Can you believe that a runner from Liverpool decided to beat Forrest Gump's fictional running record?! Earlier this year Rob Pope ran more than 15,000 miles across America (including this famous road seen in the movie).
Some people must REALLY love running!!
Most of us aren't quite that crazy (5km is more than enough for me!) but there's still plenty of people running pretty long distances regularly, which can be tough on the body. Sports massage is great for those training with a goal in mind but even if you stick to shorter distances it's great for recreational runners too. Some of the benefits of sports massage are:
Relieving tightness/tension – when running, or after a run, you may notice that certain areas feel tight, sports massage can help release this tension to ensure your muscles are able to perform optimally.
Improving blood flow – when blood flow to a particular area is improved the oxygen and nutrient supply is increased and waste products are removed effectively, which helps support the body's healing processes. This means fatigued or injured muscles can recover more quickly. Increased blood flow to an area can also help prevent painful trigger points forming in the tissue.
Increasing flexibility – with increased flexibility your range of motion and the mobility in your joints will be improved. This can help reduce the chance of an injury occurring or re-occurring.
Breaking down scar tissue – when scar tissue is left to repair by itself it will form a criss-cross pattern rather than a healthy linear formation. Massage can be utilised to promote the healthy formation of scar tissue so that it forms in a natural, strong linear pattern. This is essential after injury as a build up of scar tissue can cause tightness and weakness in the muscles.
Releasing Trigger points - Trigger points are hypersensitive spots in the muscle. It is called a trigger point because it triggers a painful response not only affecting where the trigger point is located, but also causing referred pain elsewhere in the body. Releasing these constricted areas in the muscles can help naturally manage pain and stress from minor and chronic injuries.
Reducing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) - the soreness felt in the day or two after a hard workout is called DOMS, massage can reduce the intensity and duration of this pain.
All these factors help contribute to improved movement and performance, as well as increasing your own awareness of the areas of your body prone to pain and tension which can help guide how you stretch, strengthen and what types of homecare you may use.
When should I get a massage?
If you're just looking for a general 'maintenance' massage and don't have any difficult workouts or long runs coming up then you can get a massage any time!
If you're having massage to help recovery from an injury then you need to bear in mind the stage of healing of the injury. Massage in the day or two following an injury is not advised as this can interrupt the healing process. Focus at this stage should be on the RICE protocol (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) to support healing. Always seek medical advice as necessary too. After this stage then massage can be helpful to deal with compensatory issues, and promote healing, proper tissue alignment and optimal range of movement.
If you're training for an event then bear in mind that the effects of massage are cumulative. This means that the effects and benefits increase with regular massage. Receiving one massage prior to a race will not reap the same benefits as a regular program of massage therapy throughout your training. If you do go for massage regularly then take a look at your training schedule and note the dates of long runs, key workouts, or races. If possible, schedule your massages around these targeted dates. For example, if you are increasing your mileage for a long run every second or third weekend, schedule your massages a day or two after these long runs. If you plan on getting a massage before a race, schedule it at least 3-5 days before the race. (If it’s been a while since your last massage then go for the longer end of the scale.) If you want a specific pre-event massage this can be nearer to your event but will be a shorter duration treatment and will avoid deep work, focussing instead on stimulating the muscles and preparing the body for exercise.
Post-event massage can be very beneficial to help deal with DOMS and any tightness or niggles that may have arisen during the event. If you receive post-event massage immediately afterwards at the event this will be short, 10-15 minutes, to give a light flush to the muscles to aid recovery. You should not be receiving deep massage at this stage. If you have a massage in the day or two afterwards then a longer massage is appropriate but it will be a lighter pressure than with general massage as your muscles are still in recovery.
You can also use some self massage techniques as part of your programme too. Foam rollers can be helpful for releasing tight muscles and using a lacrosse ball is great for releasing the plantar fascia and dealing with trigger points. Remember that deeper pressure isn't always better though, muscles may tighten to guard themselves if pressure is too deep so take it easy and build up gently.
Check out this video about ankle dorsiflexion too, it's is an important range of movement for runners. 8-10cm is the range you need for general daily activities, but it should be higher than this (ideally 13-15cm) for runners.