I was recently speaking with one of my regular clients about an up coming sporting competition he is in and it came to me that many people, including him, do not realize the planning and technique that goes into performance based massage for athletes of any caliber. So, I thought I would make this blog about educating the public on what goes on behind the scenes of massage combined with a training schedule and why it improves performance. There are many types of athletes and training schedules out there, this is going to speak specifically to those who are training toward one big event like a marathon, triathlon, or obstacle race.
It is always best to give yourself at least 3 solid months of training before any event (if this is your first), and consulting with a massage therapist around this same time frame can lead to the best results come competition time. In the first stages of training, massage should be designed to improve efficiency of movement and speed up recovery time. These two elements allow you to train better and more frequently. Do not be afraid to give your therapist as much information as possible about how your body feels when training. How long into your run does your knee start to hurt? How many miles of cycling before the back fatigue comes? What spots bother you the most afterward? etc. Your therapist should be asking these questions also, but the more forward with info that you are the better. This information allows us to cater the session to exactly what your body requires to keep increasing your performance. We can also use it in combination with assessments and functional work to align your body so energy is not met with resistance, but used for propulsion.
This is only half of the consideration in the beginning phase of training. The other major part is looking to speed up recovery time. That soreness that settles in after the work out can be shortened with the right techniques. This will allow you to get out in the field again faster with less soreness to keep the training level up.
Most people peak in their training 2-4 weeks before their event and around this time, the massage techniques should also change. Everyone is different in how they respond to body work, so this part is entirely dependent upon the individual; however, within this time frame the massage should be focused on flushing out toxins and keeping the muscles loose and healthy. No more working to improve posture or change gait at this stage. Importance should be placed on maintaining fitness level and addressing minor pains as they come up not changing the way anything works.
Why should you use massage while training, you ask? Well, if the ability to move easier and train faster is not enough for you, there are some other benefits. Probably the best one that I have seen in my practice is the prevention and management of injury. In the beginning stages of training for anything, the body undergoes much more stress than it is used to. This can lead to soreness and injury. A knowledgeable therapist can use a multitude of techniques to assess and treat minor aches and pains from exercise and direct you in the right path if there is concern of a more serious issue. But, the bottom line is always performance. Keeping your muscles loose, healthy and running efficiently through their range of motion could be the difference between just barely making it across the finish line and exceeding your performance goals.