The benefits of a good massage are well known in the running community. According to Pam Mancini, PTA, LMT, a physical therapy assistant and licensed massage therapist at Mercy Sports Medicine, the benefits of therapeutic massage include:
• Relief of muscle tension and stiffness
• Faster healing of strained muscles
• Reduced muscle spasms
• Greater joint flexibility and range of motion
• Enhanced athletic performance
• Deeper and easier breathing
• Reduced blood pressure
• Strengthened immune system
• An overall feeling of well-being
Unfortunately, most non-professional runners don’t have the time or money to indulge in a daily pre- and post-workout massage. One solution that we recommend is foam rolling. Prior to a run, foam rolling is a great movement preparation activity that goes hand-in-hand with an active warm-up.
Sample Warm-up Routine:
1) General foam rolling over upper and lower body, 10-20 rolls each area.
2) Self myofascial release to problem areas followed by static stretching. Pause rolling over tight area and hold for 20-90 seconds, then stretch muscle.
3) Progress to active warm-up including jogging, walking lunges and skipping drills.
Following a run or workout, foam rolling becomes an integral part of a comprehensive cool down. Sample Cool Down Routine:
1) Jogging cool down.
2) Self myofascial release to problem areas.
3) General foam rolling over upper and lower body.
4) Static stretching.
Foam rolls are available at Mercy Sports Medicine and local running supply stores such as Second Sole. They come in varying densities and lengths. The length of the foam roll is chosen based on personal preference. The density of the foam roll matters too. Athletes new to foam rolling should use a softer foam roll, while larger or more experienced athletes should use a firmer, composite roll. To realize the benefits of foam rolling immediately, try the rolling techniques on a slightly deflated basketball, soccer ball, or football. Just be careful to not slip off the ball!