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 more couch potato and less pro-athlete 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.
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. If you haven't been keeping as fit for a few months 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!
An often overlooked culprit for foot and leg pain or shin splints are worn or ill-fitting shoes. Worn down soles and arch support can affect how your foot hits the ground. Make sure you have the proper support for your sport whether it's sprinting along a back road or carrying all your gear for a few nights in the back country. Foot and leg problems can eventually become knee, hip, back and neck problems. Good shoes are important.
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 stress injuries that can affect performance. Massage is an excellent way to keep your muscles healthy, help rehabilitate injuries, maintain range of motion, and manage the aches that can 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.
Recent research has also demonstrated that massage reduces the inflammation associated with the micro-tears that occur in muscles due to activity and promotes production of mitochondria, the “powerhouses” of the cell that are responsible for producing energy for muscle contraction.
Any muscle injury can cause scar formation 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 treating chronic tightness and trigger points allowing muscles to move and function more effectively.
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!