Post-Race Massage for Marathon Runners
Congratulations – you have completed your marathon! It is easy (and normal) to get carried away by the euphoria of your achievement and forget about the importance of attending to the condition of your muscles. Being actively involved in the London Marathon post race massage team, and having completed six marathons, I can vouch for the benefits of getting treatment once the race is over.
The benefits are as follows:
“Relaxation of tense muscles and removal of adhesions or minor scar tissue between muscles and fascia (a fancy word for the sheath or casing that surrounds your muscles) Unnecessary tension and adhesions that can restrict movement and impair your range of motion, potentially leading to abnormal movement patterns that can cause overuse injuries.” (Jason Fitzgerald, www.strengthrunning.com)
Many people believe that post-race muscle soreness is due to the buildup of lactic acid, which is released during exercise. However, studies have found that lactic acid is removed relatively quickly after vigorous exercise and the soreness is actually due to cell damage in your muscles. Massage can aid the repair of muscles on a cellular level by increasing local circulation to the damaged tissues.
Another major benefit of massage for runners is pain relief:
“Pain changes how we function and can even inhibit healing. Massage may also help with recovery after a workout and may help get us out of the stress-dominated state of our nervous system.” (Greg Lehman, Physiotherapist, Chiropractor)
Some studies have indicated that massage can reduce inflammation, improve your immune system and reduce stress hormones such as cortisol. All of these factors will have an impact on your recovery.
Runners often ask me when is the best time to get a massage? I would recommend that if massage is given prior to an event, it should be 2-3 days before. It would be light in pressure to relax and revitalise the muscles rather than a deep tissue massage, which may cause soreness. At this time it would also be good to treat the shoulders as many of us hunch our shoulders while running. Relaxation of the shoulders improves running form and ease immensely.
The best time to book a post-race massage will be 1-3 days after the event. Muscles will already be sore after running 26.2 miles, so there is no need to add to that before some recovery has taken place. Of course, if you have the opportunity to have a light post-race massage immediately after the event, it is worth taking advantage of that. This aims to increase local circulation, which would help flush the muscles, improve the time of recovery as well as reducing soreness. However, if you are looking to book a deeper treatment, I would advise you to wait a couple of days to get the most out of your treatment. Your therapist will identify the areas of greater strain and help you devise a follow-up, self-care plan to promote the most efficient recovery and return to activity.
Well done to you all, have some well-deserved rest and happy running!
Clinical Sports & Remedial Massage Therapist, BTEC Diploma Level 5
28th April 2019