For some, a massage is a treat that is reserved only for rare mini-breaks to a spa in the countryside. For others, they form a central part of their ongoing training regime. The question is do we pretend that a regular massage is good for us an excuse to indulge, or is it actually contributing to our overall success?
Let’s start with stress release. For a lot of people the chance for a good massage is the perfect way to switch off from the stresses of everyday life. The idea of stress is frequently debated. Some argue that it is just people making mountains out of molehills, whereas others describe it as some form of silent assassin that strikes without warning and leaves you unable to reach your potential. Whichever position you take, it is difficult to argue that you don’t feel some degree of relaxation once you are on the massage table though.
The thing to be aware of is that there are plenty of different types of massage, each with their own unique style. To be experienced in all of them takes years of training and that makes it a challenge to fully understand them all.
But what is obvious is that a deep tissue sports massage is going to be very different from a Swedish massage, which is going to be very different from a Thai massage etc. So for me to sit here and make sweeping statements about all massages would be stupid.
Massage is frequently used as treatment for injury in the world of sport and it can be fantastic for muscular problems. The central idea is that you are increasing the blood follow to an impacted area. Now this doesn’t mean that you just find out where it hurts and start to rub, unfortunately our muscle fibres don’t work as simply as that.
Does that mean that athletes only need to consider the possibility of a sports massage when they are injured and looking to recover? This drives right to the heart of the question surrounding performance. Can your performance improve as a result of frequent massage therapy? You don’t need to be an expert in the field to have hear about ‘knots’ in relation to massage. The idea is that the more frequently you get massaged, the less of these knots you will have and therefore the more freely your muscles will be able to move. And none of that has anything to do with injury or recovery. More freely moving muscles will usually mean a greater level of performance, providing you are willing to put in the necessary work.
Frequent massages come at a cost if you want them done professionally. But those of us that train regularly knows that there can be an associated cost, as there is with any hobby. I won’t sit here and tell you that massage therapy is essential to making sure that you success, that just isn’t the case. But the weight of evidence that is supporting the positive impact of a massage is growing.