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Why massage should be part of your London marathon training plan

Why massage should be part of your London marathon training plan

About this post

Can getting a massage before or after the marathon really make a difference to your marathon performance? Our go-to massage expert has the answers.

Posted by

Emily from Urban


  • Massage
  • Physiotherapy
  • Sports

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From revising for exams in school to nailing an interview for your dream job, preparation has always been sold to us as the key to success. And it’s no different when it comes to running a marathon.

But marathon training demands much more from your body than just running; it’s all-consuming. It takes just as much willpower from your mind as it does from your muscles, and massage therapy can help you prepare both physically and mentally at the same time.

So if you’re looking for tips on how to train for the London marathon, we’ve spoken to our go-to massage expert Monica to get her thoughts on how a massage post marathon can make much of a difference to your performance.

Should I get a massage after a marathon? Pre- and post-marathon massage arguments

Whether you’re a long-distance runner or a newbie preparing for your first marathon, the benefits of massage can help improve your overall performance and recovery. Runners typically ask, ‘Should I get a massage after a marathon?’, the answer to this is yes, however there are some key arguments to why massage should be part of your London marathon training plan.

Post-run recovery or in-training maintenance?

You might presume a massage is only necessary after a run to help with recovery. But adding regular massages into a training plan helps to lay the foundation for better performance by preventing damage before it starts to take place. 

Many professional runners have the mindset that a race is not just run on one day, but in the preparation leading up to it. And when you go to a therapist who specialises in sport, their expertise can be the missing piece in your marathon training puzzle.

Tight muscles can limit your stride, but massage can combat this

Endurance training like running can lead to increased muscle tightness, especially if you don’t stretch or use recovery techniques like massage. This can eventually limit your stride length, making you much much more prone to injury. 

Because of the physical demands of marathon training, muscle tightness is very common. It can happen when muscles are overused, causing your soft tissues like muscles, tendons and ligaments to form together – these are known as adhesions. 

You can reduce your chances of muscle tightness by including a proper warm-up, cool-down, stretching and giving your muscles time to rest. 

Massage is another way to address this, your therapist will help break down the adhesions that’ve formed which will help with flexibility and speed up the recovery process. 

Enjoy a relaxing sleep massage

It’s not all physical – addressing stress is just as important

The mind plays as big a part as your muscles when running a marathon. From self-doubt to the pressure of beating your PB, it’s so easy to get caught up and let your mind run wilder than your legs. 

That’s where massage comes in. Not only does massage treat your physical symptoms, but it’s a great mind-soother too. The relaxation benefits allow your mind to take a break as your stress hormone cortisol decreases and serotonin levels increase.

When to book a massage during marathon training

After long runs

Book a massage one to two days after you’ve finished a long run. This will help your muscles recover, target any tightness and prevent injuries getting worse.

On a rest day

The perfect time for a massage as it gives your body the chance to relax.

Massage post marathon

Wait for a few days after the marathon to book a post-race massage to help with muscle recovery and to soothe aches.

A typical London marathon massage plan:

Week one: Start with an assessment

If you’re injury-free, a sports massage is still a good idea to discover any existing issues you might want to be mindful of. It’ll also prepare your muscles for training.If you have any existing injuries you’re concerned about managing, try an at-home physiotherapy or osteopathy session instead.

These degree-trained professionals are experts in sports anatomy and can help with taping, strengthening exercises and more. 

Weeks two-fourteen: Fortnightly sessions

Book a deep tissue massage or assisted stretching session every two weeks to help with muscle tightness and recovery. They’re best booked a couple days after especially long runs, or on rest days to avoid any further micro trauma to the tissues. 

Week 16: Go easy the week of the race

Rest is everything during the taper phase. If your shoulders and back are craving strong pressure, book a sports or deep tissue massage at least three days before race day. Alternatively, try a relaxing massage or a sleep massage to help you prepare mentally.

Massage post marathon

Congratulations, you ran your first marathon! Celebrate that huge achievement with a relaxing massage, booked a couple days after the race to give your body time to heal. A gentle lymphatic drainage massage can help with swollen legs and muscles, or stretch out with a Thai yoga massage.

The best massages for marathon runners 

What to choose depends on your needs, pressure preferences and mood. The pros at Urban can tailor your chosen massage to align with your goals, so no matter which you go for your therapist can personalise it to suit you. 

Sports massage – a great all-rounder

Training for a marathon can take its toll on your muscles, and it’s completely normal to start to feel sore. A sports massage after the London marathon includes techniques like trigger point therapy to release tension that’s causing you pain so you can continue to train as normal.

