Post Competition Massage: Why should I do it?

You’ve run 26.2 miles, biked 112 miles, or swam 2.4 miles- or if you’re a little crazy and a lot determined, all three in one day. Your friend starts pulling you over to the massage tent, but you really don’t want to lay down because you might never get up. Right now, you want nothing more than to NOT MOVE for maybe a month or so.

Then your friend starts telling you about this crazy study where these men let the scientists take biopsies of their muscles before and after exercise and after post exercise massage. Why would they let them do something crazy like that? Well, your friend says, it helped them prove that massage DOESN’T decrease lactic acid (Wait why am I heading over to the massage tent, then?) but instead, it helps them decrease the enzymes that cause inflammation. So you can get a head start on recovery before it even starts!

So…… let’s get this straight. Massage really DOES help create a faster recovery? Duh, your friend says, rolling their eyes. So that’s why you’ve been getting massage!  Duuuuuh! they repeat. I thought you were just babying yourself! I don’t go to some fluffy spa! they say.  My therapist is a Certified Medical Massage therapist and has been working on athletes for YEARS!

So you sign the release, lay down on the table, and proceed to learn how a really talented therapist can make the idea of moving again seem less impossible.
Stretching Out CC Image Courtesy of Rob on Flickr

A lot of people still don’t understand how massage can help you prepare for and recover from a race.

The biggest elements a good sports or medical massage therapist can offer come before a race. Many athletes don’t seek out care if they aren’t hurting, but you may still be creating negative habits that won’t come to a head until you push yourself at the competition. Having someone who knows your body when it’s healthy can help you correct problems before they hit a tipping point. A massage therapist can educate you on basic form, function, and treatment for everyday problems, or care for specific issues that may flare up but haven’t yet. Plus, if you do manage to step off a curb wrong and really pull something, you have a knowledgeable source to make sure you’re going to the best advanced provider for your problem.

After a competition, a massage therapist helps break down adhesions and tension quickly, so you can get back to feeling normal and training at the top level as soon as possible. No, lactic acid isn’t something we treat. Lactic acid is a by product of exercise, and study after study has shown that you break it down or remove it at approximately the same speed regardless of whether you receive massage or not.

But muscle tension- now that we can treat. Other than very very locally (like the top layers of skin), we don’t increase blood flow. Think of it more like creating flow through an eddy in a river- there isn’t any more water in the eddy, but now it’s getting fresh water. Massage helps open up the top end of the eddy so that it gets moving, and your body does the rest. And if you’ve ever pushed yourself through a workout, you know how tense you can become. Treating it regularly keeps tension to a minimum so you get the best recovery, every time, competition or not.

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If you’re interested in how the Massage Therapists at Essential Therapy, LLC, can help you prepare and recovery from your next competition, check out our Race Recover Repeat package, or email us with specific questions.

Happy Training!