Have you hit a wall in your training? No matter how much you train, you just can’t seem to improve your timings or distance? The thing that is holding you back might just be the very thing that is making your performance possible – your muscles.
For muscles to perform at their best, they should be well rested, relaxed and at their optimal lengths. When they are not, it takes so much more effort to get the same level of performance out of them. When they are tense, tight and shortened, they fight and resist against other muscles trying to move in the opposite direction.
Muscle Impact on Performance
Muscle tightness and strain affects a range of performance athletes. In cyclists, tight ITB and quads, besides being extremely painful, affects cycling cadence (hence performance) and lead to knee problems over time. For runners with tight hamstrings, that means that your strides are shorter than they should be. You take three strides compared to someone else who only needs two strides to cover the same distance. More effort, longer time but same distance. For swimmers, tight muscles around the shoulder restricts you from achieving the optimal swim stroke.
Sports Massage, Healthier Muscles
Beyond stretching, tight muscles benefit greatly from regular sports massage which is able to target to the ‘sticking’ spots in your muscles. But what exactly is sports massage? How different is it from the regular spa massages? Is it the same as deep tissue massage?
First off, sports massage is not the same as deep tissue massage, though terms are often used interchangebly. It would be more accurate to say that sports massage incorporates deep tissue massage techniques. A more accurate description of sports massage would be a massage system built upon a firm foundation of basic massage techniques enhanced with a set of advanced techniques (see diagram for details).
The muscle is not merely made up of muscles fibers. It is a complex system of different physiological structures such as the fascia, blood vessels, nerves and other connective tissues. Various advance techniques are required to help manage the smooth functioning of this ‘muscle-complex’.
With the combination of these techniques, sports massage helps increase blood flow to the tired muscles, speeding up recovery. It breaks down the knots in the muscles by stretching them and flushing out the lactic acids. Sports massage also helps the flow of blood back to the heart and the interstitial and lymph fluids around the body, vital to maintaining a healthy body.
In addition, healthy muscles are less likely to suffer from micro-trauma (tears), ruptures, strains as compared to tight, tired muscles which are hampered by adhesions, scar tissue and lactic acid.