Road to the Games: Australian marathon runner Virginia Moloney on relaxing in the float tank

FIRST STRIDES: Garvoc export Virginia Moloney is sharing her Commonwealth Games journey with The Standard readers.
FIRST STRIDES: Garvoc export Virginia Moloney is sharing her Commonwealth Games journey with The Standard readers.

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Garvoc runner VIRGINIA MOLONEY is preparing for her first Commonwealth Games. She will share her journey with The Standard readers with weekly diary entries over the next 12 weeks.

Leading into the last six weeks before the marathon, not only is the training important, but also the recovery. 

With Sunday and midweek long runs being 30+ kilometres, it is critical that the body has enough time in between speed sessions and these long runs to recover. 

Athletes use various methods to recover. It’s all about what works well for the individual and making recovery a priority in your lifestyle and routine. 

Professional athletes have the luxury of time during their day to stretch, get a massage, osteopathy or physiotherapy treatment and sleep! Sleep is one of the best recovery methods for an athlete. It’s when the magic happens.

It is not uncommon for a professional athlete to wake up at 8am, eat breakfast, workout at 9.30am, come home, eat breakfast before an afternoon nap, lunch and then have a second run in the afternoon. 

These athletes are working their bodies to the absolute limit when training and therefore it’s not difficult for them to flake on the couch for their afternoon nap. 

When working, sleep needs to be the priority. Training your body to be able to switch off for a solid eight or nine hours every night is key. Early morning running means early to bed. 

I have found that by working only four days a week, it has allowed more time in my training for recovery and treatments. This means I am not cramming as much into my day and I can switch off a little more in the evenings after work. 

Since I started training four years ago, I have had a weekly remedial massage, not just when I feel I need it. This has helped me to continue to train consistently and become more body aware. 

I have become so used to having a weekly massage treatment, that my body knows when I have skipped a week or two. These treatments aren’t just a light rub, they are releasing deep tension that builds up in the body over the numerous kilometres covered during the week. 

I am lucky that I respond well to treatment and am able to train afterwards. Other athletes need a light treatment or need to have a day off afterwards in order to let the muscles settle. 

Dry needling and glass fire cupping are also excellent methods that myosteopath uses to help release tension in the muscles. A little bit of discomfort for some long-term gain! 

When consistently meeting with recovery specialists such as remedial masseurs, physiotherapists and osteopaths, the body learns to respond well to treatment and appreciates the release both physically and mentally. 

The most obscure form of recovery I have been using for the past 18 months is a float tank. Flotation tanks have a water depth of 30cm, containing 400kg of Epsom salt. The amount of salt versus water ratio allows the body to comfortably float without any effort. The water is set at 34.5°C (skin temperature). 

Once the lid is closed, you are in complete darkness and there is minimal stimulation. 

This means that the body is in the perfect state to relax and rejuvenate. The skin does absorb some of the magnesium within the Epsom salts and helps with circulation, the body’s ability to use insulin, relieves muscle pain, stress and can speed up the healing process of injured muscles. 

The physical and psychological benefits tend to start taking place after about 45 minutes. It sounds like a long time to be shut up in a tank. 

The first time I floated, I fell asleep and floated for three hours...well beyond the 60 minutes they recommend for beginners. I guess the body needed it! 

After leaving the float tank, I feel lighter and far more relaxed. You feel as if you are walking around in a meditative state. While the float tank is time consuming, if you are OK with being in small spaces, I highly recommend it for anyone who needs a little time out. 

It’s certainly not just for athletes! My advice for all runners this week is to go and book yourselves a well-’kneaded’ massage or osteopathy treatment. Your body, your mind and probably your workmates will thank you for the stress release!