Massage: Relaxing, nourishing, peaceful, restorative, and so much more.
There is a growing field of sports massage and massage therapy customized for athletes that is extremely beneficial for both performance and recovery.
More and more athletes today are utilizing massage for:
- Improved muscle tone and elasticity, which has a direct impact on your strength.
- Improved circulation, ensuring muscles are getting increased blood flow to nourish the tissue.
- Reduced muscle stiffness/tension, helping you perform with more agility and ease. Increased range of motion.
- Provides a systematic experience of well-being and guess what: a return to homeostasis.
Here’s the thing — Homeostasis. Remember that word from high-school biology? “Homeostasis: A state of body equilibrium or stable internal environment of the body” (Marieb & Hoehn, G-11).
One of the reasons that massage is useful for everyone is it assists the body in achieving homeostasis, or a state of balance and rest. Your body always seeks homeostasis because in this state it can best carry out its metabolic functions (like carrying oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the tissues, distributing glucose, proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates to your cells for many vital functions).
When you train or compete, your body steps up to the challenge. As you know from experience, exercise increases cardiovascular functions, muscle tone, strength, and range of motion. Not to mention it feels fantastic.
While your body is working hard to produce oxygen, blood flow and energy for your training or competition, a branch of your Autonomic Nervous System called the Sympathetic Nervous System (also known as your “fight or flight” system) is working hard, which is why you feel so pumped post-game. This system moves blood to the extremities for movement, slows down the digestive and endocrine systems, and ramps up the urinary system (you know how you have to run to “el bano” pre-game? That’s your Sympathetic Nervous System).
Okay, back to massage.
After your workout, your body is humming. Your sympathetic nervous system is still on alert—increasing heart rate, blood volume, and muscle fatigue. But your body wants to move into recovery.
Finely tuned athletes achieve homeostasis faster than the average Joe, but they can still use some help.
A massage therapist can aid recovery through isolated movements to lengthen muscles out—the very muscles that have shortened under the stress of competition and may be causing pain, cramping, or restricting range of motion. Massage can include passive and active resistive movements focusing on trigger points or adhesions in the muscle tissue from repetitive use.
If you’re injured, a massage technique called contrast therapy (alternating heat and cold) can help increase circulation to your muscle tissues as well as lymphatic drainage to decrease edema (swelling and pain) and increase range of motion to the area.
A few hours up to a few days post-event is optimal for massage.
The more you experience balance and ease you feel in your body, the more likely you’ll feel balance and ease in your sport. Balance elevates mood and improves focus and concentration — resulting in a competitive edge both on and off the field.
Jasyoga Assistant Coach and Teacher Trainer Cicely Andree is a Licensed Massage Therapist and Registered Yoga Instructor in Seattle, WA. She loves working with people of all ages and fitness levels to help them achieve balance, strength and flexibility in their bodies and lives.
For more information about Cicely, please visit www.cicelyandree.com.