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There are many positive benefits to taking up running, besides the obvious weight loss and leg strength. The most significant impact running has on the body is the physical gain. When you run, oxygen pumps through the heart faster and more efficiently than before, so running strengthens your heart and reduces your blood pressure. 
 
Running increases endurance and energy levels, plus it boosts your metabolism, so you keep burning calories even when you’re standing still. 
 
Mental health improves with running too - it’s an instant mood booster as it boosts the brain’s serotonin levels. Serotonin is a natural mood stabiliser that makes the brain calmer and more resistant to stress. Research shows that runners also have a sharper mind to stave off dementia and they even get higher quality sleep! 
 
But running also takes its toll on the body. Running is a high impact exercise and overtraining can lead to injuries such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, stress fractures, and shin splints. 
 
Every bone in your body has muscles and fascia to surround it and each joint has muscle, tendons and ligaments (soft tissues) to support it. Sports massage is used for maintenance, manipulation, and rehabilitation of soft tissues throughout the body. When your muscles are strong and elastic, they stabilise motion, produce more power, and reduce impact stress. There are many forms of massage, but a good sports massage practitioner will focus on your needs as an athlete. 
 
For runners, sports massage helps with: 
 
Relieving tightness/tension – obviously this is one of the main aims of a sports massage and often one of the reasons people decide to book one. A sports massage will stretch and lengthen your muscles in a much deeper and more specific way than when you stretch after your run. 
Improving blood flow – when blood flow to a particular area is increased and improved, healing can take place improving the condition of fatigued or injured muscles and reducing recovery time. 
Increasing flexibility – with increased flexibility your range of motion and the mobility in your joints will be improved. This can reduce the risk of an injury occurring or re-occurring. 
Breaking down scar tissue – a build-up of scar tissue can cause tightness and weakness in the muscles. When scar tissue is left to repair by itself it will form a criss-cross pattern rather than the healthy linear formation. Massage will help to break down the scar tissue, promoting correct, strong scar tissue formation in the muscle. 
Lymphatic drainage – this helps to reduce inflammation and swelling, reducing the risk of overuse injuries. It can also help with the removal of lactic acid and other waste products caused by slight tears or over-use in the muscle and reduces recovery time. 

How often should you have a sports massage? 

If sports massage is received regularly and applied skilfully, it can be a powerful aid to injury prevention. Seeing the same massage therapist on a regular basis means that they will be able to detect variations in your soft tissues and correct muscle imbalances before they become serious enough to cause discomfort or impede your performance. They will also advise you on how you can maintain yourself between massages to prolong the effect of the treatment. 
 
Regular monthly maintenance is a great place to start, but if you’re new to massage then don’t schedule your first appointment too close to an event – either book it in for a couple of weeks before, or for a day or two after, the event. Just as you wouldn’t test out new running shoes or socks at a race, you shouldn’t experiment with any new ‘body work’ just before it either! 
 
Look at a sports massage as a runner’s MOT for your body… it’ll keep you ticking over, stop you getting too tight and prevent niggles from turning into injuries. 
 
Treat sports massage as part of your training program; your therapist will be able to advise you on the best schedule for your specific needs – when you’re in great shape, regular maintenance will be on the schedule for you; if you’re working through an injury then more frequent treatments will be in order. 
 
As a runner, you put so much effort into your training, it’s worth putting effort into taking good care of your body too. Book yourself in today - massage isn’t a luxury; it’s an investment in yourself. 
 
Lynda Parnell 
Sports massage therapist 
Fire and Earth Leamington Spa 
Tagged as: benefits, sports massage
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