The lowdown on sports massage

Last April, a 21-miler left a band of exquisite tenderness along my inner calf. I rested and iced for five days, but the pain lingered until my next sports massage. Agonising as it was, the treatment eliminated the problem completely and I ran a half marathon PB a week later. So it won't surprise you to hear that I'm a keen proponent. And I'm not alone. Look to the elites and you'll struggle to find anyone who doesn't consider massage crucial. "Massage is an essential part of my training programme," says RW's triple Olympian contributing editor Jo Pavey. "It's important for both performance and recovery." Mo Farah also gets rubbed the right way: "I get massaged by the physio all the time, it's so important when you've put you body through hard work." But massage has had some – excuse the pun – bad press recently. Last year, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that pre-event massage had no effect on running performance, while research from Queens University in Canada found massage actually slowed lactic acid removal from muscles post-exercise. Which leaves a few questions to be answered if you're going to get the results you're after. I set out to answer them...

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