The Therapy Rooms’ Tracy Russell was on hand to give post-event massage therapy at the 2013 Bupa Great North Run on Sunday 15th September.
The Great North Run has become a national institution, and this year, as always, the host city, Newcastle upon Tyne, welcomed some of the finest athletes (amateur and professional) in the world. It is a half marathon, so is somewhat less demanding than a full marathon, but will attract many first-timers so training and recovery are really key to avoiding injury.
Post-event massage can really help to minimize muscle strain and help speed up recovery after a really demanding event. But what does it involve?
Here is Tracy’s photo diary from the Calvert Trust’s marquee
After a big event, muscles will already be challenged so the level of pressure applied to the tissues is very important in post-event massage – too light and there is little effect and too deep and there is a risk that damage can be done to the already challenged muscle fibres.
Intense exercise causes micro-fine tears in the fibres, which, if allowed to heal correctly, helps to make the muscles stronger. But deep tissue work on muscles that have been intensely exercised can aggravate the muscles and interfere with the healing process.
- Taking this into consideration, I needed to devise a treatment that would gently encourage the healing process. With potentially 26 runners to treat over a relatively short period of time, I estimated that I could only spend about 10 minutes on each runner. I was also quietly hoping that they were all of varying ability so that they wouldn’t all turn up at the same time!
- So the main techniques I used for my Post Great North Run Massage were Effleurage and Active Isolated Stretching (AIS).
- Effleurage is a very gentle massage technique where you skim or touch the muscles very lightly with a series of gentle strokes, often to prepare the muscles for deeper massage therapy.
Use of AIS is particularly useful in post event recovery. The Active Isolated Stretching Method is a method of stretching the muscles in focused bursts of two seconds.
The client is asked to contract the opposing muscle that needs to be stretched. So for example, if the therapist wished to apply AIS to the hamstrings, the client would raise her leg. This sends a signal to the brain that in order to contract the quads, there has to be a relaxation in the muscle in opposition, i.e. the hamstrings. The fancy name for this is reciprocal inhibition.
The therapist will then apply a passive stretch to the hamstrings and holds this stretch for 2 seconds – long enough for the brain to register the tightness of the hamstrings and send messages to relax them, but not so long that and damage to the tissues can be done.
Holding a stretch for more than 2 seconds can trigger a myotatic stretch reflex and deprive the muscle of oxygen, which is the last thing you would want after you have just run a half marathon.
This process of active movement, passive stretch and 2 second hold is then repeated as many times as is needed.
For more information about AIS, have a look at www.stretchingusa.com. It’s a great technique to use as a massage therapist, but it is also possible to use as a self help technique whether your a professional athlete, an occasional jogger or have a creaky joint.
Tracy was really proud to support The Calvert Trust and the half-marathoners raising funds for this important charity because of the important work they do and the respite care they provide at their beautiful activity centre at Kielder Water & Forest Park.