Growing up in central Kentucky, it seems the Derby will always be a favorite for me no matter how long it’s been since I've actually lived in the state. I love singing “My Old Kentucky Home” and sipping a bourbon before the race.
Another race has taken over first place in my heart, though. I completed my first marathon in 2013. It was the Flying Pig. I couldn’t have picked a better race to begin. 16 weeks of training with the fantastic coaches at Bob Roncker’s Running Spot and I was ready to go. (Thank you, Jim, Karen, Rich & Glen!) I trained with the walking group to learn the techniques used in “race walking”. After years of running and playing Ultimate Frisbee, it was like learning a new language. But I must say my knees appreciated the change. I won’t be competing this year but I’ll be there in spirit, cheering on my friends and clients as they take to the hills of Cincinnati bright and early Sunday morning. It looks to be a great day.
I incorporated regular massage therapy sessions as part of my training program, especially as the training miles added up. I found that working with my therapist to focus on loosening restrictions in my hips, glutes and hamstrings helped immensely to reduce muscle tension, pain and increase range of motion to keep me moving smoothly while concentrating on my form. The post-race massage I had a few days after the race was one of the best I’d ever experienced. My body needed it to deal with ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’ (DOMS) which is typical after a strenuous athletic event.
Here is the link to an article by Kelly Bastone that touches on the Pros and Cons of Massage for Runners (and walkers) that recently appeared in Runner’s World. I’ll share part of the article now as she says it better than I could:
‘What massage does do is apply moving pressure to muscles and other tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and fascia (which sheaths muscles like a sausage casing). "That energy softens fascia tissue and makes clenched muscles relax," Sefton says. It also removes adhesions between fascia and muscles (places where the two stick together and restrict muscles' movement). That's especially great news for runners, who rely on limber joints and muscles for pain-free peak performance.
Science's biggest discovery is what massage can do for athletic recovery. Studies published in the Journal of Athletic Training and the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that massage after exercise reduced the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)—that is, the peg-legged feeling you get two days after your marathon. And other research suggests that it improves immune function and reduces inflammation. Emory University researcher Mark Rapaport, M.D., found that just one massage treatment resulted in an increased number of several types of lymphocytes (white blood cells that play a key role in fighting infection) while also decreasing levels of cortisol (the "stress hormone" linked to chronic inflammation). "More research is needed, but it's reasonable to think that massage could help runners taxed from exertion," Rapaport says. It may also help curb chronic diseases. "We know that systemic inflammation is associated with a lot of deleterious effects, such as heart attack and stroke, and that it predisposes people to cancers," he says.
Crane's research, published in Science Translational Medicine, found less inflammation in massaged limbs—and 30 percent more of a gene that helps muscle cells build mitochondria (the "engines" that turn a cell's food into energy and facilitate its repair). "What we saw suggests that massage could let runners tolerate more training, and harder training, because it would improve their recovery and speed up their ability to go hard two days later," he says.
Studies on rabbits confirm Crane's prediction. At Ohio State University, Thomas Best, M.D., Ph.D., put a device on exercised animals that simulates massage and records the applied pressure. "We've shown a 50 to 60 percent recovery in muscle function compared with no massage," he says.
The new evidence is so convincing that even the researchers have made massage a regular part of their routines: Crane, Rapaport, and Best have all become devotees as a result of their findings, and they recommend that runners follow suit. Regular massage can boost recovery and be a valuable training tool to help you run your best. "Muscle stiffness can throw off your gait, which leads to problems over time," Sefton says. "And by getting a sense for how your body should feel when everything is in balance, you're more likely to notice small issues before they turn into chronic problems." Even beginning runners can benefit from massage, because alleviating the soreness that comes with starting a new sport makes people more likely to stick with it.’
I hope you found this information useful. I would love to help you incorporate massage therapy into your training program to help you be your best. And if you're participating in the Pig this weekend, please call me at 513-703-3697, email melissa@motionTMB.com, or visit MotionTMB Schedule to schedule your post-event session.
Happy running (and walking). Be well!