Sports massage isn’t just for top-class athletes. Here are some ideas to help you and your muscles stay on good terms.
Whatever the sport or exercise you’ve chosen, you’ll be asking a lot of your body. Muscles that have been stretched to the limit do become stronger – but it’s a two-way process. Rest, good nutrition and a quick response to injury are all important. And you can keep your muscles on your side by regular massage with warming oils before and after exercise sessions.
Effective sports massage is based on the techniques of traditional massage, divided into two parts: pre-exercise massage and regeneration massage once you’re showered and ready to relax.
Try these massage techniques before and after running, cycling or a day hiking in the hills:
Getting your muscles ready
Before-exercise massage should be a stimulating muscle rub using brisk, quick movements. It gets the blood moving and prepares muscles for the stimulation of exercise, at the same time reducing the risk of injury.
Place your right leg on a chair and massage with oil, using circular movements and starting with the buttocks and lower back. Continue over the thigh, down the lower leg and as far as the ankle. Use both hands to briskly rub the leg in circles, alternating direction as you go.
Return to the lower back and use your right hand to lightly pummel the lower back and buttocks, as if you were kneading dough. Continue along the top of the thigh, round the shin and down to the ankle. Repeat the kneading motion with your left hand, from the inner thigh, round the back of the thigh, over the calf and down to the Achilles tendon.
Cup your hands and lightly tap the buttocks, continuing over the thigh and calf to just above the ankle.
Now repeat the whole procedure on the left leg.
It will take a few minutes to complete each leg, but the time invested is well worth it for the additional preparation you’re giving to your body. You can do this preparatory massage some time before training, but if you do, make sure you repeat the light tapping just before you set off, to stimulate the muscles anew.
If you’re running or cycling, remember to massage the shoulders and arms using the same technique and movements you used on the legs.
The warm down
After exercise your muscles need lighter, slower movements to release tension and stimulate bloodflow. You can do this immediately after exercise, or after showering, when you are warm and beginning to relax. Then you can sit and release all tension afterwards.
Start the rubbing massage again, but this time at the ankle, moving upwards over the shin or calf, to the thigh, buttocks and lower back.
Now knead lightly from just above the ankle, working your way slowly up to the lower back.
Be careful! Hard-worked muscles can be very sensitive to pain after sporting activity. Keep the pressure of your massage light and be careful not to cause any pain.
To completely relax the muscles after exercise, repeat the light rubbing massage one last time, starting at the ankle, but using even less pressure. It’s almost a stroking movement that you finish off with – a thank you to your body for the hard work that it’s done for you.
Don’t forget to repeat the massage on the shoulders and arms after upper body exercise too. Finally, lie down on your back on a mat or other soft surface, and fold your hands together on your stomach. Breathe in and out from the abdomen several times, feeling your hands rise and fall. This helps venous backflow from the legs and supports muscle regeneration.
Please note: The tips given here are not intended to replace medical massage treatment by qualified therapists in cases of injury or underlying medical problems. You should always check with a doctor beforehand if you have any pre-existing injury or illness, before you begin any type of massage, even as part of your own wellness regime.