Exercise is, as we all know, vitally important, but in order to get the best from each workout, a little outside help is sometimes required. A sports massage is a popular form of physiotherapy that’ll reduce the chance of injury, and help you get more out of each visit to the gym. It’ll make you more flexible, reduce swelling, and improve your circulation – all of which, naturally, will help your body recover after a workout.
With that said, it might not be obvious exactly when you should get a sports massage. Are they best deployed before a workout, in order to boost performance, or after it, to aid your recovery? The right answer will depend on what you’re looking to get out of the massage. So, when is a sports massage used?
Why get a sports massage before a workout?
The object of a pre-workout massage should be to stimulate endorphin production, and relieve any tension before you push your body out of its comfort zone. This sort of massage, done properly, will make you feel amazing – and thus capable of tackling the treadmill (or squat rack, or climbing wall) with ease.
Of course, some sorts of massage can be exhausting, which is the opposite of what you want before a workout! Spend more than thirty minutes on the table and you’re likely to be shattered. The same applies to deep-tissue work, as it might cause temporary soreness that’ll affect performance. As such, you’ll want your pre-workout massage to be low-intensity, so that it loosens muscles, instead of pulverising them.
Why get a sports massage after a workout?
By contrast, a post-workout massage should be focussed on reducing soreness and inflammation, and restoring full flexibility. Seasoned resistance-trainers have all had experiences where we hit the weights a little bit too hard and found ourselves unable to brush our teeth the following morning! The massage should be targeted rather than general, working on the specific muscles you’ve been exerting the most. An experienced physio will know exactly which areas to focus on.
To get the best from a massage of this sort, you’ll need to spend longer lying on the table. An hour or so is usually called for to get to those deep-lying muscles, improve circulation, and eliminate toxicity where it counts.
So how soon after a workout should we get a sports massage? Well, you’ll have time to go for a shower and grab a recovery meal. In fact, there’s a roughly 48-hour window after your workout – a massage during this period will have the desired effect.
How often should I get a sports massage?
This depends on the sort of exercise you’re doing. If you’re part of an elite sports team that’s going to be competing for international honours next week, then a twice-weekly session might prove worthwhile. If you’re just an average Joe doing occasional light exercise, on the other hand, then a session once a month is probably sufficient.If you’re recovering from an injury – and particularly a longer-term, debilitating injury, then more frequent massages might be able to facilitate recovery. If you’re physically unable to exercise, then a sports massage might provide a way of stimulating blood flow and incrementally increasing your range of movement. If you’re looking to return to action at the earliest opportunity, then regular massages should be considered obligatory – they’re just as effective as any dietary supplement!
What about big events?
If you’re looking to compete in a big endurance event, then getting a sports massage before you reach the starting gate might lend you that edge over the competition. With that said, you’ll want to avoid the pitfalls of a full-body massage in the days leading up to a big event. Go for something low-intensity to get yourself properly relaxed and in the right frame of mind, then treat yourself to an ice-bath after you cross the finish line.
If you’re reading this, you might be wondering when to get a sports massage before a marathon. The answer will depend on how quickly your body is able to recover from a massage – and it’s a little bit different for everyone.
It’s sound advice to only get a massage before a big race if you already get them on a regular basis. This way you should know how long it takes your body to recover, and you can plan accordingly. A few days before you run a marathon is a not a good time to get your first ever sports massage!
Are sports massages for me?
Anyone who’s seen a behind-the-scenes documentary about modern athletics might be familiar with the extraordinary lengths to which some professionals will go to recover just a tiny bit more quickly and get back into action. At the cutting edge of human performance, an extra day’s training can make all the difference – but what about those of us whose livelihoods don’t depend on being in tip-top condition? Aren’t sports massages a little bit close to overkill?
The short answer is no: if you’re doing any form of exercise, then you’ll benefit from an occasional sports massage. Whether you’re just going for the occasional walk in the park or a once-weekly session at the gym, it’s sure to help you get the best from the experience. The same applies to people who don’t do any recreational exercise at all, but who spend every day doing physically demanding labour. If you find that your muscles are sore and stiff at the end of each working week, then why not discuss the benefits of a massage with your local physio? They’ll be able to devise a massage program that’s tailored to your body, that’ll support your fitness goals, and that’ll make you feel fantastic, too.
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