People often relate sports massage with deep tissue or Swedish massage. And while they tend to intermingle, sports massage is specifically designed to help an athlete train to optimum level, then recover as quickly as possible. Massage therapist Adria Davis explains how massage can help you with your next marathon, triathlon, mountain summit or plain ol’ tough workout.
Reflections magazine: In general, what are the benefits of sports massage for athletes?
Adria Davis: The benefits of sports massage are increasing blood flow, joint mobility and flexibility. By increasing blood flow and circulation and moving lymph, it also helps flush waste out of the system. Massage also decreases muscle tension, decreases recovery time in between workouts, and it can help prevent some injuries and muscle spasms. The list goes on.
RM: When does a sports massage benefit athletes most?
AD: For athletes specifically, sports massage is good at four different times: pre-event, post-event, during training and rehab.
RM: Can you get a little more specific about each category?
AD: Pre-event is 15 to 45 minutes before the actual event, and it’s a short, stimulating massage focusing on warming up the specific muscle groups that are about to work for whatever type of event the athlete is doing. A post-event massage is usually within an hour or two after the event, and the purpose is to normalize the tissue after it’s been working really hard.
RM: Before we go on, can you explain normalizing?
AD: After a really strenuous workout or a big event like a marathon, the muscles are going to be really fatigued—really worked, tight, sore and achy. Normalizing tissue is when you help get blood back into the tissue, move all of the toxins, lactic acid and buildup out of the muscles faster. It really helps with recovery.
RM: Thanks. So back to the other two types.
AD: During training, massages are what athletes like to do as part of their maintenance program; it’s usually once or twice a week, depending on how hard they are training, just to help get the body ready for optimum performance.
RM: And the rehab?
AD: The rehab part is not just necessarily for athletes; it is for anybody recovering from injury—a frozen shoulder, neck and shoulder problems, bad knee, ankle, anything. Rehab massages focus primarily on increasing flexibility and range of motion. The point is to get people back to 100 percent, or whatever that means for them.
RM: In a perfect world, how often should an athlete get a sports massage?
AD: Once a week. If they need spot treatment, then add that once a week too.
RM: Never more than that?
AD: With sports massage, you want a few days in between to recover and rest. If you want massages every day, go for the lighter types of massage that just focus on circulation and relaxation rather than the treatment work of getting into muscle groups.
RM: How have you seen sports massage change in the 10 years you have been doing it?
AD: I think the techniques have changed a little; they have gotten quicker, faster and more efficient as far as being an active release, which helps stabilize the muscles faster and helps release the tendons and everything. The general idea hasn’t changed, but the techniques have changed for a faster pace.
RM: Is there anything athletes can do to help you in between visits?
AD: Drinking half your body weight in ounces of water every day is so true. The more water you have in your body, the more lubricated your body is, the more efficient the massage is, the less painful, quicker the recovery, and so on. It helps immensely. Stretching is another huge thing I don’t think people take seriously enough. People do it for a day or two, but it’s so easy to fall out of that habit. Taking baths is also always nice. Epson salt baths are really good for tired, achy muscles, waste removal and rejuvenation. You will sleep better and wake up more refreshed.