What Is a Sports Massage?

Sports massage is one of the best ways to aid your recovery from exercise. Whether you are a walker, runner, cyclist, swimmer or athlete of a different sport, a sports massage can be an effective tool in your training plan.

Sports massage is just one of a number of massage styles that can be used, others include Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue Massage, Hot Stone Massage and Aromatherapy Massage. Each style has its own benefits and techniques which you can read about in this article.

Sports massage is a style used with athletes in mind and you don’t have to be a professional to feel the benefit. If you perform a sport or activity on a regular basis, then a sports massage can have a whole range of benefits you could reap.

What Is a Sports Massage

Sports Massage: The Key Benefits

The key benefits of sports massage are:

  • Prevent injury
  • Identify repetitive areas of tension, tightness and muscle spasm
  • Improve range of motion and freedom of movement within the existing range
  • Improve blood supply to key muscles to improve performance
  • Boost mood and decrease anxiety

A good sports masseuse will be able to identify and alleviate any tension within your muscles and loosen any tight knots that may have built up due to repetitive movements. This can be of huge benefit, especially in injury prevention and rehabilitation to ensure that your body can move in the most effective and uninhibited way. When a muscle becomes knotted it is not able to perform, by loosening the knot you allow the muscle to perform in a natural and effective way and this reduces the risk of muscle spasms and tears which occur when the muscle is tight, tense or knotted.

Your sports masseuse will also be able to identify any muscles which are repeat offenders for becoming too tight, as well as weaknesses and imbalances. This can be important if you are working alongside a PT as you will be able to better target problem areas to stop the cycle of injury. Sharing feedback from your PT, or your own observations from the gym with your sports masseuse and vice-versa can help take your training to new heights and is extremely rewarding when you can see the benefits with your own eyes in the weeks and months after as your performance and conditioning improves.

Being able to move freely and without stiffness or soreness is another benefit that can enhance your performance and give you a lot of confidence, especially in the weeks immediately after a massage. Having a sports massage in the weeks before a race or event where you need to perform at your best can ensure that you are feeling fresh and energised. The physical and mental benefits of this is both equally important. However, it is important to leave enough time for you to recover from the massage and this is something that we cover below.

A sports massage may cause you to become sore in the days afterwards, similar to the pain experienced after a workout. Don’t be alarmed by this. During a sports massage, your muscles are stimulated and manipulated, and this can, in some cases, lead to soreness in itself whilst your body recovers. There are a number of things that you can do to make sure that you recover from your massage effectively and we talk about this below.

Similar to the benefits of exercise, having a sports massage can also improve your sleep quality and reduce anxiety by releasing feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream. Whilst this may seem less relevant to you if you are considering a sports massage for purely physical reasons, consider the impact of stress and sleep on performance and it quickly becomes clear why this is an important benefit. If your body is more relaxed, it is likely that your mind will be too, leaving you free to perform and fulfil your potential.

Tuning up for Your Sport

It can be of huge benefit to have a sports massage in the weeks leading up to and the days after a big event. But as Tom Merrick notes, having some tension in your muscles is important for performance. In practice, this means that you should not aim to have any tension after a massage, just less than before you started.

For this reason, it is useful to schedule your sports massage in advance so that you can optimise your training schedule and give your best performance on race day. We mentioned above how you can become sore in the days after a massage, and this can happen when the body is unused to the demands of massage on the body. Having a massage within a set schedule gives your body the opportunity to adapt, leading to better results and less tension. Result!

Getting the Most Out of Your Massage

There are a couple of basic things that you can do to get the most out of your sports massage.

Before the massage begins, have a conversation with your sports masseuse about any particularly tight or sore points that you would like them to focus on. This gives your masseuse the ability to tailor their approach, targeting key areas and using techniques that are the most likely to yield results for you. Giving your masseuse a heads up about any pre-existing injuries or conditions also means that your masseuse will be less likely to aggravate a problem which can cause you unnecessary and unwanted pain.

Your masseuse may offer to use tiger balm or essential oils during the massage to help relax and invigorate your body. Whilst these are not obligatory, they are used by high performance athletes and can really help you feel at your best once you leave the massage table.

We would also recommend drinking plenty of water straight after the massage. During a massage, the fluid is flushed out of your muscles and needs to be replenished. This is especially important if you plan on working out the same day as your sports massage as you will need to rehydrate from your massage then be aware of your hydration levels in your workout too.

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