Sports massage is something that you should seriously consider to keep you training for those other 11 twelfths of this year and beyond.

When starting a new training regime it’s easy to initially get carried away. Many fitness newbie’s will go to the gym for the first time and wake up the morning after aching, tired and with your body hurting in ways you hadn’t even imagined! The issue is that enthusiasm takes over in the beginning and we try to do too much too soon. That sore, tender to the touch feeling we may experience in our muscles is known as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).

“Many fitness newbies will go to the gym for the first time and wake up in the morning after aching tired and with your body hurting in ways you hadn’t even imagined!”

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It is worth pointing out that soreness is completely normal especially when starting a new training programme and indeed advanced trainers can still experience it, if they do a new workout, use a new training system or more specifically try to lift heavier than normal weights. Despite the relative normality of DOMS – it’s often this feeling of being sore the day after training that puts a lot of people off in the initial stages.

The Benefits of Sports Massage
Sports massage may at first seem like something that is only useful for elite level sportsmen and women as opposed to the average gym member, however there are a number of significant benefits in having regular sports massage:

1. Stimulating muscle repair & growth

Sports massage improves the circulation of blood and speeds up general recovery by providing an increased blood supply to the cells in the body. Deep tissue massage forces blood through the various blood vessels. This makes them more pliable, increases their size and improves function.

2. Reducing muscular tightness & soreness

Tightness and soreness are often related and massage can speed up the healing process. Deep tissue massage actually increases the permeability of the soft tissues by encouraging the muscles to take up oxygen and remove waste products more effectively (waste products are body chemicals, such as lactic acid, which are produced during intense exercise).

This enables a faster recovery. The pressure applied through massage has a pumping effect on circulation. Applying deep massage strokes forces the blood out of the blood vessels towards the heart and when that pressure is released, the blood vessels re-fill with a fresh supply of blood.

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3. Injury prevention and Rehabilitation

As well as helping with injury prevention (due to keeping the tissues and vessels pliable and therefore less likely to tear) deep tissue massage techniques can be used to speed up recovery from existing injuries. If tissue damage occurs, such as with a muscle tear, this causes an inflammatory response.

This leaves the individual with what’s known as scar tissue, which hardens and reduces flexibility. In turn this can increase the likelihood of the problem re-occurring if that particular area if not treated. Sports massage helps to break down the adhesions of the scar tissue enabling the muscle to function effectively again.

4. Enhanced Training Capacity

Simply put, the looser your muscles are, the more efficiently you can recruit them and the harder you will be able to push yourself in training. If a particular muscle or muscle group is tight, this can lead to another muscle over-compensating by over working, which can result in injury.

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5. Improves flexibility & Range of Movement

This is what differentiates sports massage from massage used purely for relaxation. Because sports massage is very firm and deep, this allows not only the superficial muscles to be loosened off but also the deeper muscles, which can be lengthened and stretched through applying pressure along the length of the muscle, in a way that stretching alone can’t achieve. Sports massage helps by stretching not only the muscles but also the fascia (the connective tissue which surrounds the muscle) thus improving the elasticity of the connective tissue and in this way reducing tightness and improving flexibility.

Summary
Whatever your goals are, the key to getting results is consistency. In terms of seeing results from training, consistency comes from being able to train over a long period. For this to happen it is necessary to minimise the risk of injury.

Additionally, it is the quality and intensity of the training, as well as consistency, which lead to results in the long term. These three factors are inter-related and sports massage can affect each of these factors positively.

“Whatever your level of fitness or whatever your goals are for 2014, sports massage is a great way to get the most out of your body and training, whilst simultaneously reducing the risk of injury.”

For example, if you are training and your muscles are loose, they will function more effectively allowing you to train at a higher intensity. However, if a muscle is tight, it tends to fatigue more quickly and may affect the quality of training.

If the muscle is not firing correctly or is fatiguing quickly, then the quality of training is also likely to be effected. Whatever your level of fitness or whatever your goals are for 2014, sports massage is a great way to get the most out of your body and training, whilst simultaneously reducing the risk of injury.

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Frequently asked questions

How often is it best to get treatment?

Although it will depend a lot on the nature of the problem, for general maintenance once a week is ideal but this can be stretched to once every two weeks. For chronic problems or following an injury, sessions may need to be fairly frequent in the early stages but less frequent treatments will be required as time goes on. On the other hand, some problems, which people have suffered with for years may actually be very simple to treat and may only need a few sessions before they clear up.

Can I have a sports massage following an injury? 

Although sports massage can help a great deal with rehabilitation from an injury, it is not advisable to book a session immediately following a soft tissue injury. This is due to the inflammatory response that happens afterwards. How long the area will stay inflamed for will depend on the severity of the injury. A good therapist should be able to advise you on how soon treatment is advisable.

Is a massage better before or after training?

This comes down to personal preference. However, the majority of people tend to prefer to have treatment after they have trained or on a rest day. There is nothing wrong with having a sports massage before a training session provided it is not immediately prior to training. However, some people tend to feel lethargic following treatment because they have been lying down for a while, which is why many people prefer to train first or have their treatment on a rest day to get the maximum benefit.

How can I find a good therapist?

Good therapists can be hard to find and sometimes it’s difficult to know where to go or what to look for. Recommendations can be useful. Always make sure you go to a qualified therapist, who is insured. A reputable therapist will always be prepared to explain the treatment process to you and answer any questions you may have. A good therapist will also refer you elsewhere, if you require more specialised treatment or advice.

How much will a session cost?

This will depend on the length of the session, the location of the therapist and sometimes the level of their experience. Sessions tend to last between 30-60 minutes. A 30 minute session will usually cost between £20 and £30 and an hour may cost anything from £35 to £50 on average. Some therapists may also offer discounts for making block bookings, so it is worth finding out about this.

Can sports massage help even if I don’t train? 

Yes, you don’t have to be sporty to have a sports massage. Deep tissue massage can be beneficial for a variety of complaints, from persistent back problems, repetitive strain injuries, general tightness to sprains and strains and postural issues.

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