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Massage and Exercise

If I had to choose, massages for the greater population should be received after exercise. I get asked a lot whether getting a massage matters right before or after a workout. I’d say the benefits are different but overall there’s not one that gets a large advantage over the other.

If you cycle regularly, are a marathon addict, play netball or are a power lifting gym junkie, amongst other sports; then a sports massage is for you. Sports massages are focused on the main muscle groups used to engage in the sport. The massage strokes are faster and firm compared to a relaxation or remedial massage and is seen more as a flush through for the body. Post-massage soreness is common with this type of massage but certainly not as bad as the soreness you feel from an intense workout.

If you get a massage right before exercise, the muscles are worked over enough to soften any tight areas so you’ll get a greater range of motion through the joints. You might feel like you can push harder or reach further during your exercise. Also, getting a massage pre-workout should reduce your chances of injury from strain. Having said that, it may not be the ideal scenario if you’re about to engage in competitive sport. When you train, you usually work within the scope of the physical limitations you have. Come match time, you’re performing at your best with this limitation or injury in mind. So if you get a massage and it’s improved the range of movement or active response time, your body may not readjust to this change quickly and you’ll feel out of balance to how you’ve been training leading up to the competition.

If you get a massage straight after exercise, it will reduce post work out pain and reduce injury recovery time allowing you to train again sooner than later. Also note, if you’ve just had a workout, most people will be more sensitive to the massage pressure as the body is fatigued and in recovery mode from flexing those muscles just a minute ago. I suppose the con to this scenario is that if you always have a massage straight after exercise, it doesn’t reduce the chances of potential injury during the exercise. Stretching properly beforehand will help!

My take away message if you’re going to get a massage pre or post exercise: consider the factors first. One side will reduce your chances of injury, the other will reduce the healing time if you are injured. Think about if it’s a competition you’re preparing for, your age, how tight you feel during exercise or sore after exercising, do you have more time before or after a game/exercise?


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