10 Ways Reflexology Can Help Runners

Running is great exercise.  It is not only an intensive cardiovascular workout, but also involves other systems in the body, such as circulatory, respiratory, endocrine, muscular and lymphatic.  Whether you’re a dedicated marathon runner or someone who only has time for a short jog at the weekend (like me), we’d all like to improve our performance, maybe increase our speed, distance or stamina and we’d certainly all like to be able to recover from a run quicker, decrease the muscle stiffness and avoid injuries.

How can this be achieved in a natural way?  One answer could be Reflexology.

Reflexology uses specific techniques to pinpoint areas of stress before they manifest physically as pain or weakness and so it reduces the likelihood of injury.  It takes the holistic approach - by working the entire foot and its reflexes, it stimulates the body's own natural healing abilities and addresses imbalances throughout the whole body.  Current research shows that Reflexology can help runners improve and stay injury-free and there are 10 important reasons why: 

1.  Lymphatic drainage - research provided by Monash University in Australia shows that Reflexology removes lactic acid from the legs four times faster than a regular massage.  Lactic acid builds up during a run and it’s what causes muscle cramps, especially in longer runs such as marathons.

2. Circulation boosting - blood carries oxygen, nutrients, minerals and enzymes to all parts of the body.  Stress and tension tighten the cardiovascular system and restrict blood flow, causing it to become sluggish.  This results in the tissues becoming oxygen-deprived - the energy in the body becomes depleted, making all body systems suffer.  Reflexology can keep the body’s circulation flowing smoothly, which rejuvenates tired tissues.  It improves circulation to accelerate the healing process and reduce recovery time.  This encourages all systems to return to a state of balance and harmony.  Increased blood flow to muscle cells also increases their flexibility and so further reduces the risk of injury.

3. Reduces inflammation - Reflexology can be used to stimulate the adrenal reflexes on each foot, which in turn, encourages the body to release the hormone cortisol (a completely natural form of hydrocortisone), which has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, reducing swelling and inflammation from injuries.

4. Pain reduction - unfortunately all runners will be faced with an injury at some point and we all understand how important recovery is.  As more of us are beginning to take a holistic approach to our health, avoiding drugs for pain relief, Reflexology can be a valuable tool because it can help to manage pain and accelerate recovery.  It stimulates over 7,000 nerves in the feet and encourages the opening and clearing of neural pathways.  It interrupts these pain pathways and reduces pain from sore muscles and joints.  Reflexology also helps to stimulate endorphins, which promote our sense of wellbeing and decrease our perception of pain.

5.  Deep relaxation - exercise is a stress, a positive stress, but still a stress.  During a run, the body will trigger the production of adrenaline, which is the “fight or flight” hormone, allowing us to push ourselves.  Reflexology balances that stress with a rest, which triggers the “rest and digest” response, allowing the body to reduce the level of stress hormones and recover physically, emotionally, and mentally.  It relieves the body of tension, which promotes healing.  The emotional and psychological impact of injury should never be underestimated.  It is just as important to balance the mind as it is to balance the physical body.

6. Greater focus and concentration - Reflexology supports the central nervous system and targets specific stress reflexes on the feet to bring about a deep state of relaxation and inner calm.  Many people report that they feel more focused with greater mental clarity after a treatment.

7.  Improved sleep - healing is important after a run, no matter what the distance.  Although going to sleep feels as if we’re switching off, it is a very busy time for the body because as we sleep, our bodies actually repair and restore themselves.  While we sleep, our brains trigger the release of hormones that encourage tissue growth.  This can help us recover from sports injuries such as sore muscles and sore joints.  Reflexology can help because it increases the production of serotonin and melatonin - two important hormones that regulate sleep.

8.  Boosts immune system - as a runner, I want to stay healthy and free from illness, so that I can be at my best.  Reflexology stimulates the lymphatic system, which helps us fight infections.  It helps remove toxins and increases our immune system's effectiveness. 

9. Lowers pulse rate - Reflexology has been shown to increase the carbon dioxide exhaled from the nose by 9%, which helps to lower pulse rate, which means the cardiovascular system is working more efficiently.  Happy days for those hill runs or for those of us trying to improve our stamina!

10.  Nurtures the feet - the force exerted on the feet during running are the equivalent of up to 10 times our body weight.  So our feet, which are a relatively small in relation to the rest of our body, are exposed to hundreds of pounds of pressure during a run.  Although the rest of the body, especially the knees, absorbs some of the impact, our feet deserve at least some attention and help.  Reflexology can help to soothe away the tension in the feet and make them feel refreshed and ready for that next challenge!