Making our foundation even stronger in training, racing & recovery! Part 2 – Pre-race massage.

Making our foundation even stronger in training, racing & recovery! Part 2 – Pre-race massage.

Massage photo 1by Sarah F.

Endurance athletes know what it takes to prepare for an event: hours upon hours of training, sometimes with little time for recovery between workouts. They know the toll this takes on their bodies, and so the recovery process begins to continuously shed a more important light.

Foam rolling, stretching, yoga, rest, nutrition, sleep… all help speed the recovery process.

But there comes a point where intervention from outside oneself is necessary, either to jumpstart recovery, or to fully relax muscles in preparation for what’s to come. What is one of the best tools for this outside intervention?  Massage.

Through Experience Massage (EM), I’ve had the chance to work on many of you, and have found that the massage treatments are consistently falling into one of four scenarios. This four part series will cover each scenario.

Several weeks ago, we started with Scenario 1, Maintenance Massage.  You can read about that scenario on the Experience Massage links page.  Scenario 2 focuses on the vital role massage can play in our pre-race training schedule.

Scenario 2 — The pre-race massage schedule.

My family and I went to a ballgame this past summer, and we got there early enough to watch the players warming up out on the field.  One thing that stuck out to me was the vigorous stretching and massaging routine that a few of the players went through with one of the team therapists.  It was fascinating to watch, and immediately after being stretched out, they each hopped up with vigor and ease, dashing off down the field in a quick sprint.  I’ve no doubt each of these players also took the time to have their muscles kneaded and worked over on the days preceding games, so they could be as loose and limber as possible come game day.

We, as endurance athletes, need to give our muscles the same care.  The neuromuscular signals we train our brains to transmit to our muscles during many of our workouts tell our muscles to be “at the ready” on a moment’s notice.  These signals will often overpower the signals that tell our muscles to relax and go back to their ideal resting length.  There are several kinesiology principles that back this up with scientific data, and as much as we might like to just will our muscles back into relaxation, it is often necessary to have outside manipulation or intervention (i.e. massage) take place to reset our brain signals.

Many of us are currently training for late winter and early spring races.  Most likely, we are reaching the top of our training peak, and our muscles are reminding us daily of the workload we’ve been subjecting them to!  This is not just in our minds.  If foam rolling & stretching is no longer making us bounce out of bed in the morning or start a workout with 100% in our tanks, odds are that our muscles are in dire need of being reset to neutral!

I’ve had the opportunity to work on several of you now during your pre-race build schedule. This is SUCH a cool massage schedule to go through with athletes!  It never ceases to fascinate me how much information athletes’ muscles will communicate during massage.  For example, in the early stages of race-preparation, muscles are often fairly pliable, more flexible, and quicker to respond to the massage.   As training ramps up, so does the stamina the muscles pose, and massages become a bit more thought-provoking.  A birds-eye view often becomes necessary, to try and figure out how to get muscles to release the tension they’ve learned to tolerate so well.  Boring perhaps for athlete, but totally exciting for me, the analytical massage therapist!!  😉

“Sarah’s massages helped me tremendously in preparing for and completing Racine 70.3 and the Chicago marathon this season!  The training for these events left my body and muscles a little beat up, and I had some nagging left leg pain.  Sarah’s massages gave me almost immediate relief and allowed me to keep training without the problem getting worse or a significant injury.  Sarah was great about problem-solving with me which muscles were problematic and she gave me ideas for strengthening, stretching, foam rolling, and improving my biomechanics.  I made it to the finish line in both events and was thrilled to have no problems with my left leg during the marathon!  For these reasons, I’ll always incorporate massage into my training.” – Laura C.

This scenario, the pre-race massage schedule, is an absolute must in my opinion.  We’ve trained too hard, and asked so much of our muscles and joints along the way, to not have them be as limber as possible come race day!    If you are currently training for an upcoming race, I urge you to work a couple of massages into your schedule before race-day so your muscles do best job possible for you.

If you would like to utilize the massage services we offer here at Experience Massage, you can click here to schedule your appointment.   Meanwhile, stay tuned for article #3 in this series, the post-race massage, and happy winter training!  🙂

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