Sports massage is somewhat different than a regular Swedish and therapeutic massage. While the Swedish massage is a full-body massage for relaxation and the therapeutic massage is deep tissue, a sports massage is more spot specific and combines the other techniques. If the runner is post-race and is having some pain, the therapist will work on specific muscles and will give a deeper massage to those areas.
Regular sports massage stimulates blood and lymph and keeps the leg muscles, joints and tendons in great shape. It can also help a runner flush out the lactic acid from his or her quads and hamstrings. Massage helps an athlete recover after a long run and prevent or heal from injuries. Running requires repetitive muscle contractions that translate into shortened, tight muscles, a loss of joint range of motion and a decrease in circulation and compression of tissues. Massage helps to elongate the muscles, relieve tightness, increase the joint’s range of motion and improve circulation.
How Massage Works
How does it do all of this? Basically, massage improves the effectiveness of the circulatory system. This system is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs through the blood to the cells, as well as delivering nutrients and removing waste from the cells. Our circulatory system delivers blood enriched with oxygen and nutrients such as glucose and electrolytes to our muscles to feed them, and it removes metabolic by-products and waste materials. Massage also reduces cortisol levels and norepinephrine and epinephrine levels.
Not only is massage helpful after a run, it can also help a runner pre-run by stimulating the muscles that will be used. If a runner is getting ready for a race, the therapist should apply a lighter, more invigorating touch to stimulate the runner rather than relax him or her.
A massage every now and then may feel good, but you won’t get the optimal benefit. That’s because the effects of massage are cumulative with a repetitive program of massage. Massage therapy works great as a preventative program to help keep you from injury. However, once you get an injury, you should seek medical attention first, but your doctor may recommend massage as a part of your healing process.
Develop a Plan That Works for You
Everyone is different, so massage treatment plans vary by person. But if you are training for a race, consider getting a sports massage at least monthly – weekly if you can afford it. If you’re training for a big race, try to build massage into your budget more often, especially if you have recurring injuries or you are pushing your limits. Consider scheduling pre-race and post-race massages 3-5 days before and afterwards, eat healthy food and drink lots of water!