Sports massage can improve your athletic performance |

Sports massage can improve your athletic performance

Mark Volf
Glenwood Hot Springs Athletic Club
Mark Volf, Glenwood Hot Springs Athletic Club Director
Staff Photo |

Race season is quickly approaching — that time of the year when runners, cyclists and endurance athletes willingly choose to spend their weekends pushing their physical and mental boundaries. From May through October runners, bikers, triathletes and extreme athletes participate in events that range from 5K and 10K fun runs like the Strawberry Shortcut and sprint races such as the Tri-Glenwood Triathlon to hardcore endurance challenges like the Ride the Rockies and Tough Mudder events. While in-sport training for these events is vital, many athletes don’t realize that adding a regimen of sports massage to their training calendar can up their game, both during the training phase and on performance day.

Have you ever noticed that at many race events, there are tents set up for postrace massage? There’s a good reason for that: Massage has tangible benefits for athletes after a race, but it’s also helpful during training, and there are even prerace perks to sports massage.

So what is sports massage, and how does it help athletes improve their training and performance? Sports massage is a form of physical therapy that is specific to the needs of the athlete; it is very different from spa massages that are designed to first and foremost relax and pamper the client. From a physiological perspective, sports massage can help counteract overuse damage, facilitate faster muscle and tissue healing, improve overall flexibility, increase blood circulation, alleviate soreness and encourage restorative sleep patterns. From a psychological perspective, sports massage can help the athlete relax, reduce performance anxiety and gain a general sense of well-being.

Some of the benefits of sports massage backed up by science include:

• Increased tissue permeability — Sports massage incorporates deep pressure that assists membranes within tissues to open allowing nutritive and waste products to pass through. Nutrients help tissues to repair damage; eliminating waste products like lactic acid helps reduce fatigue and soreness.

• Improved flexibility — Through massage, trained therapists can stretch and elongate muscle fibers in ways that are difficult for athletes to achieve on their own. One of the effects of sports massage is that it can stretch the fascia surrounding the muscle thereby releasing built up pressure and improving range of motion.

• Better circulation — Massage helps to dilate or open the blood vessels, which allows for more blood flow to muscle groups. This in turn enables a more efficient transfer of oxygen and nutrients like glucose and electrolytes to reach more cells and tissues.

Sports massage, like all massage, is personal and dependent on each individual athlete’s goals and budget. Some ways to incorporate sports massage into your training is to consider scheduling weekly massages either at the beginning of your training or during the most rigorous part of your training year, when you are more likely to experience soreness. Doing so can help alleviate delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS), which usually occurs between 12 and 72 hours after exercise. Alternatively, if an athlete suffers from anxiety, a pre-event massage might be just the ticket to a more relaxed demeanor for a competitive edge as well as a good night’s sleep. Of course, athletes can always take advantage of the free but abbreviated massage services available after many races, including our local races. Even though they won’t be on the table as long, they will still reap the healing benefits of sports massage.

Mark Volf is manager of the Glenwood Hot Springs Athletic Club.

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