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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Porritt

Reflexology for runners. How reflexology can lead to a PB.

Massage has become a common therapy for all types of sports people in their quest to improve performance and recover from injury

Reflexology, like massage, is a holistic technique, as it treats the person as a whole entity, rather than concentrating on a specific problem. As reflexologists we map the whole body onto the feet, the hands, the face, or the ears, and we treat the whole body in each treatment. We cannot cure, diagnose, or indeed treat any condition, but instead our objective is to bring balance and calm to the body and mind.

But it is necessary to make the distinction between reflexology and a foot massage, which, albeit relaxing, does not have the same level of precision as a reflexologist who is working with different reflex points on the feet which correspond to different organs. Indeed, there are certain brain reflexes which are no bigger than a pinhead!

So, what benefits could reflexology bring to you, as a runner, or other sports person?

Well first, let us look to the feet themselves. During running the force exerted on the feet will be 10x the body weight. Caring for the feet and giving them the same treatment you give to your muscles can only improve performance and general mood.

A key role reflexology can play for the athlete lies in its ability to induce a deep state of relaxation, which is vital to the recovery process. Increased stress inhibits muscle repair, so by reducing the stress in the body, a reflexologist and help you to recover more quickly, with less fatigue and soreness. The immune system also benefits from this balancing of the parasympathetic nervous system, going from “fight or flight” to “rest & digest”

Alongside this release of tension in the body, reflexology can also help to regulate disrupted sleep patterns. Sleep is one of the greatest tools that any athlete or sportsperson can use to recover on a physical, emotional, or mental level. Sleep expert, Professor Matthew Walker described sleep as “the most powerful legal performance enhancing drug you can take”. Sleeping less than 5 hour per night weakens your immune system and increases your chances of getting a cold by 250%. Many reflexology clients report that regular treatments improve the quality of their sleep, and the small studies that have taken place also suggest that reflexology produces significant improvements in sleep disturbances.

Within the world of sport, various athletes and sports people have used reflexology. The Greek Men’s Handball team not only noticed a significant decline in overall medical requirements while they had a reflexologist working with them, but also managed to win various championships during this time. Johann Cruyff employed a reflexologist during his time as manager at Barcelona, and his foundation also employed reflexologists to help their community projects. My reflexology colleague Lynne Booth has also used reflexology to aid mobility of joints in a Championship football club, where players reported feeling not only invigorated after a session, but also a greater feeling of general wellbeing.

So, in conclusion, these are some of the key benefits of reflexology to the sportsperson or athlete:

  • It helps muscles to relax

  • It improves immune function through the stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system

  • It reduces stress hormones like cortisol

  • It promotes a deep feeling of relaxation

  • It improves sleep – vital for recovery and performance

It is undoubtedly the case that reflexology is not for everybody, however. But with all these benefits, it must surely be worth a go? And before you ask, the best time for reflexology to help with recovery would be in the first 96 hours after a race/event, as stress will impair healing in those first four days. Reducing the stress will give your body maximum chance for repair.

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