Go Out and Play!

Spring is in the air and many of us are spending more time outside being active.  If you’re like me you may have been less active and more couch potato like through the winter months and now the warm weather is encouraging you to go ride your bike, take a hike, go for a paddle, run, rock climb, swim, or play your favorite sport with friends.  The more serious athletes among us most likely stayed in better shape during the cold months but are increasing training in preparation for marathons, triathlons, league sports and other competitions.

If you’ve been fairly inactive for a bit it’s easy to overdo it in your eagerness to get out, enjoy the weather and have some fun.  Your muscles aren’t yet conditioned for a lot activity making them fatigue more quickly, more prone to injury, and increasing your chances for delayed onset muscle soreness, that nasty ache you get a couple of days after a good run, bike, or workout.

To reduce your risk of injury and pain make sure you warm up before any activity.  A good way to warm up is to simply start your activity at a low intensity:  walk briskly before running, do a few drills for your sport, perform yoga sun salutations, anything to get the muscles warmed up and the blood moving.  Conditioning is also key to preventing soreness and injury.  If you haven’t walked around the block for a couple of months that 10 mile hike might not be the best idea right away.  Trust me on this, a couple of weekends ago I did a six mile hike on steep trails after being relatively sedentary for two months and two days later I could barely walk down a flight of stairs!

Even if you do everything right you may end up with sore muscles and minor injuries.  New activities can easily fatigue or injure muscles unaccustomed to being used in certain ways and if you participate in a sport regularly you are at risk for repetitive strain injuries that can result in myofascial pain syndrome and trigger point formation (articles on these to come!).  Massage is an excellent way to keep your muscles healthy, rehabilitate injuries, maintain range of motion, and manage the aches and pains that come with having fun.

Massage has been shown to reduce delayed onset muscle pain by 30% if given within several hours after the activity.  If you’re planning a big day on the trail, road, or river consider scheduling a massage for the next day to reduce your chances of being too sore to get out of bed in a couple of days.

Sports and working out cause micro tears in muscle and connective tissue.  Recent research has indicated that massage reduces the inflammation associated with these injuries and promotes production of mitochondria, the “powerhouses” of the cell that are responsible for producing energy for muscle contraction.

Any muscle injury can cause scarring and adhesions that reduce a muscle’s range of motion and efficiency.  New injuries benefit from massage to help them resolve properly so they don’t become chronic problems. Old, chronic injuries benefit by massage’s ability to break up adhesions and allow muscles to move and function more effectively.  Chronic injuries and pain can also lead to trigger point formation which can be resolved by deep tissue techniques.

Whether you’re a serious athlete or a weekend warrior regular massage can help keep your body in top shape.  Prevention and proper management of pain and injuries with the help of massage will keep you moving and having fun.

If you would like to see an article or research on a particular activity or sport please let me know and I’ll do a blog post about it!

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