By Maggie Davis, Licensed Massage Therapist
Getting a massage may sound like a luxury, but for many runners it is more of a necessity than an indulgence. Receiving massage can not only help with the post workout soreness that can occur after running, but it can also help improve performance and assist in the athlete’s recovery.
Studies published in the Journal of Athletic Training and the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that massage after exercise reduced the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is crucial to maintaining a consistent training schedule for runners as this level of muscle soreness can decrease a person’s level of function in the legs and can result in one walking like you have just gotten down off a really long horseback ride. This level of stiffness is not desirable, not just because of the associate soreness, but because it causes gait abnormalities that can prevent your ability to train at the preferred level and may even lead to injuries. Getting regular massages will provide runners with the improved muscle tension and increased range of motion that they need to keep moving.
This is great news for runners who rely on their muscles and joints to be freely moving and pain free to maintain optimum performance. The science behind this is simple. It is not about the therapist flushing out toxins from the body, the body will always do this on its own. What we do as massage therapists, is by applying the proper amount of movement and pressure we are able to soften the tissues and fascia and alleviate the tension placed on the muscles and joints reducing adhesions and keeping the body loose, limber, and pain free.
So, what kind of massage is most beneficial? Well, the answer can vary. Talking with your massage therapist is always best. Although a Swedish massage’s long, relaxing strokes may be best in the days prior to a grueling race as to not over tax the tissues, it may be more appropriate to receive a deeper level of massage work in the days following such an event to help prevent muscle adhesions. The best rule of thumb is to work regularly with a massage therapist and discuss where you are in your training and what events you’re participating and when to monitor how your body best responds to massage.