Massage, rolling, stretching and yoga…it all serves one purpose – enabling us to lace up for the next run
Let’s be honest, if you’ve ever dragged a corked quad over a foam roller under your full body weight – you know some bits of recovery are not for pleasure.
Okay, so we run many, many miles to condition the body to continue to do just that – run; we do various plyometric and body weight strength workouts to build stability, strength and explosive power; we warm up and then stretch dynamically to mimic exaggerated running motion and prepare the body for the workout to follow; and we stretch statically after our workout to hopefully mitigate tightness or soreness the next day. But those sore spots inevitably will pop up after a particularly arduous race or an insane speed workout, and it will become necessary to step up the recovery a level and partake in foam rolling.
No doubt, you’ve seen foam rollers in your local running shop – seemingly harmless cylinders of firm foam with varying degrees of tyre-like tread on the outside. Yep, they look harmless – until you get it home, rip the plastic off and haul your quads across it…and howl! Where the heck did that pain come from? Is forcing lumpy muscles across bones okay? That can’t be good for me, it’s making my eyes water!
It takes a certain amount of resolve to get up off your comfy couch each evening and purposely put yourself through the pain of a foam rolling session. When you’re done, there is definitely relief and plenty of benefits to be had from using this self massage tool. When used correctly it is possible to release tight knotted muscles and the surrounding tissue, assist blood flow and help to maintain flexibility. As always, it is best to have a chat to your physio or someone in the know and get the okay to get started.
If you really want to keep yourself in tip top condition, get along to a sports massage regularly. The pain factor is the same, but the soft lighting, relaxing music and maybe even essential oils, makes this a lot more pleasant than a foam roller on the floor in front of the telly.
The first challenge is to find a massage therapist who understands your needs and supports your habit. You know the relationship is doomed when, at your first visit, they clearly state you shouldn’t run because it is bad for you – and proceed to ‘tut’ about each sore spot and how you wouldn’t have it if you didn’t run… This really happened to me – suffice to say I reluctantly handed over my money at the end and never went back!
We are both blessed with amazing massage therapists, and so this is by far our favourite part of recovery. The body is clearly a complex machine – the spot where you actually feel your niggling pain may not be the true location of the issue. A quality sports massage therapist will identify and patiently work to resolve these issues. In the process be prepared for elbows in the hip flexors, fingers in calf muscles that makes you want to leap off the table – be prepared to discover pain thresholds you didn’t know you had!
But the pain is worth the gain
Every 4 weeks we walk out of our massage appointments almost floating – feeling like all of our muscles, tendons and the squidgy bits in-between have been nicely realigned to where they should be. Since having a regular program of massages, our flexibility has increased, and we are sure there is more fluidity in our running style.
And because we are all about longevity of this running thing we do, these rituals of recovery are essential.