Most of us treat ourselves to a massage from time to time. We walk out feeling refreshed and relaxed, but the effects wear off rather quickly. This makes sense when you think about it -- working out, eating healthy, or practicing the piano a couple of times a year wouldn’t get us far either. But when you make massage a recurring staple of your health routine, the results are in a completely different league.
Regular massages reduce recovery time and boosts performance
Massaged muscles are less inflamed, and they also have more mitochondria-boosting genes, which facilitates repair. This means you can tolerate more, tougher training with less rest. Improved recovery becomes especially important as we grow older and our natural ability to recover quickly is reduced, and when training for a big event which requires each workout to be done with fresh and rested muscles.
Regular massages reduce injury risk
This is true for a few reasons. First, it softens and relaxes muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. Stiff and adhesive soft tissue can - when left untreated - throw off your gate and movement patterns, leading to discomfort and even injury. Second, massage can be an assessment tool, identifying muscle imbalances and asymmetric stiffness before they manifest in a full-blown injury. For example, a client of mine discovered that one of her hips were much tighter than the other, which surely would have resulted in long-term disruption of her running if we had not discovered it early.
Regular massages make workouts more enjoyable
This is especially true for those who have recently started a new fitness regimen. Unfamiliar movement patterns and muscle recruitment leads to significant muscle soreness and discomfort, which in turn leads to reduced motivation to repeat the activity. By alleviating muscle soreness, getting regular massages will increase the likelihood that you stick with your new workout routine.
Regular massages teaches you mindfulness
I’ve written before about the importance of mindfulness in training. Getting regular massages reminds you what your body is supposed to feel like when it is relaxed and properly aligned. This will help you recognize issues early on - before they become chronic or develop into a sidelining injury.
How often should I go?
Professional athletes get massages after every hard workout, race, or game. While that sounds like a pretty sweet deal, most of us don’t have the time or money for that. Most experts will recommend coming back on a monthly basis, perhaps weekly in the weeks leading up to a big sporting event. Whatever interval you decide on, you are guaranteed to notice a significant difference when you make massage a staple rather than a rare treat.