The older I get, the more I marvel at how a child can trip, twist, bend, catch themselves, and end up upright every time. Like a cat with nine lives, children have the agility that is miraculous to those of us who haven’t seen childhood in some time. As you get older, your muscles become more like rubber bands that have been weathered. They aren’t as pliable or strong, and all those inner functional muscles that you no longer use, have lost some of their elasticity.
After enduring running or tracking too many miles, being sore and having tight muscles is more regular as you age. Like a house, your body begins to settle in some places, which can cause misalignments in your posture. It is those small changes that, over time, make some of your muscles shorter and some longer.
When a muscle is weak, it becomes short and tight. So, if you are continually using the same muscle groups either at work, like sitting behind a desk, or out on the track, running miles every day, those muscle groups that aren’t getting a workout will start to atrophy. As they do, your body will become weak in some places, which results in shortening muscles that can lead to something called “trigger points”.
If you have ever had a trigger point, likely, you know what I am talking about. It is that spot on your back, glute, thigh or any other muscle group that sends you flying the minute it is touched. Trigger points are points in the body where muscle fibers bundle and knot. What they do is continual fire signals to the brain that cause continual tension and stop the flow of blood and oxygen in the right paths. The more you have, the more your muscles are pulled out of alignment. That puts more wear and tear on specific parts of the body that can lead to injury or chronic muscle conditions, which can leave you discouraged and can cut down on your ability to run.
Massage therapy is a way to work out the kinks that can form in the body and also loosen up muscle knots that can keep you stuck and tight. When a muscle group is released, the muscle is free to elongate again. And, when a muscle is in its lengthened state, it is strongest.
Massage therapy is also an excellent way to move lactic acid through your body. Lactic acid is the substance that builds up in the muscle after a long run. Responsible for the soreness that you can experience a day or two after working the muscles, massage therapy can help to clear the build up of the lactic acid and help you get back on track sooner.
Chiropractic care is also a good way to get your body in good alignment. The problem is that it is just a quick fix. There is a reason why your bones get out of alignment. It is because of weakness and shortening in the muscles pulling on the spine. So, if you don’t work through what is making your muscles tight, you will be beholden to endless chiropractic appointments, never getting a full cure.
Not only is massage therapy essential for flexibility, blood flow, and agility, but so too is functional and strength training. Taking apart your muscle groups and isolating them ensures that you never find yourself with a weak link that can be the end to your endurance running. Weight training, yoga, pilates and other forms of muscle group specific training, is just as essential to keeping your muscles in good shape as is working with a masseuse.
If you are suffering from cramps, an injury that just won’t quit, or endless soreness that is limiting your ability to keep your regular pace, you might want to consider the possibility that massage is part of your answer. If you incorporate muscle building and strength training, then you are definitely going to want to add yoga and massage to your routine to stay strong and to keep trucking along without injury.
If you find it painful at first, that might mean that you really need it. After you go for a couple of sessions and feel the improvement, the boost that you get out of better blood flow and muscle elasticity will make you want to keep working through the rough spots. Sometimes you have to get through the rough to find the cure to your chronic injuries, or to get past what might be keeping you down and out.