Runners have long known that a good massage can boost their recovery after a tough race or hard workout. Besides the obvious "it hurts so good," massages can also reduce stress and help you relax before an important race.
But when are the best times to schedule your massage? And how can you maximize its value, because, let's face, they're not cheap.
There are specific times to get deep tissue massages if you want to boost the benefits of the massage. First, it's important to understand what those benefits are because they'll help you schedule your massage session for the optimal time. Most critically, deep tissue massages improve blood flow to your muscles by stimulating the circulatory system. You'll get an influx of oxygen-rich blood, which helps flush out the byproducts of hard exercise, and delivers fresh nutrients.
While the circulatory benefits of massage are profound, other benefits of regular sessions include: reduced existing muscle soreness, improved range of motion, and the break up of scar tissue or adhesions that can restrict the movement of your muscles.
More: Massage for Runners: The Low Down
When to Schedule Your Massage
Because deep tissue work releases waste products at the cellular level—and may even leave you slightly sore—it's best to consider them a type of workout. Framing massages as workouts helps you schedule your massages more strategically.
You should always get a massage after your run and preferably with an easy run planned for the following day. This helps your body along with the recovery process and ensures you're not negating the benefits by doing a hard workout 12 to 24 hours later.
If you do run a strenuous interval session or long run the day after a massage, you're simply contracting your muscles, introducing more waste products, and further dehydrating muscles—which won't boost the benefits of massage.
If possible, it's also helpful to schedule your massage after an easy run, not a hard workout or long run. Ideally, you want your muscles to be relatively relaxed and not in a very fatigued state.
More: 3 Reasons to Include Recovery Runs in Your Training
This is also why it's never recommended to get a massage the day of a marathon or the day after. There's a substantial amount of muscular damage after a race of this distance, including inflammation, so it's wise to let your body heal itself for the first one to two days. Later in the week after about three to five days, you can schedule a massage after your body has dealt with the acute symptoms of post-marathon soreness and muscle damage.
More: 5 Golden Rules of Marathon Recovery
And just like it's beneficial to wait three to five days after a race to schedule a massage, make sure you give your body three to five days after a massage before you race. This gives you enough time to flush out the byproducts that massage has released, and for any residual soreness to go away.
Remember that massage can be more helpful during periods of heavy training. If you're reaching new weekly mileage records, preparing for your first marathon, or doing faster workouts than ever before, your training is at a new peak. Recover accordingly and use massage to help prevent injuries.
To further extend the benefits of massage, you can help the waste product removal process by staying hydrated and drinking lots of water. Combined with a clean diet of whole foods and light foam rolling, you'll get the most out of your deep tissue massage sessions, and will recover much more quickly—so you can train harder and race faster.
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