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Reblog from our resident Massage Therapist, Nancy “Shots” Stenger from Rest Day Massage.

Massage and recovery go hand in hand. It doesn’t take a massage therapist to know that stretching sore muscles is going to help them feel better.

Actually, massage is instinctual.

Think of the times you shook out your hands before jumping back up on the pull-up bar or grabbed your quads because they were on fire after rowing. It’s hardwired in us to get blood flow back and to dull the senses in an area of pain, and that’s essentially what massage is.

Ok, if it was really that simple, then I wouldn’t have a job. But the point is, our bodies naturally crave massage to feel better.

As athletes, we are constantly pushing our bodies, and that can take a toll on our muscles. Below are the top 5 ways massage can help you become a better athlete.

1. Accelerates recovery

Massage increases blood flow both locally and system-wide.

That increased blood flow flushes out metabolic waste from the muscles (aka the lactic acid that makes your muscles feel like they are on fire). It also brings in nutrients and oxygen back into the muscles to help them regenerate torn muscle tissue and return back to their normal balance so you can hit the workout just as hard the next day.

Added bonus: The increased blood flow also helps the body circulate lymph, which is a fluid that helps destroy pathogens in the body. This allows you to fight off sickness quicker or helps you avoid it altogether.

2. Reduces the risk of injury

Dysfunction causes injury. Let me repeat that, DYSFUNCTION CAUSES INJURY.

When our bodies are 100% balanced, nothing short of a catastrophic event would cause tears, sprains, or strains. Unfortunately, no human is free from dysfunction. So what do I mean by that?

3. Restores mobility and flexibility

Duh. Seems like a no brainer. Stretching muscles promotes mobility and flexibility, but with the help of a licensed massage therapist, you can make sure you are hitting the stretches that your body REALLY needs and make sure that you are doing them properly.

4. Increases body awareness

Remember when you first started CrossFit and you were sore in areas that you never knew were possible? It’s like that with massage as well.

During a massage, you become more aware of muscle groups. Tight muscles are loosened up, and your body becomes aware of aches, pains, or even injuries that it just wasn’t concerned about at the time.

A massage is also an opportunity for a professional to look at and feel your muscle tissue. Between my BA in Biology and my certificate in Massage Therapy, I’ve studied anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and pathology. I’ve been trained on how the human body is supposed to work as well as seeing when something isn’t quite right.

It was actually on a massage table when I learned about my hamstring imbalance. My right hamstring is much more developed than my left, and my massage therapist pointed it out to me.

I notice it all the time now! My right heel pops up first when I squat, my right leg tightens up faster on runs, and I put my weight on my right foot when I’m standing still. I notice it ALL THE TIME!

Remember what I said before, dysfunction causes injury, so I’ve incorporated more exercises to strengthen my left hamstring muscles. I’m started to feel more balanced, my lifts seem smoother, and I’ve potentially lessened my chance for injury. Boom!

5. Promotes healthy tissue growth

Like I said before, massage increases blood flow to the area which starts the repair process. But repairing muscle, and repairing muscle correctly aren’t the same thing.

Massage helps lay down tissue in the correct muscle fiber direction. This helps ensure that the muscle is moving how it was designed to. It also helps break up scar tissue and fascial restrictions that inhibit proper muscle movement.