It’s great for post-exercise aches by boosting blood flow and freeing up movement, meaning you can recover faster during training to squeeze in some extra runs.

Book a sports massage to resume your training regime.

Deep tissue massage pressure demonstrated by male therapist using elbows

Deep tissue – for extra-tight knots

Worried you’ve overdone it and want to avoid further injury? Deep tissue therapy is great for reducing the risk of chronic injuries – it breaks down scar tissue to help them heal properly from micro-tears that are common with repetitive movement training.

It’s also completely normal for your back and shoulders to feel really sore from running, so going for a full body deep tissue massage is a great way to target pain all over.

Featured in these Urban treatments:

Read more: How to reduce DOMS with massage therapy

Lymphatic drainage – a gentle treatment for rest days

Marathon running can lead to an increase in fluid retention which causes the muscles to swell. So if you’re noticing swollen legs, book a lymphatic drainage massage on a rest day – it’ll remove waste products and toxins which can help reduce the inflammation, speed up recovery and support the immune system.

The better your overall health, the better your body will perform, so this is a great treatment for London marathon runners.

Book a lymphatic drainage massage now

Advanced treatments – for pain and injury

If you’re in a lot of pain or you’re wanting to recover from an injury, a session with a specialist is best.

With Urban’s specialist injury/pain management massage, your therapist will use more advanced techniques like trigger point therapy and myofascial release to help release tension and tightness. For marathon runners, this is ideal for improving flexibility and range of motion because tight, restricted muscles are more prone to injury.

Physiotherapy is ideal for when you’ve suffered an injury – you’ll have a consultation and a personalised treatment plan will be put together to get you back to your best as quickly as possible.

Go for these Urban treatments:

Stretchologist stretches a client's back during a home assisted stretching treatment

Assisted stretching – for your deepest stretch yet

Tight muscles? This is a sign to look into your stretching technique. Or even better, have a professional do the hard work for you with assisted stretching.

You’ll be guided through a series of stretches where your pro will use their body, hands, and feet to manipulate yours. Stretching is especially crucial when training for a marathon – it can make all the difference between beating your PB or falling way behind your usual timing. This is because tight muscles means less flexibility, and a compromised stride length. To get your muscles feeling loose, a good stretching regime is your answer.

Read more: I tried assisted stretching – here's what I thought

Don't overdo it

In the days leading up to the marathon, you don’t want to risk ruining all the hard work you’ve done, and over-vigorous massage sessions a couple of days before a marathon can leave your muscles feeling sore and overworked.

Urban’s expert Monica Paslaru, who is also the Founder and Director of Elemental Massage, believes that the secret lies in the balance. To make sure you’re including enough massage into your routine, therapists will work with you to leave your muscles soothed and ready to perform.

More London marathon tips 

There’s plenty more than just a massage that can boost your performance on the day, so here are some London marathon tips to help set you up for the race.

Take scenic detours to spice up your training

Instead of sticking to a well-known route during your training runs, take scenic detours to keep your mind distracted. The new sights of hidden parks, riverside paths and vibrant neighbourhoods will help keep your training fresh with a mental boost.

If you like the quiet, explore London's canal networks like the Regent's Canal or Grand Union Canal to swap busy areas for a more peaceful training atmosphere.

Build strength and endurance in Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath has a variety of terrain to challenge your body. Try adding hill repeats into your training to build strength –this can help you prepare for both uphill and downhill parts of your marathon run.

Experiment with your race-day nutrition

During long training runs, it’s important to understand your energy levels and how much hydration and snacks you need to keep you going. During your practice runs, pay attention to the timings and cravings you have to keep yourself fuelled.

Interval training along the Thames Embankment

Use the flat stretches along the Thames Embankment for interval training. Try out short, intense sprints followed by longer recovery jogging to boost your cardiovascular fitness, increase speed, and improve your ability to push yourself during the race.

Take it easy in the lead-up

You might be tempted to increase your training the closer the marathon gets, but this might do more harm than good. Instead, plan a gradual taper in the final weeks leading up to the marathon. 

Reduce your training volume to allow your body to recover and store energy, this should help you feel fresh and ready at the starting line.

Let us be your cheerleader

If massage isn’t already part of your London marathon training plan, it could be the missing piece you need to push you to the finishing line. When you book with Urban, your pro can help guide you through the best times to book a massage. You’ll learn how massage therapy can optimise your body for the marathon, working with you right through to post-training recovery.

Book now

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