It’s that time of year when the Central Valley heat abates, cool mornings begin your day, and runners are out in full force on our abundant running trails after using treadmills in air conditioned Sacramento area gyms much of the summer. You may also be gearing up to participate in a competition of some kind, so now is the time to budget for and schedule a massage.
If you are a runner and have ever had regular massages, you know that a massage not only FEELS great but also has many benefits for you — things like speeding recovery from muscle soreness and facilitating injury healing from conditions like shin splints and plantar fasciitis.
I do get a number of questions about massage for runners, especially. Most inquiries include the best timing for a massage, which type is best, and mistakes to avoid. Since I have been a massage therapist for 17 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of runners, not only identifying and dispelling some of the most common misconceptions about massage, but also permitting me totry out new techniques in pressure, kneading motions and massage modalities.
Getting to the heart of the matter…
I am certified in more than 30 different types of massage, but not all of them are beneficial to runners, which means I usually go way beyond a typical sports massage. For instance, I use ART (Active Release Technique) to combine movement with specific, deep pressure to help relieve muscle adhesions and reduce scar tissue build-up. While I perform this, I can evaluate how tight or how flexible your soft tissue areas are, breaking up adhesions with my hands and aiding in more muscle movement. I also use it when treating a specific injury, especially one that involves scar tissue.
Have a specific area that needs attention? Trigger point therapy just might be the ticket, since it targets muscle knots. In this type of therapy, I find those trouble spots in the muscles and use deep pressure to help loosen the adhesions.
Ya. Yust call me Sven…
Swedish massage is, of course, the first type of massage that comes to mind for most of my clients, since it is associated most with relaxation and pampering. Just because you are a runner, however, don’t rule it out. It can be truly beneficial when done right before a big race. The long, varied pressure flowing strokes of Swedish massage releases muscle tension and increases blood flow, getting you ready for the long haul. It’s also great AFTER a hard run as a recovery tool. This type of massage energizes you, helps you relax, and builds your physical confidence as well.
Deep tissue massage is familiar to most runners, but many confuse it with deep pressure (like when you tell me to whale on your muscles). The nature of deep tissue massage is fairly intense due to the deliberate focused work I do on you, so it’s not a part of the massage I typically see my clients fall asleep for.
It typically focuses on a few specific problem areas and, unlike trigger point therapy, work the entire muscle and not just a part of it. Because runners often have quite a few tight spots and interconnected issues, deep tissue massage is often the modality of choice during hard training segments.
Timing is everything …
When to get a massage is, of course, your call and can be dependent on how hard you’re training, your budget and your availability.Ideally, runners preparing for a race or hard runs get a massage weekly — even if it’s a shorter one — in order to prevent injuries. If it is not possible to fit a recurring massage in your budget, consider one or two per training segment during your hardest training block or when you’re performing more intense speed work, which tends to elicit injuries that can be treated by massage — such as tight hamstrings or stiff hips. The morning AFTER a long run or hard workout is a great time to see me, if possible, but be prepared for your muscles to be a bit sore or lethargic for a few days after a massage.
If you are contemplating a massage ahead of a race or big workout, try to schedule it at least 3-5 days earlier — even earlier if you haven’t had a massage in a while, since the deeper the massage the longer the body’s recovery and response time.
Pieces of advice? Drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep, and if at any time you feel I am digging too deeply as I massage you, don’t be silent! Massage is not about causing you pain, even though you may feel a tad lethargic after a hard massage. That “no pain, no gain” thing really should not apply to massage, so let your body tell you what it needs (and then tell ME) as I work on you. Communication before and during a massage are key to your being a well-maintained runner for the long term.