With Sy Wiggall (ITEC Level3 Sports massage Therapist)
I have been practicing sports massage for the past 2 years in and around the Oxford area. One of the reasons I started massaging was because the known benefits a sports massage had such great benefit on my own body and performance. With many years of weight training I found a regular sports massage helped to increase my mobility, flexibility and actually increased my muscle tone.
I also found that there are many therapists that just don’t seem to have enough strength to get into the muscles when they really need to be worked. Many of my repeat clients, who want this same output, say that the pressure I can apply for those who need and want this, is the reason they come back. I would say that my added knowledge in the strength & conditioning, nutrition and self-motivation field adds to a greater experience for the budding athlete or people interested in better overall health, physical and mental.
Massage Benefits for both the athlete and non-athlete
- Reduces chance of injury by increasing muscular length and joint mobility
- Aids in recovery – the breakdown of tight muscle enables tissues to become healthier by encouraging the muscle to take up more oxygen and nutrients and enhancing mechanoreceptor activity
- Improves tissue elasticity, which will increase ones ability to jump higher, run faster, and increase reaction time of movement
- Reduces stress on the joints, ligaments and tendons
- Breaks down scar tissue from injuries or traumas, thus increasing muscle and joint movement, muscle length and tone, reducing pain
- Reduces physical tension & psychological tension, especially in and around the shoulders, neck and upper back
- Heat from the massage causes the muscle to relax, inducing a sense of relaxation and comfort
- Invigorating and stimulating. Prior to a competition an athlete can feel an increase sense of alertness, priming them for the event. Due to the endorphin release, after a massage one feels naturally high.
Sports massage for the athlete:
- Pre-event priming of the muscle before either a heavy competition or long distance race
- Dilation of blood vessels, which helps them work more efficiently to promote circulation
- Helps regulate mechanoreceptor activity and muscle tone, which significantly increase in repetitive sports
- Promotes the removal of waste products and toxins, supplies fresh blood to tissues
- Enhanced blood circulation helps to relieve muscle tension, reduce soreness and speeds up recovery
- The now optimized length and tone of the muscle allows an increased range of motion, contractility and adaptability, leading to a better athletic performance
- Reduces inflammation, and promotes growth of new mitochondria (the energy providing units for our muscle cells)
- Helps prevent injuries when massages are regularly received
For athletes – When’s best to schedule a massage:
5+ training days/week:
If you are an athlete training 6 days / week, it’s best to schedule your massage on your rest day or the evening of the 6th day of training, giving you a longer time for recovery and relaxation.
A deep massage will cause inflammation response, causing the muscle to ache for up to several days, thus reducing your strength and power to the treated area. Having a regular massage will reduce the amount of time it takes for your muscles to recover, as over time your muscle will be more conditioned to the treatment.
If you can only get massaged on a day where you have to train, its recommended to adapt your training. For instance with many of the rowers I work with, if I’m working on their back, they will choose to cycle rather than row if fitness is required for that session. Resting the back, while still able to train legs.
If you have a race/event coming up, it’s advised to increases you massage’s to a weekly occasion for that month, and then schedule your final one 3-5 days before.
Less than 5 days/week, looking at a one off event:
One off races/events (10k, ½ & full marathons any endurance races, Tough Mudder or Spartan race:)
If you are having a one off event coming up, again in the month leading up to the event, aim for 1 massage a week to feel fresh and rejuvenated. If you are looking for a massage prior to an event and want the best bang-for-your-buck or are having muscular tightness issues, I would suggest 4 days prior. If you can’t make that then 2 or 3 days will suffice, this type of massage will be more of a muscle flushing and loosening up to prepare you for the event.
* If you need to weight train, and have had your legs massaged, then opting for an upper body workout with lightweights would work or vise versa, but certainly not max strength work. Ideally mobility work should be performed.
A lighter flushing massage immediately after the event or of that evening is ideal and will encourage blood flow, promoting more oxygen and nutrients to the muscle aiding in recovery. 30 minutes would be recommended. N.B. The next day maybe possible, but it will all depend on the severity of the soreness.
After 72 hours the initial soreness and inflammation should have subsided, now would be an ideal time for a deeper massage, working out any niggles you may have picked up.
Types of massage:
- Deep tissue
- Muscle flushing & priming
- Pre & post event