We’ve all heard wonderful things about sports massages, but what are they exactly and who can benefit from them? From the name, we deduce that they are indicated for athletes, but we rarely know what they entail and why they are so healing. You might be surprised to know that even those who don’t engage in strenuous exercise on a regular basis can benefit from this restorative practice. Here, we’ll clear up some common questions so that you can decide whether sports massages are for you.
What are sports massages?
Sports massages are designed to help correct problems in soft tissues that arise from repetitive or strenuous physical activity. Therapists will often apply more intense and more focused pressure during sports massages than they normally would during a conventional massage in order to speed up recovery and prevent injury. Every sport uses muscles in different ways, so treatment is often tailored to each individual’s needs and supplemented with other types of massage (shiatsu, deep tissue, acupressure, lymphatic, etc).
In general, therapists will usually use long strokes directed towards the heart in order to increase blood and lymph flow, but they may sometimes use shorter strokes in the opposite direction to stretch muscle fibers. They may start by applying strokes with the entire palm of the hand and fingers. This technique is called effleurage and is intended to allow your tissues to warm up, increase blood flow from the beginning and identify any tender points. Once you are warmed up, they will then move on to a technique called petrissage, which consists of stronger kneading designed to reach deeper tissues, stretch muscle fibers and mobilize fluids. Finally, therapists will use a technique called frictions to separate muscle fibers even further and break down lesions. This phase of the massage may be a little bit uncomfortable, but therapists can reduce pressure if you’re in pain. You may feel somewhat sore afterwards, so make sure you take time to rest and rehydrate. The results are well worth any momentary discomfort.
Benefits of sports massages
Sports massages can speed up recovery after strenuous exercise, increase your endurance and prevent injuries by getting rid of muscle tension and strengthening weak muscle tissue. They also have general health benefits that are wonderful for anyone, not just professional athletes. In addition to relaxing and strengthening muscles, sports massages fight fatigue, relieve joint swelling, increase circulation, strengthen the immune system, improve flexibility and reduce blood pressure.
Even if your only exercise consists of lifting your three-year-old, a sports massage might be a great option for you, relieving back tension and strengthening your arms. If you’re an amateur yogi, a sports massage can be an excellent complement to your yoga routine, increasing muscle flexibility and helping muscle fibers recover between workouts. Maybe you’re just now getting back into soccer after years of sitting at a desk and are feeling sore; a sports massage can help your muscle tissues get back into shape and adapt to your new exercise routine. Perhaps you just twisted your ankle going down the stairs; a sports therapist can help speed up healing and get you back to normal in no time.
However, this type of massage may be contraindicated if you are pregnant, have a serious medical condition or have any recent bruising or muscle tears, so always make sure to consult a health professional before starting any new practice. A therapist can determine whether a sports massage is right for you.
The Athlete Ritual AIRE
If you’re seeking a unique sports massage experience, look no further than AIRE Ancient Baths. The Athlete Ritual includes a 60-minute massage that not only incorporates the typical techniques of a sports massage, but also integrates alternating hot and cold sensations to enhance circulation, taking cues from the ancient Greco-Roman tradition of thermal baths, which has survived the test of time. The therapist will begin with a cooling gel on the legs, kneading the calves and quads deeply to release tension and incorporating various stretches to free up the muscles. Working upwards, the therapist will begin to add warm macadamia nut oil, paying special attention to the muscles impacted the most by exercise and alternating with the cooling gel. This energizing as well as relaxing massage will invigorate the body, preparing it for exercise or helping it recover from physical activity.
The Athlete Ritual also gives you access to the various thermal baths that comprise AIRE’s signature experience. Cool down in the Frigidarium, warm back up in the Caldarium, enjoy the anti-inflammatory effects of salt water in the Flotarium and breathe deeply in the aromatherapy-infused Laconicum. Relaxation after a sports massage is particularly important, so take this cool-down time to relax and rehydrate by sipping on a wide selection of exclusive teas.
While you’re there, look into some of AIRE’s other relaxing packages to balance out the energizing effects of the Athlete Ritual. Get a facial, enjoy fine dining or unwind by candlelight while gazing at AIRE’s beautifully restored historical buildings.