Only a Runner Doesn’t Laugh at the Word “Fartlek”

fartlek-Remedial-Massage-Queenstown

Signed up for the Marathon? Been training hard. My hat goes off to you, starting and keeping up with a regime like that is no easy feat, so good on you. 

Now that you're deep in training mode all those wonderful sore spots and niggles will be rearing their ugly head(s). 

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Keeping on top of those painful spots is not only smart but will literally get you where you need to be faster. Muscles move better and faster when they are healthy - fact. 

To get your body race ready you need to commit to a training schedule, treat injuries and begin strength training. 

WHEN SHOULD A RUNNER GET A MASSAGE?

That answer is anything but straightforward and is dependant on the the objective of the client aka marathon runner extraordinaire.

There are 4 different types of massage that are specific to the above needs; Pre event, post event, general massage (for runners) & injury specific (remedial massage). Each type of massage has a different goal. As a result, there are a number of right times for a runner to receive a sports massage, as long as the type of massage is administered correctly and is in line with your goals. 

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PRE EVENT MASSAGE

Goal: to get the body race ready.

It is important to keep in mind that every one responds differently to massage. This is particularly relevant when it comes to pre-event work. Some love to get really deep work the day before or even the day of an event; some prefer a light flush; others respond best to over-the-clothes compression and quick invigorating work, and some don’t want to be touched at all for the three or four days leading up to a race.

If you'd like to know how you'd respond it is important to experiment with pre-event work prior to a workout or less important race before implementing it as preparation for a more important competition. 

POST EVENT MASSAGE

Goal: to speed recovery from a race and decrease post exercise soreness.

Generally within 36 hours of a race or competition is when you should receive a post event massage — keep in mind that you've  just put your body under a tremendous amount of stress. Muscles have undergone micro-trauma and tearing and need a bit of TLC. 

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The massage should be on the lighter side but slightly deeper than pre-event work, with slow, controlled, flushing strokes. If the work is too deep it can damage muscles further and prolong how long it takes to recover from the event.

Incorporating a moderate amount of static stretching into the massage is also beneficial. If at all possible, hop into an ice bath or cold whirlpool after the massage and stretching. This combination of a flushing massage, assisted static stretching and cold therapy is a awesome formula for decreasing post-exercise soreness and substantially speeding up recovery from a race or event. I know a cold bath falls more into the cold pricklies rather than the warm fuzzies category, but it's beneficial none the less. 

GENERAL MASSAGE FOR RUNNERS

Goal: To loosen tight muscles, release trigger points, increase range of motion and reduce the risk of injury.

Runners tend to require and respond best to deeper work when receiving a general massage. A very specific massage is required, going deep enough to be effective but not so deep that it causes you to tense up and fight the work (if you find yourself clenching your muscles, its too deep). Some soreness for 24 to 36 hours after the massage is generally fine, but anything longer and the massage may have been too deep for you. 

INJURY SPECIFIC MASSAGE

Goal: To facilitate healing of an injured muscle, tendon or ligament.

Massage on an injured muscle, tendon or ligament can be extremely effective if applied appropriately. It is always important to work in conjunction with a doctor or physiotherapist so you've had a proper diagnosis and the massage is part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Every injury is different, and the massage protocol will vary depending on the type and extent of the injury, but here are a few useful guidelines. For now I'm going to focus on muscle strains, but remember, there are loads of other injuries you can get after running your buns off.

When working on a strained muscle, sessions should be no more than twice a week. The muscle needs time to recover between sessions. In the beginning stages of the injury, work will be be deep and  focused around the injured area but work on the injury itself will be limited to light flushing strokes. Light and very gentle static stretching will be incorporated as well. As the injury starts to heal, applying deeper and deeper pressure with cross fiber friction to the actual site of the injury will help the muscle realign. Gradually the intensity will increase to the static stretch and eventually incorporate resistive stretching (structural integration) towards the end of the rehabilitation process.

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COMMON INJURIES FOR RUNNERS

Loads of injures can and will pop up, but here's a few of the most common and ways you can help sort them out. 

ILIOTIBIAL BAND (ITB SYNDROMME)

It's generally characterized by pain at the outside of the knee. A tight ITB can irritate the bursa at the lateral femoral condyle as well as the bone itself.

Treatment should include working all three of the gluteal muscles, the ITB itself but most importantly the tensor fasciae lata (TFL) this muscle LITERALLY means "tight lateral fascia" and your ITB is LITERALLY tight lateral fascia.  

The ITB usually requires very deep work because of how dense it is. Positioning can play a crucial role in effective ITB. Tightness in the iliopsoas and the vastus lateralis should be checked as well. When a client has an ITB injury or chronic ITB tightness, there is almost always an associated tightness and/or weakness in the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.

So...rather that rolling out your ITB over and over and over and over again, roll the above muscles first, once they loosen, the ITB will usually follow.

Also get those adductors strengthened! I wont get into it in this blog (it's already pretty long winded, soz). Try doing 3 sets of 15 really concentrating on slow movements. 

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ACHILLES TENDONOPATHY 

When treating an achilles tendon problem, a massage therapist will start with deep massage techniques of the Gastrocnemius and Soleus (some of the calf muscles). Since these muscles connect to the Achilles and can tug on the tendon when tight, it only makes sense to go to town on these poor overworked muscles. After a good ol' throttling checking through the entire posterior chain of the legs for tightness, including the hamstrings, glutes and the intrinsic foot muscles on the plantar fascia aspect of the foot is a must.

To help facilitate this, grab a golf ball and roll it along the bottom of your feet(s) while you're sitting down. When you release these muscles a lot of the tension from the calf muscles will melt away as well.

RUNNER'S KNEE

This is characterised by pain behind or around the kneecap. As the name implies, it is very common to runners, but not exclusive to runners. The underlying causes are often muscular imbalances the four quad muscles; the vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, rectus femoris are tight while the vastus medialis obliques (VMO) are weak. The tight muscles should be loosened with massage and stretching, while the VMO needs to be strengthened. 

 VMO strengthening start position. 

VMO strengthening start position. 

  VMO strengthening – finish position: Focus on locking out the knee.

VMO strengthening – finish position: Focus on locking out the knee.

WHEN SHOULD YOU BE GETTING A MASSAGE?

While training, listen to your body. If you feel like you need one? Get one. When it starts getting close to race time try and stick to 3-6 days pre event. As I said above, people respond differently to massage and you don't want to find out a few days out that you still haven't fully recovered from that deep tissue massage you had with Hardcore Helga a day before the big event. 

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Need a massage or have a question, don't worry, I got this.

Have an injury and unsure if you should ice or apply heat to that bad boy?