Summer Activity Series: Massage & Running

Running is becoming one of the most popular forms of cardio exercise due to its low cost, simplicity and readily available access to people of all ages and abilities. The only things you need to go out for a run is a pair of shoes, a path (concrete, asphalt, trail, etc.) and the desire to run like the wind. But, if you have plans to run like Forest Gump and make running a lifetime adventure, it’s important to maintain the health of your muscles and mind while you traverse the landscape logging your miles. 

Routine Training Regimens Bring Home Results

Whether you’re a recreational runner or you compete in specific distances, following a training program is essential to maintaining the ability to run injury-free for as long as you desire. A training program can be as simple as running two-to-three miles twice a week or as detailed as running a specific number of miles each day and each week to ensure that you’ve logged enough miles before your next race. Either way, it’s important to complement your running days with recovery days each week and schedule regular massages into your training plan.

“Definitely get a training program in place and fit the massage into the training schedule where it makes sense,” advises Joseph Barrett, massage therapist at Elements Glendale. “Getting a massage on your day of recovery or on your rest day where you’re just going to do something like a core workout is a good idea. I recommend massages every two weeks to my running clients, even if they’re just running a 5k for fun on the weekends. Massage helps keep your body straight so you can get the proper rest and recovery. You can’t sleep well if you’re all knotted up.”

If you’re training for a specific distance like a 5k, 10k, half marathon or even a marathon, Barrett advises his clients to take it slow and only increase mileage by a maximum of 10 percent per week. And, it’s always important to get your long run in each week of your training so both your mind and body are conditioned properly and ready to perform on race day.

“You don’t have to live by your training program 100 percent, but it’s important to have one in place that is geared toward helping you accomplish your running goals and distances,” says Barrett. “You can definitely take a cheat day here and there, but always get your long runs in and then get a massage afterward. Don’t cut the long run out of your training.”

Speed, Strength Comes from Limber, Relaxed Muscles

After you set your training plan and start the process of building up mileage and endurance, taking care of your body’s muscles should be one of your top concerns. Although a lot of a runner’s focus is on propelling the legs in a forward motion, the most successful runners acknowledge and appreciate the impact that is absorbed throughout their entire bodies as they complete mile after mile. In Barrett’s experience, personally as a runner for 10 years and working with others in the sport for four years, he finds that runners have the most problems in the hips, quads, hamstrings and calf muscle areas. He also finds that it’s important for runners to release their pectoral muscles to help with lung capacity, posture and to make sure that the spine is in line so the body can run and recover in the most relaxed state possible.

Free Your Mind to Conquer More Miles

Running a successful race, or continuing through a prolonged period of training, takes more than physical strength and endurance. Running takes a certain level of mental strength to keep you running strong when your feet and legs ache, your breath get short and you reach a level of exhaustion that most runners refer to as “hitting the wall” or “bonking.” More times than not running requires mind over matter while you complete new distances, making it important to take a mental time out throughout your running regimen to revive and recuperate your state of mind.

“I think at mile 10 or mile 12 of a long distance run like a marathon, there’s just a new definition of the word pain,” explains Barrett. “It just takes on a whole new meaning. It’s pretty intense and it takes a lot of mental strength to make it through to the end.”

There can be mental challenges before you even hit the road.  Runners can be apprehensive about even lacing up their shoes and getting out the door each day to train, as well as stress out about whether they’re fueling appropriately, sleeping enough and doing all of the right things to run their best. Regular massage can help you take a step back from the mind games of running so you can focus on visualizing the successful completion of your run.

“Any time in running, but especially before a big race, the first thing you do is review in your mind what you’ve eaten and then you go through the past week in your mind,” shares Barrett. “It can be very daunting and very overwhelming. Even 24 hours before a big run, I tend to get really nervous about whether I’ve fueled correctly and if I’m going to make it. Getting a light massage leading up to your race can help loosen your muscles, but also help your mind to relax and let go.”

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a newbie to the sport, it’s best to approach your goals one step at a time. Enlist the help of other runners, as well as a seasoned sports massage therapist like Barrett, to help guide and support you throughout your running journey. The more you listen to your body and take care of it during the training, the better results you’ll experience during your lifetime of running.

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