How to Incorporate Massage Into Your Marathon Training Plan

Getting a massage for runners is half the fun of marathon training, right?

Whether it’s your first or your 26th go at the marathon distance, you know that just the training itself feels like a marathon sometimes. Your mind is filled with the logistics of how and when to get those 20-milers in, what and when to eat, and which clothes will cause the least chafing. And that’s just the mental. You’ll run hundreds of miles over the course of your training.

But do you have regular massages on your training plan? You should. Not only does massage help you recover physically, but hey, it can alleviate the mental stress of constantly thinking about the big goal ahead of you. Here are the why’s and how’s of integrating massage into your running.

Why should runners get massages?

If you’re looking for another reason to justify your massage, try science. According to a recent study, getting a massage after strenuous activity (like, say, a 20-miler) significantly decreases Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (aka DOMS.) If you’ve ever had to skip a run because your legs are too sore after a hard workout, you know what DOMS is.

Massage will reduce inflammation, but contrary to popular belief, it will not flush out lactic acid. This bodily byproduct is only produced during anaerobic exercise (read: sprinting), not long distance running. What massage does do to reduce soreness is reducing the presence of cytokines, which contribute to inflammation. Without the inflammation, the body can adjust to increased demands of exercise.

Support Your Muscles With a Massage

When should I get a massage?

If you’re anything like this marathoner, your brain is constantly running different scenarios — how will this workout affect my training? How will this sleepless night affect my training? When should I get a massage that provides relief without compromising any of my workouts?

Great questions.

Most marathon training plans are set up in “training blocks” of approximately three weeks. In each of these blocks, runners increase distance for three consecutive weeks, then take what’s called a “step-back week,” where they reduce their mileage in order to prepare their bodies for the next, tougher phase of training. If this is the kind of plan you’re following, after the long run is the perfect time for a massage. Too tired to even think of leaving the house? Consider a massage at home!

What kind of massage is right for you?

You’re fitting marathon training into an already busy schedule; you don’t have time to also research the different kinds of massages best for runners, so we’ll break it down for you.

  • Deep Tissue: These are the hurts-so-good massages. In technical terms, that means these massages target the deeper layers of muscles, tendons, and fascia (the tissue covering muscles), releasing painful knots and reducing overall aches and pains. We wouldn’t go as far as to call them relaxing, but you’ll certainly be glad you did them. They typically focus on massaging the entire muscle. (Yeah, we’re looking at you, quads.)
  • Sports Massage: This is exactly what it sounds like — a massage for runners. Combining deep tissue and assisted stretching, it’s a great healing technique for anyone who wants to decrease muscle soreness, improve flexibility and increase the range of motion. Once again, this isn’t the relaxing massage your friends will be jealous of, but it will help with muscle stiffness and relaxation, as it lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • ART Massage: Active Release Technique massages combine movement with deep pressure to target and relieve any adhesions (where the muscle has become chronically contracted). This type of massage is best for a specific injury you’re working on.
  • Swedish Massage: You might be surprised to see this “lighter” massage here, but it’s actually a perfect one for just before a big race. Just as muscles need time to recover from a big workout, they also need time to recover from intense massages as well.

Next time you’re feeling sore, don’t just whine about it to whoever will listen — book a massage so you can get right back to crushing your goals!

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