Finding your fitness New Year Resolution hard to keep – Just add a massage

The excesses of Christmas are behind you and that New Year’s resolution to get fit is front of mind. Determined to quickly shed the pounds put on over the festive season you hit the gym like a tornado. However, you may find that 5K run isn’t the breeze you were expecting. It is likely that over the few days (or weeks) that you took a small break from the gym and made a large impression on the Christmas Turkey, puddings, sweets and alcohol, your body will already have lost some of its conditioning and won’t be ready for a full on work-out assault.

The trick, if you are going to keep to your good intentions of getting back to full fitness, is to start off slowly with light exercise and gradually build-up. Listen to your body and don’t overdo it. You know your body better than anyone and if you are getting signs to take it a bit more easily to begin with, then don’t ignore them.

A common cause of injury to the body is putting too much stress on it, by pushing too hard, too soon. Another cause is not setting aside adequate time for a cool down and stretch. To help you get your body back to pre-festive fitness you should also consider introducing a sports massage into your regular workout.

Sports massages help to prevent muscle injuries, which could set you back and keep you out of action for longer. Massage helps to increase muscle recovery and rejuvenation, enables faster recovery time post exercise and means you will be able to pick up where you left off last time and push that little bit harder.

The physical benefits of sports massage include:
1) Improving  fluid circulation – blood and lymph
2) Assisting relaxation of the muscles
3) Helping with the elimination of toxins
4) Helping to improve flexibility
5) Reducing pain and stiffness in specific areas
6) Helping with flexibility and fluid movement, improving the range of motion

A massage is no longer seen to be viewed as an indulgence, but as a significant contributor to achieving overall health and wellness. Adding a sports massage after every 4 to 5 workout sessions can deliver major benefits and significantly aid your return to fitness – letting you tick that challenge off the New Year resolutions list.

The science bit

In 2014 a study was carried out to see the effects of massage on muscles. 11 young, healthy men were put through an incredibly strenuous workout. Biopsies were taken of both legs before and after exercise and after a 10 minute Swedish massage given right after the workout.

The massage affected two genes in the body, the first is responsible for decreasing inflammation caused by exercise. The second increased production of mitochondria (which generate the energy needed by cells) in the muscles. As cells adapt to exercise endurance the number of mitochondria increase and this also seems to be stimulated by massage. In this research massage seemed to not only make the recipients feel better, but also helped to speed-up the process of muscle recovery.
The research suggests:
– Just 15 minutes of massage after a brutal workout (running up a five storey building 20 times) improved proprioception (the sense of awareness of where your body is in a space). This is important for injury prevention and technique.
– Strength was also improved in the gastrocnemius (calf) muscle.
– Muscular strength was greater in the group that received the massage, when it is given to the effective area for at least 10 minutes.
– Researchers speculated improved muscle fibre regeneration was responsible for the effects on body awareness and strength.
This study suggested that getting a post-exercise massage to benefit recovery is warranted and massage should be part of a serious athlete’s training.

1. Mal-Shoon Shin, et. al., “EFFECTS OF MASSAGE ON MUSCULAR STRENGTH AND PROPRIOCEPTION AFTER EXERCISE-INDUCED MUSCLE DAMAGE,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2014, doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000688

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