Monday, April 16, 2012

Running Ragged

Many runners wait until pain or discomfort has made their running difficult or impossible, visiting a physical therapist to rehab them back into their routine. Instead of waiting until after injury has occurred, sports massage is a preventive secret professional athletes have utilized on a regular basis for decades.
Sports massage relaxes the body, reduces pain, increases flexibility, relaxes the mind and speeds recovery enhancing your athletic performance. The enormous training loads elite runners maintain each week make massage a necessity at least once a week but frequently up to three times a week. 
Massage helps maintain muscles in their normal resting length while prolonging an athletic career. The more activity a muscle undergoes, the greater its tendency to contract in a resting position. Think of your hands and how they curl in resting position. These tight muscles are more prone to injury when the next vigorous workout arrives.
Massage increases blood flow and realigns muscle fibers while breaking up adhesions, which are formations of scar tissue made up of collagen that appear during the tissue healing process. By stimulating and then relaxing the system, massage also flushes toxins from these healing muscles, which speeds recovery with fewer aches. A relaxed muscle enjoys increased blood flow and greater range of motion.

Sports massage also helps to identify problem areas that are as yet not full-blown injuries. The role of a sports massage therapist is to locate and work on minor aggravations, in many cases, trouble spots you didn't even know you had. It is also effective in aiding the recovery from an injury by encouraging better kinesthetic awareness and prompting the body’s natural immune function.
For this reason, it is vital to make the distinction between ordinary massage and sports massage. While Swedish or other conventional massage techniques feel relaxing, they are generally not effective therapy for athletes. Sports massage goes deeper into the musculature, and is more intense than other types of massage. Knowing which sports effect which muscles, sports therapists are trained to find trigger points and adhesions.
When you go in for a sports massage, let the therapist know of old and new injuries. Fresh injuries require a lighter touch than chronic aches, which can benefit from more intense work and breaking up of adhesions. The therapist will then work on related areas of tightness or unbalance that may have contributed to or resulted from the original trauma or overuse. 
Not surprisingly, many runners require the most attention to be paid to their legs and gluteal muscles, but allow the therapist to provide tension relief throughout your body including your arms, head, neck and shoulders. These muscle systems are all interrelated and can contribute to problems in running form that lead to injury or discomfort.
These sessions can be intense but need not be painful. Work with the therapist to find a level of discomfort that is tolerable yet effective. If you're not used to sports massage, you should allow five days or even a week between the session and the next race or hard workout. Runners accustomed to the rigors of massage can leave three days for recovery before the event. Wait at least a day after your race--and up to a week after for marathons--before returning to the therapist. Again, this recommendation applies to deeper work as many marathons offer gentle, stroking massage immediately following the race.

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