Why massage is important after a big race

Getting relax after running
An athlete receiving a leg massage from a physiotherapist.

People who love hitting the track often get a buzz from the activity itself, but also from being able to push themselves further and further to reach new goals. This not only improves their fitness, Health Score and general well-being, but will also boost their self-confidence and mental health.

Some runners choose to take this to the next step and aim for big challenges such as marathons, an Ironman or a basic triathlon. When you get to this stage, all the little things count when it comes to increasing your performance, stamina and even reducing your running times.

Many professional athletes swear by massage as a way to make sure they can recover from one race and go on to win the next within a couple of days or even hours. But can massage boost your running times even if you’re not Usain Bolt or Mo Farah?

Physical impact

As well as the obvious impact of massage on your body for calming and soothing tired muscle groups, it also helps your cardiovascular system, improving circulation and allowing blood to get to all the muscles you need it to. Massage can dilate blood vessels, which enables them to work more effectively, thereby improving blood flow and allowing fresh oxygen to reach your tissue. All of this puts you in a much more relaxed state, which is crucial after a big adrenaline-fueled run, and helps calm your heart.

Of course, massage also impacts your muscle health, but this is also connected to your heart – like most things in your body. The improved blood circulation encourages your muscles to lose their tension and relax, which means you won’t feel as much soreness and reduce your recovery time.

Mental wellbeing

Most runners will be familiar with the ‘wall’ of pain or fatigue that will occur at some point during their race. Although when this happens varies a lot between individuals, it’s essential that runners have the mental strength to push through the pain and continue the race.

Doing a solo sport also means that you don’t have the same emotional support as people playing team sports. In fact, many runners will not see a familiar and friendly face from the start line until they reach the end. All of this means that mental health is key to completing runs and improving your performance.

Massage can help this in a number of ways such as reducing stress, tension and anxiety, while promoting a state of relaxation by activating your parasympathetic nervous system. This sends a rush of dopamine and serotonin through your body, which causes a drop in cortisol levels that are associated with stress. It is when you are in this state that you can focus and concentrate more quickly, which promotes the use of massage before as well as after a race.

All of these factors can mean massage can significantly help a runner improve their athletic performance, and ensure they keep on their feet throughout training or marathon season.

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