risk feeling sore for your race. It is advisable not to have a massage one or two days before an event, for that exact reason!
Pre-event sports massage is often available at events as a form of ‘warm-up. Again the therapist won’t be going too deeply into the muscles, but it should be an invigorating massage with faster, superficial stroke to warm the muscles, encourage blood flow and prepare you mentally for the race!
Again, sports massage after an event may refer to immediately afterwards, or two to five days afterwards.
Immediately after an event the therapist is looking to flush through fresh blood to help the muscles recover, whilst helping to drain away the waste products of exercise (think lactic acid etc). It should be fairly brisk but not too deep to avoid aggravating any muscle damage sustained during the race.
If having a massage a few days later, it can be a little deeper as by now any muscle damage will have reared it’s ugly head. If there is any muscle injury, massage is definitely not recommended for a good three days, maybe longer to let everything settle. If all is well, the therapist will aim to work on any muscle tension which has resulted from the run and get you back to your best ASAP!