Does a massage after running have any benefits

Does A Massage After Running Have Any Benefits?

The fact that running has its own health benefits may not be news to most of us. You must have heard from family, friends or a T.V commercial that running is a great way to burn excess calories and even improve your cardiovascular health. So an average person already knows deep down that running has its obvious perks.

However, while many people will readily acknowledge and give running as an exercise a thumbs up, they may not have remotely considered the possibility that running has its own drawbacks. Yes, running does come with some drawbacks such as muscle tightness and pain, anyone that engages in this sport as a profession would testify to this fact.

If you are already a regular runner either as a professional athlete or you run often as a form of exercise, you should know right off (you probably do already) that a foot massage can be beneficial to you after running.

While you might be saying to yourself at this point that having a massage after running is a no-brainer and really nothing new. You should know that having a massage immediately after running could cause more harm than good (I can hear a pin drop).

That’s right! You are probably thinking that I might be nuts for saying this, but bear with me for a moment and continue reading this article to learn a bit more about when to schedule a massage and what benefits you can actually derive from having a massage.

running up stairs

Get A Massage At The Right Time For Best Results

Typically, athletes (amateur and professional alike) ask two questions with regards to when they should have a foot massage. The first question is usually – “Is having a massage before running a race ideal?”

Well, the reason why this question is usually asked is because one of the perks of having a massage is that it relaxes the muscles, so the common assumption (though erroneous) is that with relaxed muscles there would be less chances of injury.

The fact is foot massagers for runners would advise that a foot massage just before a race can cause soreness to your muscles because deep tissue massaging involves the application of a considerable amount of pressure to your muscles which can leave you feeling like you just ran a marathon.

The second question that athletes ask with regards to when they should have a massage is – “Should a massage be administered immediately after a run out?” The answer to this second question like the first is NO! a masseuse would also advise that a massage immediately after a marathon for example is really not ideal.

As long as you are still feeling the effects (muscle soreness) of the workout or marathon race for example, having a massage at that moment could prove to be detrimental to your recovery period, as mentioned earlier applying more pressure to your already sore muscles would only compound the problem and extend your recovery time.

So When Is The Best Time To Have A Massage After Running?

The most ideal time to schedule a massage is 1 or 2 days after a hard workout, running session or race. By this time it is expected that your muscle soreness would have subsided and having a massage would not cause further strain to your recovering muscles, but rather improve its flexibility and reduce tension.

In a similar vein, a masseuse would recommend that you schedule a massage 2 to 3 days before a rigorous running session, workout or race. If you are wondering why, well remember that massage like actually running a race would require some recovery time. If you massage just before a race for example, you are more likely to have wobbly legs, so massaging 2 to 3 days before a race would give you sufficient time to recover before the race.

Now that you know when you should ideally schedule a massage, you might be asking yourself what benefits can be derived from massaging. Here are some benefits that should interest you.

runners ready for race

5 Benefits Of Having A Foot Massage After Running

Pain Relief

After having a rigorous workout involving running long distances, you are most likely going to feel pain in your muscles. During an intense workout or race your body generates lactic acid which is a toxin that sips into your muscle tissues. Lactic acid is capable of causing significant damage to your muscle tissues if care is not taken. With damaged muscle tissues you are likely to have less blood circulation in your muscles which can lead to tightness, congestion and pain in your muscles. By having a foot massage at the right time (2 to 3 days before a workout or 1 to 2 days after a runout) will help to improve the blood circulation in your muscles, reduce tightness and relieve the pain felt.

Improved Recovery Time

By improving blood circulation in your muscle tissues, the body’s immune system is stimulated which further leads to a boost in the healing time of the sore muscle tissues. As mentioned before, lactic acid is released into the muscles which causes tremendous amounts of stress to the muscles and massaging the muscles is a great way of boosting circulation and removing the tissue damaging toxins from your system. With the toxins removed from your system, the recovery time for your muscle fatigue and soreness will be enhanced and you can go out running once more without feeling sore.

Better Flexibility

A masseuse recommend that massaging the foot can help athletes attain better flexibility and this can only improve their overall performance as well as reduce their risk of sustaining injuries. With a properly done foot massage, your musculoskeletal structure can be rebalanced. It must be mentioned that athletes tend to have some level of stiffness and pain in their ankles, achilles tendon, heel and even toes. This is in addition to the tightness and pain they feel in their hamstrings, knees and IT Band. One thing you should realise about the human body is that muscles tend to compensate for each other where there is a drop in performance. If one muscle is not performing optimally another muscle steps up in order to give the body balance. However, this causes stress to the muscles leading to pain and stiffness which a massage can help to rectify.

Massage Helps Muscles To Relax

When you have a foot massage your muscles tend to relax and this has a holistic effect on the entire body. For starters, your mind is more relaxed and this can promote good rest and sleep which is needed for quick healing. With relaxed muscles, stress hormones such as cortisol is significantly reduced by having a decent foot massage. Furthermore, with reduced body stress your overall performance during a workout or running session is enhanced. You are also much more relaxed and generally in a good mood.

Massage Reduces Inflammation

One problem that athletes and runners face after a workout or race is the problem of inflammation of their muscles. Inflamed ankles can be quite painful and while dipping your feet in a bucket of ice water or placing an ice pack on the inflammation can help to reduce it, having a foot massage also does wonders to an inflamed ankle.

Massage Techniques For Runners

Three Top Massage Techniques For Runners

It may also interest you to know that as a runner there are basically three massage techniques that may be utilised by a massage therapist at different times and under different circumstances. There are three massage techniques that can be deployed and these include;

  • A Deep Tissue Massage: When a deep tissue massage is done by a professional, your whole muscle structure is worked on with a lot of attention given to stiff deep muscles. The massage also helps with dealing with the superficial muscle layers of your fascia. Deep tissue massage is ideal for helping runners recover from very intense running sessions because of its holistic nature.
  • The A.R.T (Active Release Technique): This massage focuses on trigger points specifically to dispel scar tissue and enhance overall mobility. In a situation where a runner has a scar tissue that inhibits their period of recovery, a massage therapist can help to enhance tissue flexibility by breaking up spots where there are adhesions.
  • A Swedish Massage: Now the Swedish massage is similar to getting a massage from a loved one. It is not a deep tissue massage, but rather a superficial massage. This type of massage would not necessarily relieve scar tissue problems, but does have a soothing effect that all runners can benefit from. The Swedish massage is also great before a runner goes for a race according to professionals, since it is only superficial it can actually relieve any tensed muscle by aiding relaxation while also reducing the runners level of stress. As Swedish massage causes no stress to deep muscle tissue, it is the ideal massage technique to get you started for a race.

Save Money By Self-Massaging

These days professional athletes have an entourage of professionals in different fields. Apart from a trainer their team may also comprise of dieticians, nutritionists, psychologists and of course massage therapists. With all these professionals on board an athlete’s team, you can be sure that they are well paid for their services.

While having qualified professionals on your team will help to improve your overall performance, it is safe to say that not everyone can afford a team of seasoned professionals. However, this doesn’t mean you cannot still get some good quality massage.

Finally, by engaging in self-massaging you can still gain some considerable benefits and what’s more you only require a couple of inexpensive and basic equipment. Some of the massage equipment that you can make use of include; a Stick, the foam roller and a massage ball. These massage tools offer both Swedish and Deep Tissue type massage (like using the massage ball).

Sources:

  1. The Powerful Benefits of Massage for Runners (and how to do self-massage on the cheap), Strength Running
  2. When Should Runners Get a Deep Tissue Massage?, ACTIVE
  3. Can You Really Benefit From Post Workout Massage?, Runners Connect