Why are more and more active people turning to massage therapy to help them reach their goals? Because they’ve discovered that massage therapy isn’t just useful in reducing emotional stress, it’s also effective on a muscular and cellular level which can translate to better and more enjoyable running performances, lower risk of injury, and faster recovery.
It has become standard practice to add miles to your workouts. What should also become standard practice is to add massage therapy to counter the effects of performing a repetitive motion, like running. Here’s why massage can help you as a runner, in a nutshell:
Massage therapy increases circulation, which relieves muscle pain, improves recovery, and increases bodily awareness.
Let me explain, without a lesson in physiology.
Massage therapy increases circulation: Perhaps the greatest benefit of massage therapy is it’s ability to increase the performance of the circulatory system because of the myriad of effects this has on the rest of the body’s systems. The body’s systems must all work in harmony in order for it to perform at it’s best. So, when you you are asking a lot of your musculoskeletal system by running longer, harder or faster, you are effectively asking a lot of all your bodily systems.
Massage therapy relieves muscle pain: Let’s start with muscle pain. The nervous system is responding to signals sent by the musculoskeletal system that something is not in harmony with the rest of your body. Imagine your muscles each like tiny pumps. When the muscle is contracted, it shortens and the blood flows out. When it lengthens and relaxes, the blood flows back into the muscle tissue. Now imagine that the muscle is never allowed to fully relax because of continual contraction. Maybe it’s compensating for another muscle’s underperformance or maybe it’s just being contracted more than relaxed, and now there is less blood in the muscle tissue. The decreased blood circulation in the repetitively used muscle groups cause the muscle fibers to contract or slide over the others less smoothly and effectively knot together to eventually form a what is commonly just referred to as a “knot.” Massage therapy can bring blood flow back to those areas by breaking up adhesions or “knots,” lengthening muscles, and increasing overall circulation while decreasing muscle pain and restoring full range of motion.
Massage therapy improves recovery: By helping to more effectively deliver blood throughout the body, nutrients and immune fighting cells are also more easily transported throughout the body, helping you keep your body healthy. Further, massage has been found to improve cells immune and mitochondrial building functions, decrease inflammation, and increase cortisol levels, effectively making you feel better faster, both mentally and physically.
Massage therapy increases bodily awareness: Finally, an increase in bodily awareness is common during and after a massage therapy session. You may not have noticed that your body was not in harmony until you went in for the massage and then discovered you were tense, stressed and sore. Massage is beneficial in keeping all your systems in check with each other, and in reminding you of the importance of that balance.