WHETHER YOU ARE an elite athlete or just getting started with an exercise routine, you need to look after your body. It becomes even more important when you’re upping your mileage, increasing intensity or approaching a competition, and regular sports massages have a place in every training program – whatever your sport!
Sports massage is a great way to loosen up and stretch tight muscles, address any muscular imbalances, maintain soft tissue health and range of movement, get your body ready for competition and to promote quicker recovery after a hard workout or competition. It will also help you recover from any injuries quicker, through helping with the alignment of scar tissue, reducing pain and inflammation, and breaking down adhesions before they become chronic. A good massage therapist will work with you and take into account your training plan, race and recovery weeks, and can customize treatments to best suit your current needs.
You can use sports massage in training and competition in many different ways. Treatments are planned differently for training and racing, for pre-competition and recovery – based on your needs at that time and where you are in a training cycle or race calendar.
Maintenance massages should be scheduled at regular intervals, though the most appropriate interval varies depending on your sport, workout volume, schedule, and budget. They can be scheduled weekly, every couple of weeks, or once a month. The aim of a maintenance plan is to optimize range of movement and keep your body happy and healthy, while helping to prevent injuries and nagging aches. A regular massage will often ‘catch’ budding concerns before they turn into injury.
A pre-competition massage includes lots of mobilizations, dynamic stretching and a light massage. This is not the time to do deep work, but to get your muscles and other soft tissues warmed up and prepared for the demands of competition. A pre-race massage is best done anytime between 2 days to just minutes before your race or match.
Massage is a great tool to help your body recover from a tough workout, a hard training week, or competition. Recovery treatments can take place immediate after you finish, or up to a few days after (though the style of massage and the benefits vary depending on the timing). The recovery window is a great time for a more relaxing massage and a good stretch to lengthen muscles and flush out metabolic waste. Done soon after working out or finishing a race, massage will help reduce muscle soreness in the coming days.
Sports massage is also a key part of any rehabilitation program following injury. These treatments are often shorter than maintenance sessions, and much more focused. They are planned to target an injury or persistent pain – be it acute or chronic. This could be anything from a rotator cuff tear, hamstring strain, or ankle sprain to hip or knee pain, iliotibial pain syndrome, plantar fasciitis, shin splints or tennis elbow. Rehabilitative massage is usually done at short intervals (e.g. every few days or weekly) to begin with, progressing to longer intervals as the injury heals, range of motion improves and any pain is reduced.