When you are in training for an event you spend your life dodging injury and illness. You protect your body and health like that of a new-born baby. The thought of twisting your ankle or getting a cough and cold holds so much more fear than at any other time. To ensure you stay at the optimum health and fitness that you have been working so hard on, rest becomes an integral part of your training and having regular sports massage can aid the recovery of tired, sore, overworked muscles.
I have completed two marathons. The first one, Berlin 2012, I was remarkably unprepared. Not through not training or not clocking up the miles, but through not really giving my body the chance to thrive during the training or the race itself. I just went for it. I trained every week, increasing the miles two at a time. I didn’t eat well, I didn’t stretch before or after the training and I definitely didn’t even look into having a Sports Massage. I was then obviously, effected by aching joints, muscles and generally felt terrible for the week after, only feeling better after five to six days before going out and starting the cycle all over again. The actual event was not too bad, it took me ages but I finished and swore never to go through the whole process again.
Skip to four years later and 18 months after my daughter was born I find myself again on a marathon starting line with thousands of other people at the 2016 London Marathon. But this time, I was a lot better prepared, a lot better trained and over the past four months of training I hadn’t suffered the types of pain and discomfort I had the first time round. I put this all down to one quick thirty-minute session with a Sports Massage Therapist at the early stage of my training.
I had decided this time not to suffer on the rest days, so I stretched after each run, I ate better and I built the miles slower. I had less aching muscles in general but my lower back and hamstrings caused a lot of discomfort when walking, bending and lifting. I did some research and figured that a sports massage therapist was probably the best person to go and see. I mean it has the word sport in the title
I booked a treatment a couple of days after a long training run when I knew the effects of DOMS (delayed muscle soreness) would be in full swing. I explained where the pain was, what made it better and what I was trying to do reduce the dull ache that I had been suffering from after each run. What I know now and didn’t know then is how connected the muscular system is and having one short, tight area can make the rest of the body pull, twist and over compensate to reduce damage. I have short tight hamstrings, that attached to the sit bones (Ischial Tuberosity), which then pull on the gluteal muscles and effect the lower back. Loosening them up with regular sports massage not only reduced my pain but it improved my form, my strength and my speed. After a couple of treatments over the final few weeks of long training runs, I wasn’t pain free (of course not I was running 18-22 miles every week) but I certainly didn’t have that dull, sickly feeling every time I moved.
The day before the marathon I headed down to the Expo to collect my goodie bag and number, I also had one more Sports massage but this time it wasn’t to “fix” any problematic muscles, it was to relax me. I was so nervous that I had been carrying so much tension in my back, neck and shoulders that my posture had suffered and I was getting headaches. It was only a 30 minute treatment but the practitioner released so much tension I floated out of the Expo ready for my second Marathon.
I finished the London Marathon one hour and 3 minutes quicker than my first marathon 4 years earlier. Sports massage therapists are not doctors, healers or miracle workers but in preparing, protecting and maintaining my muscles for the onslaught of a 26-mile run, they certainly worked some magic.