You’re an athlete. You expect your body to perform to the best of its ability. In order to do so, you have to care for yourself. Everyone knows that hydration, proper nutrition, plenty of sleep and regular training are key to sustaining your body during times of physical exertion. What you may not know is that regular massage is just as important in your training program as any of the obvious components. Massage is an all-natural performance enhancer that stimulates the muscle, blood and lymph systems to keep muscles, joints and tendons in optimum shape so that you can reach your full potential.
Running requires sustained, repetitive muscle contractions. These contractions are what translate into the speed, power and distance you are able to run. The harder you work to contract these muscles, the more muscle fibers are required to shorten. If they are short and tight to begin with, the contraction will not be able to generate as much force, decreasing your range of motion and speed. Massage stimulates the muscles and soft tissue allowing them to stretch and elongate so that you can run further, faster.
With flexible, relaxed muscles, you are less likely to suffer an injury. Muscles that fit together well and work as a flexible unit are much less likely to rupture or tear than stiff sore muscles. Loosening up a tight spot in a massage session, before it turns into an injury, can be the difference between making it to the finish line or not. If you are suffering from an injury, massage is the ideal way to manage pain, swelling and soreness. Massage breaks down the rough scar tissue that builds in the healing of an injury in order to allow muscle fibers to bind together smoothly. With massage as a part of your treatment, you can soon be back to your normal self and on your way to improved athletic performance.
Massage also suppresses stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine, allowing your nervous system to rest in order to recover more quickly. This relaxation will also allow for deeper, more quality sleep so that you can rest up for the big day or wind-down after extreme exertion. Moreover, the “runners-high” that you experience during a strenuous run can be enhanced through massage due to the release of endorphins. Therefore, not only will you leave relaxed and calm, but recharged and energized—ready to take your workout routine to the next level.
This euphoric energy boost can also be attributed to the repetitive, continual movement of tissue, which stimulates the lymph and circulatory systems. These systems are responsible for oxygen transfer, nutrient delivery, and waste removal at the cellular level. Better circulation means superior delivery of energy-giving nutrients and oxygen to cells. This encourages improved cardiovascular health, pulmonary function and immunity while also reducing inflammation and facilitating speedy recovery—allowing your body to comfortably tolerate more intense and lengthy training sessions with less downtime.
Through the various techniques with which massage therapists are equipped, your treatment will be tailored to your particular needs. Whether it is Swedish massage, used primarily for relaxation, or a deep tissue massage, which concentrates on specific areas of tension or discomfort, you can be assured that you will leave rejuvenated and recharged. It is important to note though, that the effects of massage are cumulative. The more sequential and repetitive your massage routine, the greater you will feel. While one massage prior to a race will leave you relaxed, the benefits a runner may yield through a regular program of massage are exponentially higher. Incorporating massage into your routine will prevent and aid in the recovery of injuries, all the while improving your overall well-being and decreasing stress levels. Whatever you intend to accomplish, whether it’s winning the race or merely making it that extra mile—massage therapy – will help you make it happen.