Regular exercise is a great way to stay healthy and fit. These are some of the advantages of fitness. But whether you are an athlete training for competition or someone tracking his/her steps on a fitness wearable, eventually you will get aches and pains. A sports massage can help you recover faster so you exercise more frequently, improve performance and get positive results from your efforts. Recovery is just one of the many health benefits of a sports massage.
Sports massage is a type of therapy that is designed to specifically meet the needs of competitive athletes. Unlike people who exercise to stay active and healthy, athletes train to become the best in their sport. They put in longer hours and train more frequently in a week compared to regular people.
As an example, professional fighters training for a fight would schedule a camp that would last 10 to 16 weeks. Fight camp usually involves two training sessions per day, six days a week. A training session could include distance runs, sprints, sparring, bag work, resistance training and combination drills. A typical training day would last eight hours.
In order to maintain consistent performance in every training day, a fighter has to recover fast. Eating healthy meals and sleep may not be enough. This is where sport massage therapy comes in to save the day. Massage and fitness go hand-in-hand.
Here are the 8 benefits of sports massage:
During exercise, muscle fibres are constantly broken down. Proper recovery means these damaged tissues heal faster; produce thicker and stronger fibres so you can perform better.
Getting the right ratio of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals as well as high quality sleep are important. But the strategic inclusion of sports massage will speed up the healing process.
Sports massage must only be performed by a licensed massage therapist or physical therapist. They are trained to apply the right techniques on your muscles to get the best results.
Generally, a massage is the process of applying pressure on your muscle tissues. When it comes to sports massage, the pressure applied is harder, heavier and harsher because muscles get more damaged, become tighter and accumulate waste products called lactic acid.
Sports massage aims to improve blood circulation so that nutrients coming from food and supplements can reach the damaged tissues much faster. This is one of the most important benefits of sports massage if the athlete is suffering from a sprain, tendinitis, arthritis, muscle spasms and cramps.
Sports massage also helps relieve tension and flush out lactic acid build up. Lactic acid is a by-product of glycogen and is produced by the body as a source of energy if there are insufficient levels of oxygen. This happens during anaerobic exercises like weight training. Its purpose is to send a signal to the body that “enough is enough”.
Too much lactic acid build up can be painful. Your muscles become very tight and feel numb. If your muscles remain tight after exercise, it could expose you to greater risk of getting injured. Excess lactic acid leads to post workout pain in your muscles.
While exercising with lactic acid is not risky, it can be uncomfortable. If the pain becomes intolerable, it can shift focus away from proper form and technique and toward pain management. Executing skill specific exercises with improper form can lead to injury.
But these health benefits of sports massage aren’t exclusive only to competitive athletes. People who put in time in the week to exercise can likewise reap the benefits from getting a sports massage.
Remember, if you are trying to meet the Center of Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendation of 10,000 steps a day, you will eventually deal with aches and pains on your knees, ankles and feet.
Most people try to accomplish 10,000 steps by walking around in leather shoes or heels which are not suitable for regular physical activity.
Those who participate in even more intense exercises like running, basketball, functional training, Powerlifting, soccer, tennis and martial arts would definitely benefit from getting a sports massage once in a while.
Sports massage is often interchangeably referred to as deep tissue massage. Both types of massage utilize the same techniques of kneading, following circular movements, tapping and the use of vibrations. However there are differences in application.
Here are three areas where the application of each type of massage is different:
1. Injury Prevention/ Rehabilitation – Sports massage focuses on sports-related injuries. A trained sports massage therapist can pinpoint which areas in your body need more stimulation and work by assessing its level of tightness and by detecting imbalances in strength, mobility and flexibility. Massage therapists who perform deep tissue massage will not focus on sports- specific conditions but will simply apply techniques that will give health benefits and overall wellness results.
2. Goals – Both types of massage can reduce stress, remove toxins, improve circulation and alleviate pain points. However, sports massage is intended to improve performance by enhancing recovery and addressing sports specific injuries and conditions.
3. Clientele – Perhaps because of its terminology, athletes typically comprise the clientele of sports massage specialists. Regular people may prefer to seek out deep tissue trained massage therapists. Although it is not uncommon for athletes to undergo deep tissue massage.
One quality sports massage and deep tissue massage share in common is that the recipient will feel pain during the sessions.
Massage therapists who work on exceptionally large or muscular athletes such as football players use tools that help them reach muscle tissues at deeper levels. Oftentimes, the client leaves the massage therapy session with black and blue marks on his/her body and a feeling of soreness.
Even though the health benefits of a sports massage are undeniable, it will be difficult to exercise if you feel sore after sports massage. You will have to schedule your sport massage therapy session so that its results will not affect your next day training.
The most ideal schedule would be to have your sports massage three to five days before or after the competition or hardest training day. Do not schedule it the day before the competition as it will surely affect performance.
Professional massage therapists recommend having a sports massage at least twice a week. For high level competitive athletes should have sports massage therapy pencilled once a week in their training program.
If you don’t exercise intensely or spend fewer than three days a week on physical activity, you can have a sports massage every time you feel tightness, sluggishness, nagging aches and pains and lack of general mobility.
The key takeaway is that if you want to improve performance or achieve overall health, fitness and wellness take some time to get a sports massage. Embrace the advantages of fitness and massage. Your body will thank you for it.