Massage Best Practices, Benefits, and Mistakes with Coach Matt Phillips

Massage therapy draws a lot of varied opinions about the practice. It is therapeutic or healing, necessary or a luxury, helpful or a waste of money?

massage for runners

While many of those answers are for you to conclude, scientific evidence offers a lot in terms of what a massage does and, more importantly, does not provide.

There are many reasons to enjoy a massage. It can be relaxing for your muscles, rejuvenating for your mind, and improve your overall state.

Runners in particular love the feeling of doing something for their recovery – thus the exploding popularity of foam rollers and massage guns. But what if sleep is your best recovery tool?

There are also a lot of beliefs perpetuated about the healing properties of massages. While there are many benefits, scientific evidence helps us understand what a massage can actually accomplish, and what is merely anecdotal.

I’ve explored the many benefits of massages for runners previously and top of the list is: recovery! How exactly do massages help with that and what are the best practices for athletes?

To take a look at all of these questions and many more, I invited a Running Injury and Performance Specialist on this week’s podcast.

Matt Phillips Explores Massages through Science

Matt Phillips in an expert in this field, which is why I wanted to have him as a repeat guest. Our previous podcast focused on running form, but today we’re discussing another specialty of his: massage.

Originally a strength and conditioning coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, Matt turned his attention to Sports Therapy in 2004. Since then, he has focused his work on distance runners and endurance athletes.

He is also a lecturer in Anatomy and Physiology and has a very scientific mind that helps him distill the research and apply it in tangible ways.

In this episode, we talk about the common beliefs that are not supported by scientific data, in particular, that massages are not helpful for:

  • Breaking down scar tissue
  • Flushing out lactic acid
  • Increasing circulation
  • Reducing injury through added pain

But don’t worry, it’s not all lost. Check out this clip of Matt sharing some of the benefits of massage:


We also talk about how finding a knowledgeable massage therapist can help with:

  • Relaxing the central nervous system
  • Aiding with recovering
  • Educating you

Matt provides some great tips on how to find a therapist suitable for you and your needs, incorporating massages into your athletic pursuits, and sorting through all that anecdotal evidence.

I learned so much from this conversation and I know you will too.

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Listen to the entire episode:

If you enjoyed this episode, I know you will love Matt’s online Run Chat Live conference on October 29-30, 2020. You can see more details at Make sure to use code “strengthrunning20” for 20% off registration.

Show Links & Resources:

Thank You Elemental Labs!

Elemental Labs

A big thanks to Elemental Labs for their support of this episode! They make electrolyte drinks for athletes and low-carb folks with no sugar, artificial ingredients, or colors.

Their products have some of the highest sodium concentrations that you can find. Anybody who runs a lot knows that sodium, as well as other electrolytes like magnesium and potassium, are essential to our performance and how we feel throughout the day.

The citrus flavor has quickly become my favorite and I’m drinking one a day now to help me get enough fluids in our dry Colorado air. It’s tasty and delicious and I find that I’m not peeing every 45 minutes throughout the day, which might be an indication I wasn’t eating enough sodium.

There’s now mounting evidence that higher sodium intake levels are not unhealthy – and athletes need substantially more than your typical sedentary person. Of course, ask your doctor if you’re worried. But for those athletes running outside in the heat, an electrolyte replacement makes a lot of sense.

I’m encouraged by the fact that Navy SEAL teams, Olympic teams, and pro athletes have started using Elemental electrolyte supplements to improve their performance. Learn more about what they do at their website.

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