Running might appear a harmless, low-risk activity. But according to Sheffield massage therapist Helen Martin, the pastime is one of the top 10 most dangerous sports.
However, the danger doesn’t come from traffic or the hazards of falling. Instead the damage is done because of the sheer impact of running on the human body.
So with the Sheffield Half Marathon less than a month away, the therapist wants to help athletes achieve the results they want without paying a heavy physical toll.
“When you’re running, every stride delivers a shocking impact seven times your body weight through your whole body,” said Helen.
“Muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons are all ‘living’ and act as shock absorbers when you’re pounding the pavement.”
Parts that absorb most of the shock are the ankles, knees and pelvis, as the force of the impact travels upwards.
“As a massage therapist, I see people with aches, pains and injuries from doing too much, too fast and also from doing too little.”
Helen runs a company called Affordable Community Massage, which visits venues across the city for ‘pop up’ clinics.
Many sessions involve clients paying what they feel a treatment is worth.
“Massage is an excellent tool for both prevention and recovery from injury,” she said.
“Most benefits are based on stimulating blood flow - along with the nutrients in it - to the relevant area.
“Running for longer and longer distances can cause micro tears in the muscles, which may not have had the chance to completely heal from the extra mileage.
“This is a normal process with most exercise, and part of how muscles get developed and get stronger. But when they are healing from lots of tears the muscle fibres can stick together, in what most people call ‘knots’. This is often when injuries are most likely to occur, when muscles are very tight and are not working smoothly.”
Helen said runners being ‘heavy footed’ on one side because of old injuries can also cause tightness and reduce blood flow to muscles.
“Muscles tightening like an elastic band can sometimes cause injuries as they become too rigid to do their job of holding you upright or allowing your knees and hips to move freely,” she continued.
“This can often be very painful.”
The therapist also recommends a technique called ‘progressive relaxation’ to runners. The practice can ease muscle tension and help people to identify aches and pains before injuries happen.
“It’s simple and easy to do,” said Helen.
“I recommend to clients that before bed, they begin at their toes and work their way up through each muscle group, holding as tight as they can for five to ten seconds, then releasing slowly - beginning at the toes, then the ankles and calves, all the way up to the head.
“This might also help with getting to sleep on the night before a race or training session a runner might be nervous about.”
Helen specialises in deeper tissue massage techniques, in particular loosening the lower back and hip areas.
“I believe that a decent massage should be something that’s as accessible to everyone as going to get their teeth checked, or car serviced each month if they need to.
“Unless I’m missing a trick, I don’t know why a deeper tissue massage should be £50 to £60.
“The aim is that affordable, high quality massage is easily available in a comfortable, non-intimidating environment that’s nearby.
“Think loosening stiff shoulders and knotty necks, rather than tinkling bells and whale music.”
Log on to www.facebook.com/affcommmassage or follow @AffCommMassage on Twitter for dates and times of Helen’s next clinics.