Massage for Runners: The What, When and How

Running is awesome. But it’s also a high impact sport. When you log in serious miles week after week, expect to suffer from all types of aches, pains, and injury. That just comes with the territory.

Here’s the good news. There are many things you can do to bring relief to what’s ailing you—getting a massage is one of them.

In today’s article, I’ll discuss the many benefits massage has to offer, explain the different types of massage that work very well for runners as well as which type of massage works the best for you according to your own conditions, fitness level, and personal preferences.

Sounds good?

Let’s get started.

The Benefits Of Massage For Runners

First things first, let’s dive into some of the benefits.

Helps Heal Microtears

Following a run, some of your muscle cells can be slightly damaged—displaying what’s often referred to as “micro-tears.”

Hearing the word microtear may seem alarming, but it’s a part of the natural process that helps your muscles get stronger. This usually results in a condition known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS.

When timed correctly (as we’re going to see later), a good massage may help you reduce or even prevent DOMS—as long as the right massage technique is chosen, of course.

Flush Out Lactic Acid

When you boost your training volume, you can start experiencing all sorts of pain and fatigue—this discomfort when is often blamed on the accumulation of lactic acid in our muscles.

Left ignored, the excess lactic acid may result in tightness, congestion, and shortening of the tissue.

A massage helps improve blood flow to these areas, flushing out this problematic lactic acid.  It’s actually one of the most efficient and quickest ways to speed up muscle recovery.

Improved Circulation

Although a massage won’t answer all of your recovery needs, it increases the effectiveness of the circulatory system, which is in charge of nutrient delivery, oxygen transfers, and removal of waste precuts at the cellular level.

And guess what?

An improved circulation translates to enhanced recovery.

The faster and more efficient your circulatory system, the faster you recover from your workouts.

Massage Types

Runners can benefit from a wide range of massage techniques, and all are used in different settings and at different times. Therefore, don’t feel bad if you’re confused about what type of massage would benefit you the most.

Here are the three most beneficial types of massage for runners.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massage, as the name implies, relies on more intense pressure compared to other massages. That’s why you should brace for discomfort when getting a deep tissue massage.

This type of massage goes after both the superficial and deep layers of the muscle and fascia.

The reason is that DTM is designed to dig deep into the muscle and remove knots and adhesions. Eliminating these from muscles requires a lot of focused pressure.

Deep tissue massage is recommended when particular sections of the body are problematic.

For example, when the muscles surrounding your knee start to pain, applying targeted pressure on the troubled spots can help release the tension and solve the problem.

Active Release Technique

Or A.R.T, this type of massage focuses on trigger point with the intention of releasing scar tissue and improving overall mobility. The method combines movement with deliberate deep pressure to help reduce scar tissue buildup and soothe muscle adhesions.

During an ART session, the massage therapist improves tissue flexibility by applying just enough pressure where it’s needed to break up these adhesions while improving flexibility and function in the tissue.

This technique is best used for treating a specific injury, especially when the scar tissue may be impacting the body’s ability to heal and recover.

More specifically, ART is usually the go-to treatment method for shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and hamstrings injuries.

Swedish Massage

Although it may not help with scar tissue or muscle adhesions, this method still has a lot to offer for runners.

Swedish massage relies on long, light, and flowing strokes of different pressure to release muscle tension and improve blood flow without diving deep into the muscles.

This type of massage can help reduce muscle tension, lower your stress level, and improve relaxation without stressing or damaging the tissue.

It’s also great to get just before a race because it’s only superficial and soothe tensed muscles by assisting relaxation while also reducing your stress levels.

When to Get A massage?

The answer is up to you.

How often and how much massage to get hinges on how much you like—or need—the massage. It also depends on your training intensity and your budget.

But overall, the more you exercise, the more often you’ll need a massage.

At a minimum, get at least one massage per month if you train three to four times a week.

Choosing The Right Time

In general, the ideal time to get a massage is one to two days after a hard workout or race.

This is enough time to allow for any muscle soreness or pain to subside.

By the same token, if you race coming up, schedule your massage two to three before.  Just like running and exercise, a massage would require some recovery time.

It’s also recommended to consult a movement therapist. They can help you identify issues and fix the movement patterns that might be the culprit behind your pain in the first place.

Conclusion

There you have it.  This sweet short post about massage for runners should give you a rough idea on how to proceed in case you decide to get one. The benefits are too good to pass on, though. So get one if you can afford it.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.

Keep running strong.