May in Indianapolis means one thing and one thing only: it's racing season. Us locals break out our black and white checkered flags, stock up on charcoal and beer, and set in for a month's worth of Indy 500 festivities.
There's another little race that take place in Indianapolis every May worth mentioning. Some of us (about 35,000 to be exact) break out our tennies, sync them to our iPods and set out on foot to race each other to the Speedway. That's right, I'm talking about the Mini Marathon.
And well let's face it, the month of May can take a toll on a Hoosier's body, whether it's the persistent tailgating or the training and effects of running both before and after the Mini Marathon. If you're suffering from the former, I suggest copious amounts of water and rest. But if it's the side effects of running that have you down, may I suggest a massage?
Everyone (hopefully) knows that a massage is one of the best ways to unwind, relax and rejuvenate. What some people don't know is how beneficial a massage can be for your health, specifically for athletes whose muscles need extra attention and pampering.
What's In A Name?
Depending on who you ask and where you go, you may hear varying accounts of what type of massage an athlete should receive. Sports massage, deep tissue and specifics massages are just a few. But what's actually in a name? Did anyone ever answer poor Romeo? Because I'm here to tell you that these names don't refer to massages that vary in any great way. A sports massage is essentially a deep tissue massage, and both of those can be a specifics massage if you prefer your technician to focus on one area of muscles, like your legs.
When you're booking a pre or post race massage, focus less on what type of massage it is and more on the length and technician's experience. A truly knowledgeable technician has studied massage beyond how good it might feel, and truly understands the way muscles work, move, stretch and heal. These are the kinds of massage therapists who may specialize in a kind of "sports massage," because they're able to provide actual therapy, not just a relaxing experience. They'll also be able to judge what kind and how much pressure your muscles can handle.
According to Runner's World, weekly massages will provide the best therapy and overall health improvements. A longer massage, 60-90 minutes, will always produce more noticeable results. If a 90 minute massage isn't something you can splurge on, it doesn't mean something shorter won't produce the same results. A 30 minute massage may not have you wobbling out of the spa, but over time it will provide the same beneficial results if you have it done consistently.
Because of the repetitive nature of running, it can cause your muscles to shorten and tighten over time. To maintain flexibility, many avid runners include massage therapy year round into their training and maintenance. Weekly or monthly massages help runners by elongating muscles, relieving tightness, restoring range of motion and improving blood flow. In essence, massage improves circulation throughout your muscles, and the more oxygen the better when it comes to running.
Runner's World notes that the benefits to massage are cumulative, "...the effects and benefits increase with sequential, repetitive massages. Receiving one massage prior to a race will not reap the same benefits as a regular program of massage therapy throughout your training." They also recommend booking your pre-race massage 3-5 days before the actual race. You don't want to risk having sore muscles from a massage when you need to be performing at your very best.
The training is over, you conquered the Mini... now what? Reward AND rejuvenate your tired muscles for a job well done.
The post-race benefits a massage can provide are essentially the same as pre-race, in that circulation is improved, and muscles are stretched and soothed. Whether or not you incorporate massage into your regular training is a personal preference, but unlike pre-race therapy, just one post-race massage will help your muscles recover from the strain.
Runner's World suggests waiting 3-5 days, or until your muscles are no longer sore, to book your post-race massage. You'll notice an immediate relief in your muscles, including improved flexibility and range of motion, after just one massage. With continued massages, your muscles will begin to experience permanent improvement, especially if you're going to continue training or running.
While most runners will regularly opt for a deep tissue or sports massage, a relaxation massage might be their go-to for their first massage after a race or marathon. Although it doesn't use as much pressure, it still stimulates the overused muscles and eases them back in to regular function. Plus, your mind might need a little relaxation too if you've been training rigorously.