Whether you're an elite athlete, hit the gym regularly, or do the odd run around the block, exercise is a stress on your body, albeit a positive one. Reflexology helps balance out this stress by triggering your 'rest and digest' parasympathetic nervous system. This supports your body's natural ability to reduce inflammation, aid muscle repair and recover from injuries.
Our feet bear a lot of the impact on our bodies when we exercise – the force exerted on them during running is the equivalent of up to 10 times our body weight! Many people experience foot pain caused by damaged toenails, plantar fasciitis or tendonitis, as well as aches, pain and tightness in the feet and throughout the rest of the body. A recent University of Portsmouth study found that people felt less pain and were able to stand pain for longer when they used reflexology as a method of pain relief.
Reflexology boosts the circulation in the feet and body, which in turn improves the lymphatic system. This means that your body receives a greater delivery of oxygen and nutrients, and its ability to heal an injured area, aid muscle repair and recover from injuries is promoted. Research at Monash University, Australia, found that reflexology removed lactic acid from the legs four times faster than massage. This can help you in the last few miles of that race, and a reflexology treatment post-event can provide relief from tightness in the legs.
Mentally, many people report being more focused and having more clarity after their reflexology treatments. Giving yourself the headspace for positive visualisation may help improve your sporting performance and give you that competitive edge. In advance of an event/competition, reflexology can be used to help reduce the impact of other life stresses, ease nerves and improve sleep. The deeply relaxed state that reflexology induces means that your body (and mind) simply functions more effectively – a tense body is not an efficient one!
Reflexology can work really well alongside medication and other treatments such as physiotherapy. And if your injury or sore spot isn't on your feet, any additional pain can be avoided, while the corresponding foot reflex points are worked to elicit a similar response to more traditional sports therapies. Many of my clients comment that after a reflexology treatment they feel lighter and looser in their body, just as they experience with massage.
The sports pros approve! In his autobiography, legendary footballer John Cruyff explained how he brought in a reflexologist at Barcelona FC because "all the energy in the body always comes out through the feet." The Greek men’s handball team Diomedes Argos noticed a significant and measurable decline in medical expenses during the two periods they used a reflexologist in their medical team (during this time they won the European Challenge Cup and two Greek championships). And if Muhammad Ali tried reflexology maybe it’s good enough for all of us?!