Over the past several years massage therapy has become very popular with marathon swimmers. And I include this as part of my preparation to swim the English Channel.
The following posting has been submitted by Jane Hoover, R.N., L.M.T. of Westbrook, Maine:
Massage by its very nature helps one to be more attuned to the body and to the interplay and unity of body, mind, and spirit. In taking on a challenge the magnitude of the English Channel, the significance of this awareness in the athlete cannot be overstated. Over the past months, Pat and I have focused on this awareness as well as on balance, relaxation, and working out any soreness, strains, or imbalances that have occurred.
Regarding balance, each muscle and muscle group has an agonist/antagonist relationship with another muscle or muscle group. Keeping these muscles and muscle groups as equal as possible in strength and flexibility gives the athlete greater power and less discomfort. For instance, swimming the freestyle stroke, the muscles of the chest are shortened and strengthened while the muscles of the upper back are stretched, which tends to weaken them. In massage sessions, we discuss these balancing situations and address them through massage working to open the chest muscles and stretching the upper back. Then, Pat takes this awareness to her training to include more backstroke to open and balance the chest. Massage provides a wonderful opportunity for this awareness-building in the athlete.
Massage also offers a time for the body and mind to come together in deep relaxation and rejuvenation. The athlete will emerge both relaxed and energized.