I went to see my massage therapist for the first time this year. It's been too long since my last visit and my body always tells me when it's overdue. I try to get a full body massage at least once a month, especially when I am training hard. I see it as both a reward for my hard training efforts and a part of my recovery protocol. Although a massage can be expensive, I try to work in a 90 minute session once a month because I make it a priority to take care of myself. Runners and massages go together like peanut butter and ice-cream. What? Just me? (I'm not pregnant, I swear.)
One thing I have learned over the years is that we don't train in a bubble. You can exercise for an hour a day but if you are not taking care of nutrition, sleep, recovery and managing stress levels you may not see the results you desire. Everything is connected. Stress at work can affect your workout recovery. Poor sleep can inhibit fat loss. Poor nutrition can hurt your performance. You have to take care of your whole body, mind and spirit for true health and balance.
You body is like a race car, it may be fun to take it for a few speedy laps around the track, but you need to keep up with the maintenance in order to continue to perform your best. Maintenance of your body includes exercise, nutrition, rest, recovery, mobility and stress management. Maybe when I was a younger my body was more forgiving, but as I am getting older I definitely feel my best when I spend the time to take care of myself and pay the consequences if I don't.
Although massages are definitely not a requirement of a healthy lifestyle, I always enjoy my massage sessions. My massage therapist works to help release tight muscles so I can feel my best. It's a stress reliever and a way I pamper myself. He always gives me tips and advice on how I can maintain a healthy body outside of our sessions, especially since I visit just once a month. I love his ideas so I thought I would share some of his wisdom with you. I wish I could get a massage every week, but I follow these tips to extend the benefits and good feelings after a massage. Whether you are able to get a regular massage or not, this advice applies to maintain a healthy body.
"AIR IS FREE"
It doesn't cost a penny to take in a deep belly breath and exhale. You don't need to skimp or save on those deep breaths. When he is working a particularly tight muscle he will say, "Air is Free" to remind me to take breathe deeply during the massage, but a deep breathing practice can serve us well all day long. You don't have to commit to a long term meditation practice, just stop and take a few deep breaths to relax your body and mind at any time. There are apps that can guide you, FitBit has a "Relax" setting that walks you through two minutes of deep breathing or just stop and breathe once in awhile. Air is free.
A great way to encourage healthy mobility is with a foam rolling and stretching practice. It's always a good idea to move through a full body stretching session after your workouts, and it may be helpful to set some time aside for foam rolling as well. A lot of people have rounded shoulders and tight hip flexors due to our modern lifestyle of sitting and looking down at our phone screens most of the day. Some daily simple stretches and foam rolling techniques can help us counteract these disadvantages of our lifestyle.
After you get a massage they always encourage you to drink water. It's usually under the pretense of "flushing toxins" or some nonsense, but the truth is that muscles feel and perform their best when hydrated so this is generally good advice, whether you're getting a massage or not. You'll feel your best when fully hydrated.
SLEEP ON YOUR BACK
This is a tough one for me and something I am working on. He says sleeping on your back is the best sleeping position since it helps relax tight shoulders, chest muscles and hip flexors. It allows your head, neck and spine to rest in neutral position. Since I am recovering from an injured shoulder, he says it's especially important that I'm not adding pressure by sleeping on my shoulder. I often start on my back, but fall asleep and roll over. Hubby says I snore when on my back, but he is clearly lying. Sweet dainty girls like me don't snore, obviously.
Like anything else sleeping on my back is a habit that has to be developed and cultivated. I set the intention to sleep on my back when I go to bed at night and on those nights that I don't succeed, I try again.
Even if you don't get regular massages, these tips for self-care to maintain a healthy body between massages applies to everyone.
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