As athletes, training consists of increasing loads of physical exertion and adaptation to these loads, with the happy result of achieving new levels of fitness. Of course, this all depends on the athlete remaining injury-free...
Think about your training schedule and what your body undergoes on a week-by-week, month-by-month basis: You are not only using your muscles; your bones, ligaments, and tendons are also involved. Constant physical training takes a toll on soft tissues, and if you neglect (like many of us have experienced) a self-care routine, this toll can lead to an injury.
What am I trying to say here?
Regular massage can actually decrease your chances for injury as well as speed up recovery.
Yes, you read that right.
How? Read on...
Some common injuries are strains and sprains, muscle fatigue and tenderness, trigger points and overly tight (hypertonic) muscles.
Strain = When you inure a tendon
Sprain = A ligament injury
Deep massage can alleviate the pain of micro tears caused by heavy exercise. Maryna from Maryna Massage often sees triathletes with bicipital tendon injuries (from swimming) and ankle ligament injuries. Left untreated, bicipital tendonitis can lead to a permanent tear (OUCH) and weak ligaments in the ankles can lead to an ankle sprain (another OUCH). Then, the athlete is faced with a lengthy recovery time and physiotherapy. Massage can nip this kind of thing in the bud.
Muscle fatigue and tenderness = Tight tissue constricts blood flow (and oxygen) to muscles
Massage loosens the muscles and breaks up the connective tissues surrounding them. Your circulation system resumes its course bringing fresh blood flow and oxygen to the muscles.
Muscle tenderness = Micro tears in the muscle belly and/or post activity lactic acid build up
Massage promotes a resting state for muscles, giving them time to repair and remove chemicals like lactic acid. It can also help elongate and straighten muscle fibres in the right direction.
Trigger Points = Muscle spasms on a cellular level
If you are overusing a muscle and over-stimulating the nerve that innervates it, or perhaps the muscle isn't receiving the appropriate nutrition (potassium etc), you may experience a muscle cramp/spasm. Trigger points are similar to to muscle spasms; however a spasm happens on a cellular level. Decreased circulation, insufficient hydration, stress, injury, body misalignment, lack of sleep, exercise, and tension can all lead to trigger points. Massage lengthens the muscle tissue, soothes the nervous system, and brings fresh blood full of nutrition to the area.
Hypertonicity = The muscle is contracted and does not fully relax
Every athlete can relate to this one! When you are muscle-building, hypertonicity can be a great thing. Other times, it is a side effect of training and actually slows down an athlete's training progress.
This was a key lesson I learned from Maryna. Think of your muscle as a tight fist. If you keep working a muscle with a limited range of mobility, the chances of injuring that muscle increases. If the muscle is relaxed -- think of an open hand -- you can work that muscle the way it was meant to be worked.
This leads to the notion of massage as a recovery tool and two common massage myths:
Myth #1: Massage is a luxury, why pay more when Advil does the trick?
I admit, I was guilty of this mindset. No one had ever explained to me how and why massage was an integral part of proper recovery, as opposed to my interpretation of recovery as lying on the couch and watching TV. (Think of the closed fist analogy above.)
My first visit with Maryna was a real eye-opener. I honestly believed that training with chronic sore muscles was par for the course. As the weeks would go by, my back for example, would get tighter and tighter. Usually when it reached the point where I could hardly bend over to put on a sock, I'd know that a rest day was near. I was in disbelief after my session with Maryna, my pain was gone, my muscles were relaxed and I could bend over. I'm a convert.
For triathletes, Maryna suggests a regular massage regime of at least once a month. Maryna's rule of thumb is, "Come when you are sore!" This is the time when you want to get a massage to aid in recovery.
Myth #2: Massage is just a relaxing, fluffy, rub-a-dub -- its only real benefit is calming the mind.
Again, I was guilty of this. A good athletic massage is very different from a relaxation massage and will be felt the next day. (Think of it as a 3 out of 10 on a pain scale. You feel it, but you should not be DYING from it.)
Athletic massage focuses on deeper tissue work -- getting into each muscle and working it until it becomes its normal length, decreases in tightness, and is trigger point free. Passive stretching of the muscles is often incorporated into the treatment, but the patient always remains lying down and relaxed.
Massage does not always have to be painful, but some tenderness should be expected afterward. This slight tenderness is an indication that the muscles have been worked on, lengthened, and are going into recovery-mode. Your muscles are now healing and getting the nutrition and healthy cell recovery they need. The soreness also serves as a reminder not to overuse the muscle too quickly.
So....is massage something you should do?
The questions you need to ask yourself are:
- Do you want to be a better swimmer, cyclist, runner?
- Do you want to be faster? Stronger?
- Do you want to recover more quickly so that you can jump back on the bike and keep training?
- Do you NOT want to be sore all day long after your training sessions?
Maryna's clinic focuses on getting you to answer YES to all these questions. Every treatment is tailored to the individual athlete taking into consideration the time spent massaging an area, specific stretching, which techniques will be used, and the amount of pressure applied. Maryna has a 100% focus on her clients -- no one ever leaves an appointment with an unaddressed issue.
The massage session doesn't end at her clinic. Maryna gives you home-care maintenance recommendations like a personalized stretching routine.
To book an appointment, call Maryna at -- 403-604-6339 or email her at email@example.com. Maryna Massage is located at 9624 Academy Drive Southeast Calgary -- near Southland Drive and Blackfoot Trail in the Acadia community.
Check out her website: www.marynamassage.com. To ensure a preferred date and time, call a week in advance. If your schedule has a bit more flexibility, call anytime! Maryna Massage is open from 9:00am - 9:00pm Monday to Friday.