One of the most important pieces of equipment a runner can own is a simple foam roller. I encourage my runners to pick up a foam roller because it's a fantastic way to perform self-massage. In lieu of getting a sports massage performed by a professional therapist, using a foam roller regularly is the next best thing.
This being said, it's imperative to get regular sports massage if you're running on a regular basis to reduce the chances of aggravations/injuries. Don't think of sports massage as a luxury or an indulgence. Think of it as a 'tune up'. Just as your car needs a tune up periodically to keep running properly, the same is the case for your body (aka-'your vehicle for life') if you're running on a regular basis.
But, there's so much that one can derive from getting sports massages regularly during your training, that I pulled in the experts over at PSOAS Massage/Bodywork to break it down for us. Read on.
The Benefits of Sports Massage
Presented by Psoas Massage + Bodywork
As runners, we all want to minimize the risk of injury, increase our potential, and make our next race or run the most enjoyable. While this article is mostly focused on running, the information is also applicable to other sports like cycling, rowing, swimming, or even competitive bowling.
By incorporating knowledge of your anatomy and your limitations, a highly skilled Sports Massage Therapist will be able to help you find your most efficient running form, transcend your limitations, and help you get results. Your personal training program - combined with a Sports Massage treatment plan - is the best recipe for a successful race.
Sports massage can provide all of the following:
Increased Range of Motion (ROM) Part of being a better, faster, more economical runner is not just about logging the miles. If you can lift your knee a little bit higher with each stride or extend your leg back a bit further with each stride, this can help improve your performance. Sports massage can help facilitate this greater range of motion.
Decreased potential for injury. When you run, you're incurring 3-5 times your body weight in impact force per footstrike. The result of this is microtears in muscle fiber, knots, and adhesions. Left untreated, the aforementioned can evolve into an aggravation or an injury. Sports massage can help address this.
Increased awareness of your body. A quality sports massage will inevitably result in you having a better idea of the areas of your body that are tight or problematic. This knowledge allows you to do a better job taking care of yourself (enter foam roller) moving forward.
Faster recovery of muscles after hard exertion. Muscles tighten, contract, and shorten when you run. A sports massage can help these overworked muscles relax, release, and elongate thus facilitating quicker recovery.
Increased efficiency of muscle use. If one or more muscles are tight, it's not unlikely that you're not running as efficiently as you could be. The inevitable relaxation and release of these muscles via sports massage can increase efficiency of muscle use.
Decreased recovery time. As mentioned earlier, running can break your body down. A quality sports massage can increase blood flow/circulation, oxygen, and nutrient absorption. All of this can help decrease recovery time from a challenging run.
Now that we've covered the multitude of benefits one can derive from sports massage, the next question is how often one should have a sports massage performed. Professional, Olympic, and collegiate athletes often receive daily sports massage while competitive and motivated runners often receive weekly sessions. Below are common schedules assuming a 10 week training program. These four plans range from the 'optimal' to the 'minimum' suggested for any training program.
Aggressive. Weekly or bi-weekly sessions.
Moderate. A session in week 1, 4, 6, 8, 9 and a day or two before the race.
Minimal. A session in week 2, 6 and 9 – possible session in week 10 if needed.
Spot. On an as-needed basis dependent upon injury, pain or soreness.
Hopefully, the above illustrates the utility of marrying regular sports massage with your training plan. If the best runners on the planet are doing regular sports massage, it behooves you to at least consider following suit.