Massage for Runners
A good therapist can determine where any adhesions may be and then break them up while improving functional flexibility in the tissue. … While it likely won’t help with muscle adhesions or scar tissue, a more relaxing massage still has many benefits for runners.
Study the training of professional runners and you’ll notice that they have an entire team helping them succeed. Their coach is just the leader – most elites also see sports psychologists, strength coaches, nutritionists, a variety of doctors, and yes, massage therapists.
Massage has long been a part of a runner’s training program. You’ve no doubt heard many of the benefits of massage: improved circulation, less muscle soreness, and a removal of exercise waste products like lactic acid.
But much of what we think is true actually isn’t. Here’s a quick example: lactic acid (or lactate) is removed from your muscles within minutes of accumulating. And it’s not actually responsible for sore muscles.
Not only is lactate cleared from your bloodstream relatively quickly after you stop running fast, it’s not the culprit of muscle soreness. That’s mostly due to cell damage to your muscles.
So what are the actual benefits of massage for runners? If massage doesn’t clear lactate from your muscles, how can it help your running?
The Benefits of Massage For Runners
Why massage can be so beneficial for runners (not necessarily the general public). If you have a runner friend who either hates massage or thinks it can’t help them, send them a link to this article!
The major benefit of massage is that it relaxes tense muscles and removes adhesions or minor scar tissue between muscles and fascia, a fancy word for the sheath or casing that surrounds your muscles. Unneeded tension and adhesions can restrict movement and impair your range of motion, potentially leading to abnormal movement patterns that can cause overuse injuries.
Another major benefit of massage for runners is pain relief.
His last point is fascinating because relaxation is an overlooked aspect of training. Stress from work or your personal life can negatively impact your training and ultimately how well you adapt to workouts. After all, adaptation is simply your body’s reaction to a stress (in this case, running). But stress in other areas of life can hinder your body’s ability to adapt because it’s overloaded.
Recovery is the other major benefit of massage. Massage can reduce pain and the intensity of muscle soreness after a grueling workout or marathon. Some studies indicate that massage can reduce inflammation, improve immune function, and reduce stress hormones like cortisol.
While massage won’t clear lactic acid or any other waste products from your muscles, it will promote more circulation to your muscles. Better circulation is what will aid your recovery (which is the same reason why compression socks work).
These benefits suggest you can recover faster after a hard session and be ready for another sooner. Running more fast workouts – or higher mileage – is one of the best ways to become a better runner. And massage can help you do that while mitigating the injury risk.
When is the Best Time to Schedule a Massage?
Quite a few runners have asked me if they should get a massage the day before a race. Or if a massage right after a marathon is a good idea.
The answer to both questions is no. Massage right after a hard race or workout (or maybe even the day after if you’re still significantly sore) is counterproductive to the recovery process. And massage right before a race might leave you sore on the starting line.
Think of massage as a workout where deep pressure can cause some muscle soreness. You don’t want to layer too many sources of muscle soreness so it’s best to wait 1-2 days after a hard workout or race to get your massage.
If you want to get a massage before a race, it’s best to do it 2-3 days before. Massage can sometimes require “recovery” so you want to wait until that wobbly feeling disappears. Fear not, your spaghetti legs will return to normal after 1-2 days and you won’t feel like Gumbi.
For those runners not racing right now, you should still follow these principles around your hard workouts or long runs.
Not running any difficult workouts or long runs and just want a good massage? Get it anytime!
What Are the Best Types of Massage for Runners?
There are three types of massage that are best for runners and all are used in different situations and at different times.
Deep Tissue: this is what most of us think about when we think about a “sports massage” – a massage that works the entire muscle while focusing on specific tight spots in both the deep muscle and also the superficial layers of fascia.
This type of massage is more holistic than the next two I’ll talk about, so this is best used during periods of hard training. Since it focuses on your entire muscle, rather than a particular trouble area, it’s great when you’re training a lot but don’t have a specific injury.
Active Release Technique (A.R.T.): this massage modality has become popular in the last decade. Combining trigger point massage with movement by the therapist, this type of massage is designed to break up scar tissue and improve mobility.
A.R.T. is best used when you have a specific injury where scar tissue may be impairing the healing and recovery process. A good therapist can determine where any adhesions may be and then break them up while improving functional flexibility in the tissue.
Swedish: This is your mom’s massage – a relaxing, typically soft-pressure massage that doesn’t go deep into the muscles. While it likely won’t help with muscle adhesions or scar tissue, a more relaxing massage still has many benefits for runners.
Before a race, a Swedish massage can help improve relaxation, muscle tension, and lower your stress levels without damaging or stressing the tissue. Just what you want pre-competition!
Massage Tips & Tricks
All this talk about massage makes me want to spend thousands on healing, therapeutic massage. But who has that kind of money to throw at expensive massage treatments?
Thankfully, you don’t need to invest that much in professional massages (though there’s nothing quite like them).
Self-massage offers many of the same benefits and you only need a few simple tools:
- A foam roller is your best option at only about $20-$25 and can be used for years.
- The Stick is another option, which I prefer for the calves and hamstrings. It offers a slightly deeper massage in my experience.
- A massage ball can go deeper and be used well for specific trigger points.
But be careful: deeper pressure isn’t necessarily better. Muscles can tighten up as a defense mechanism, so stick with relatively gentle pressure.
