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When should you get a massage?

by Hannah Floyd, Licensed Massage Therapist

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If you've been wondering when to get a massage, the answer is "Now!"  And I'm not just saying that because I'm Fleet Feet's massage therapist.  Massage therapy will help you move more comfortably.  Here are the reasons on why you should add massage to your training program and tips on how best to do so.

The Whys

Massage therapy relieves muscle pain | Imagine that each of your muscles is like a tiny pump.  When the muscle is contracted, it shortens and the blood pumps out; when it lengthens and relaxes, the blood flows back into the muscle tissue.  Muscle pain can result when muscles are "tight" and can never fully relax to accept their maximum blood supply.  This tightness can lead to painful adhesions or "knots", as well, when blood-starved muscle fibers can't smoothly slide over each other.  Massage returns blood flow the the muscles and breaks up the adhesions.

Massage therapy improves recovery | By helping blood circulate more effectively through the body, nutrients and immune system cells are also more effectively transported throughout the body.  Further, massage has been found to improve the the body's ability to generate immune system cells (for illness-fighting), mitochondria (for energy), and cortisol (for metabolism) - and to decrease inflammation.

Massage therapy increases body awareness | Finally, an increase in body awareness is an often overlooked benefit of a massage session.  You may not have noticed that your body was not in harmony before a massage session, but during or following your session you learned that you were indeed tense, stressed, and/or sore. Massage is beneficial in keeping all your systems in check with each other, and in reminding you of the importance of that balance.

The Hows

While you are actively training for an important event, I recommend a massage every two-to-three weeks.  These sessions will help maintain your muscles and make continuing progress on relieving the chronic tension brought about by balancing training and the rest of your life.  

If you can't afford the time or expense of a massage session every two-to-three weeks, listen carefully to your body and schedule a massage session when it tells you it needs it - and not a moment later.  Preventative maintenance is always preferred over trying to fix what is already broken.

I don't recommend you have a massage when you're feeling sick or if you have a race in less than three days.  In those circumstances it's best to focus on hydration and rest.

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