*By: Jeff Bello
When you ask someone to think about running they might picture an intensive cardiovascular workout and nothing more. In reality, running affects the body as a whole including (but not limited to) the circulatory, respiratory, endocrine, muscular, integumentary, and lymphatic systems. Involving so many different systems, you can see how running has a huge impact on the body inside and out. Although the entire body is technically moving while you are running, the main impact is still on the feet.
In fact, reports show that the force exerted on the feet as we run is a total equivalent of ten times our body weight! That’s over a thousand pounds of force that the feet are absorbing with every stride taken. Throughout the years of wear and tear your feet start to build tension, lactic acid, stiffness, and joint pain which can lead to plantar fasciitis, neuroma, or tendonitis. These conditions can be treated with surgery and other medical procedures, but what we are starting to see today is a turn towards a more holistic hands-on approach such as Reflexology.
Reflexology is the art and science of applying thumb and finger pressure to points (reflexes) on the hands and feet which produce referral sensations that in turn help to relax and balance the body’s systems. With Reflexology producing such a deep relaxation and healing brainwave state many athletes turn to it to help ease nervousness and achieve better sleep just before a big event. Distance runners will often take advantage of the deep brainwave patterns during a Reflexology session to visualize the successful outcome of their event which maximizes their mind-body connection on race day. Other benefits are a reduction of inflammation in the body by improving circulation and removing toxins.
One of these toxins happens to be lactic acid, and a buildup of lactic acid is what causes muscle soreness which can throw off any athletes’ performance. Research provided by Bonash University, Australia, shows that Reflexology can actually remove lactic acid from the legs four times faster than a regular massage. This greatly benefits all my marathon runners when they start to get into those last five miles. With that increase in circulation the body receives greater delivery of oxygen and nutrients.
This in turn produces better endurance, stamina, improves the immune system, and the body’s ability to heal and recover faster. Now this is the most fascinating part to me: For runners and athletes who have foot injuries Reflexology still works! If an athlete has an injury where the foot cannot be touched, a Reflexologist can work on the hands instead. The hand is the “referral area” for the foot and vice versa, so it is possible to help an injury even when a foot or hand should not be worked on directly. Reflexology can be extremely helpful in a fast and natural recovery from event injuries that could otherwise be debilitating to the serious athlete. In the long run, even if you’re not in it to win it, the benefits of Reflexology can be incredible for your overall health and can give you that competitive edge as well as a swift recovery that every runner is looking for.