Finally, one last tip from Greg Lehman: find a massage therapist who listens to you and pays attention to how your body responds.
I’ll add that if your masseuse is also a runner, that can be helpful as they really get the sport and its demands. This goes for doctors and physical therapists, too!
Running is a method of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot. Running is a type of gait characterized by an aerial phase in which all feet are above the ground (though there are exceptions). This is in contrast to walking, where one foot is always in contact with the ground, the legs are kept mostly straight and the center of gravity vaults over the stance leg or legs in an inverted pendulum fashion. A characteristic feature of a running body from the viewpoint of spring-mass mechanics is that changes in kinetic and potential energy within a stride occur simultaneously, with energy storage accomplished by springy tendons and passive muscle elasticity. The term running can refer to any of a variety of speeds ranging from jogging to sprinting.
It is assumed that the ancestors of mankind developed the ability to run for long distances about 2.6 million years ago, probably in order to hunt animals. Competitive running grew out of religious festivals in various areas. Records of competitive racing date back to the Tailteann Games in Ireland in 1829 BCE, while the first recorded Olympic Games took place in 776 BCE. Running has been described as the world’s most accessible sport.
Running is not only great for the soul but good for your health
You’ve probably heard it said that exercise is medicine. Well, it’s not just a saying; it’s the truth. There’s a raft of scientific evidence that proves that regular exercise (150 minutes per week, which is about 30 minutes five times per week)—and running in particular—has health benefits that extend well beyond any pill a doctor could prescribe. Studies have shown that running can help prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers, and a host of other unpleasant conditions. What’s more, scientists have shown that running also vastly improves the quality of your emotional and mental life, and even helps you live longer. Here’s how:
1. Running makes you happier.
If you’ve been working out regularly, you’ve already discovered it: No matter how good or bad you feel at any given moment, exercise will make you feel better. And it goes beyond just the “runner’s high”—that rush of feel-good hormones known as endocannabinoids. In a 2006 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers found that even a single bout of exercise—30 minutes of walking on a treadmill—could instantly lift the mood of someone suffering from a major depressive order. In a May 2013 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise in which rats and mice got antidepressant-like effects from running on a wheel, researchers concluded that physical activity was an effective alternative to treating depression.
And even on those days when you have to force yourself out the door, exercise still protects you against anxiety and depression, studies have shown. Moderate exercise may help people cope with anxiety and stress even after they’re done working out, according to a 2012 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise. A 2012 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health proved that just 30 minutes of running during the week for three weeks boosted sleep quality, mood, and concentration during the day.
Ever heard someone call running their “drug”? Well, apparently, it actually is pretty similar. A 2007 study in Physiological Behavior showed that running causes the same kind of neurochemical adaptations in brain reward pathways that also are shared by addictive drugs.
2. Running helps you get skinnier.
You know that exercises burn calories while you’re working out. The bonus is that when you exercise, the burn continues after you stop. Studies have shown that regular exercise boosts “afterburn”—that is, the number of calories you burn after exercise. (Scientists call this EPOC, which stands for excess post oxygen consumption.) That’s kind of like getting a paycheck even after you retire.
And you don’t have to be sprinting at the speed of sound to get this benefit. This happens when you’re exercising at an intensity that’s about 70 percent of VO2 max. (That’s a little faster than your easy pace, and a little slower than marathon pace.)
3. Running strengthens your knees (and your other joints and bones, too).
It’s long been known that running increases bone mass, and even helps stem the age-related bone loss. But chances are, you’ve had family, friends, and strangers warn you that “running is bad for your knees.” Well, science has proven that it’s not. In fact, studies show that running improves knee health, according to Boston University researcher David Felson in an interview with National Public Radio.
“We know from many long-term studies that running doesn’t appear to cause much damage to the knees,” Felson said. “When we look at people with knee arthritis, we don’t find much of a previous history of running, and when we look at runners and follow them over time, we don’t find that their risk of developing osteoarthritis is any more than expected.”
4. Running will keep you sharper, even as you age.
Worried about “losing it” as you get older? Working out regularly will help you stay “with it.” A December 2012 study published in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review concluded that the evidence is insurmountable that regular exercise helps defeat age-related mental decline, particularly functions like task switching, selective attention, and working memory.
Studies consistently found that fitter older adults scored better in mental tests than their unfit peers. What’s more, in stroke patients, regular exercise improves memory, language, thinking, and judgment problems by almost 50%. The research team found “significant improvements” in overall brain function at the conclusion of the program, with the most improvement in attention, concentration, planning, and organizing.
5. Running reduces your risk of cancer.
Maybe running doesn’t cure cancer, but there’s plenty of proof that it helps prevent it. A vast review of 170 epidemiological studies in the Journal of Nutrition showed that regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of certain cancers. What’s more, if you already have cancer, running can improve your quality of life while you’re undergoing chemotherapy. (Want to know more about this? Read first-hand accounts of this and see our full cancer issue here.)
6. Running adds years to your life.
Even if you meet just the minimum of amount of physical activity—(30 minutes, 5 times per week), you’ll live longer. Studies show that when different types of people started exercising, they lived longer. Smokers added 4.1 years to their lives; nonsmokers gained 3 years. Even if you’re still smoking, you’ll get 2.6 more years. Cancer survivors extended their lives by 5.3 years. Those with heart disease gained 4.3 years.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company or specific massage therapy technique, modality or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.