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WARNING: Here's What Every Runner Needs To Know About Self-Massage

It's quick. It's easy. Put on your running shoes and away you go. It's the next level up from walking and has a greater effect on your cardio-vascular health, muscular endurance and your outlook on life. Enter running!

The Dangers of Running

Other than running alone through the Canadian Rockies where you may encounter a bear, cougar or moose, there are some key dangers to consider in your running program.

1. The Dose Makes the Poison

This is my fundamental rule in life that I teach my kids when it comes to anything in life. Too much of anything can become toxic to the body. The quickest and simplest way to identify if you've tipped the scale into the 'dis-ease' zone - whether it's activity, sleep, hydration, diet or meditation etc. - is to listen your 'spidey' senses. That's right! Your body and mind are your #1 doctor, who every moment of every day are trying to communicate with you, that you are either getting it right or doing it wrong. Listen to them.

Solution: Train like an Olympic athlete and periodize your running program with light-moderate-intense cycles, an off-season and cross-training.

2. Heel Striking

Professor Daniel Lieberman, Harvard University, did extensive research on the comparison between our modern day running technique and our ancestral method. Imagine if you were to run barefoot - how would you land each time your foot strikes the ground? Would you even run on the sidewalk being barefoot?

When I first learned about barefoot running several years ago, I made the mistake of heading out for a normal 3-KM run and ran on the sidewalk almost at my normal pace, thinking 'piece of cake, I got this'. I think I lasted 1-KM and I then struggled to even walk home. I'd strained all my ankle tendons/ligaments and my muscles were upset too!

Solution: What I do now is still adopt a barefoot style of running but with my running shoes on. There is a drastic reduction in the heel strike impact and a more efficient dissipation of force from ground to body. It's important to note with running there can be upwards of six to eight times your body weight each foot strike which needs to be efficiently managed by your body, in order to mitigate overuse injuries.

3. Law of Facilitation

Unless you experience a trauma (rolled ankle, fall on your knee etc.), the more common cause of any injury is the underlying law of facilitation. Put simply, the muscles you regularly use for running have a faster connection between the brain and muscle because of your training. On one hand, that's absolutely a necessary goal to improve running performance. However, you must also consider how to maintain muscle balance. Through this law of facilitation your running muscles become the more favorable muscles to recruit, even in postures and activities where they are not required to activate. Long-term this becomes a problem of imbalance and alters muscle behavior. In essence, certain muscles become short-tight, and naturally due to this, their opposing muscles become long-weak.

Solution: Identify your short-tight muscles and focus on abundant stretching of these. Identify your long-weak muscles and focus on abundant strengthening of these. If you are looking for a simple, quick solution download my COMPLETE FIRST AID FOR PAIN RELIEF series. Through my research and practice, these programs focus on correcting the most common muscle length-tension imbalances.


If you are not currently subscribed to a regular schedule of massage stop reading this, book a massage with me now, and then continue reading...

Now if you didn't book yet, either you don't live nearby or I've yet to convince you of why a massage with me would be different.

I know your body, quite possibly better than you may currently. It's my mission to relieve muscle stress, tension and pain AND ultimately teach you how to master your body and mind, toward a life of health, happiness and vitality.

Massage just happens to be my first method of helping my patient's on their journey.

I go deep, both with my massage treatments and with exploring the root cause of your problem.

You have four Health Controls - body, mind, food and recovery. These are for you to control. Nobody will come knocking on your door to encourage you to take ownership and responsibility for your success in these areas and even if they did, you ultimately have to do the work in order to reap the rewards. Only you can control how you move, think, eat and recover.

The benefits of massage are countless - from the physiological improvements such as improved blood flow and oxygen delivery, the alleviation of pressure from your nervous system and hormonal balancing to refreshing your emotional health, unleashing more energy and vitality, and significantly improving your recovery from any kind of stress.

I like to tease chiropractors. In my opinion, massage is three times more important than chiropractic, and the anatomy math supports it. You have three times as many muscles as you do bones (600+ muscles: 206 bones). If you are not getting regular and EFFECTIVE massage performed on you, your performance and potential are limited.

Massage is very comparable to exercise. It requires the right dosage of frequency, intensity and duration - with intensity being the most important. I've had many therapists work on me that for some reason restrain themselves for working too deep on my body. If there is one thing my 18-year career as a massage therapist has taught me, it's that the more pressure you can tolerate the greater the effect. I've learned how to apply enough pressure to create massive changes without creating any bruising. We need to agitate NOT destroy your muscle. We want it to be firmly coaxed into releasing it's tension and adhesion. That's partly on me as your therapist, and a lot on you to then control your four controllables!

Instant Massage

Let's jump to the core of today's article and focus on how you can instantly start self-massaging as a runner. The calf muscle, comprised of the gastrocnemius and soleus, is the first major muscle dealing with your running forces. The distance you choose to run determines the number of strides you are performing per training session, and therefore the volume of demand upon your muscles.


1) It's the dose that makes the poison - determine how many repetitions (foot strikes or total distance) you are performing over the course of a training day, week and month. A running journal or app can help you measure and listen to your body.

2) If you modify your running technique to a barefoot style this will definitely create more intensity as you learn to adopt this new method.

3) Based upon running and daily postures you must overcome the law of facilitation through regular stretching and self-massage of the shorter-tighter muscles.

Considering these three guiding principles for running faster and longer, here is my video to teach you how to self-massage your calf and relieve stress, tension and pain to your feet, Achilles and lower leg. Also, considering the wonderful network of connective tissue in your body, it can positively affect any stress, tension and pain you may be carrying in your upper body.

A related article for self-massage of your gluteals is available here.

Any questions, you can reach me at my clinic by phone: 403 589 4645 or email:

Please help me on my mission to relieve stress, tension and pain. Share this anyone you know that would benefit from this blog :)

Yours In Muscle Health, Jason Barlow, RMT

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