Most of you have heard this – and many probably believe it – massage is just a luxury reserved for special times like vacations or birthdays. In truth massage is not just an indulgence! In fact it can give you current fitness routine a much needed boost!
Massage is not just soothing to the body and soul. Sure, it’s a great stress reliever but it also can benefit physical conditioning goals – just ask a professional athlete!
Take for example those tight muscles from that tough workout. Massage can release spasms which impede blood flow and can cause inflammation, pain and dysfunction. And it can help prevent and assist in the healing of muscular injuries by decreasing the amount of adhesions (fibrous bands holding together muscle tissue that is normally apart commonly seen during the healing process). It can aid in the prevention of overtraining by relaxing the tension and sedating the nervous system so muscles can work more efficiently. And while massage will not directly build muscles, it is a key factor in the rebuilding of tissues and influencing muscle growth.
Massage can decrease the recovery time necessary between workouts by aiding in the elimination of toxins, such as lactic acid which is the culprit of delayed muscle soreness. By increasing circulation through massage – and drinking adequate amounts of water, these toxins can be cleared out while allowing for an increased blood flow which maximizes the general nutrition (oxygen and essential nutrients) of muscles essential for optimal function.
Power and performance is influenced by massage by increasing the body’s efficiency and facilitating the muscle-building response while enhancing range of motion and flexibility. Muscles that are sufficiently elongated increase proficiency while aiding in the reduction of injury risks.
Massage can also help you attain your weight loss goals through assisting the subcutaneous tissue to exude fat to become absorbed – not stored.
Massage won’t help you increase muscle bulk, nor will it directly increase muscle strength. But it will help you body work more efficiently while assisting in the recovery after strenuous workouts. It gives your body an overall boost by increasing circulation, decreasing pain and spasms, increasing your immune system and decreasing stress so workouts can be performed with more regularity and intensity. Plus it boosts self esteem and overall wellbeing.
So when and how often should you book a massage – and with whom? First you should check a massage therapists credentials to make sure they are a qualified bodywork practitioner. Many states do not have licensing regulations but a professional massage therapist should have been trained through a certified school. Ask for credentials, professional training information and referrals. When in doubt check the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). Many qualified professionals work in wellness centers, physician or chiropractic offices and gyms or health spas.
During your first visit, your massage therapist should take a history including any relevant medical history and your specific problem areas and goals. Then together you and your therapist should decide on the best schedule to optimize your goals.
Some key points to remember:
Massage effects are cumulative – you will not be “healed” after just one session! Many times it takes several sessions to release spasms and tightness, then regular follow-up sessions to avoid recurrences.
Regular fitness routines consistently place demands on your muscles, so while sessions should focus on problem areas, do not neglect the rest of the body to avoid future difficulties.
Consult with your massage therapist regarding any medications you are taking, as some, especially muscle relaxants and pain killers can mask pain. If you take a pain killer and get a massage, especially deep tissue work, you increase your chances of tissue injuries.
Massage sessions should never cause “pain”. A certain amount of discomfort should be expected, especially if the muscles are tight. But holding your silence through an agonizing pain may just cause more problems. If it hurts, speak up!
To avoid post-massage discomfort, drink plenty of water before and after the session. Massage aids in moving stagnant toxins while water flushes them out of the body. If you don’t drink enough water, you may loosen toxins in one area only to have them settle in another.
So when your fitness routine needs a boost, why not try a little piece of heaven and treat yourself to a massage? It just may revitalize your whole perspective on physical fitness!