After every half marathon I’ve ever run, I get an hour long massage. Usually, it’s the relaxing kind, with some extra focus on my legs. Ultimately, I’m’ there to unwind and reward myself for all my hard work.
One of the after-run clinics presented by my running club featured a sports masseuse. His discussion about the benefits of sports massage for marathon runners definitely piqued my interest. I looked into getting a sports massage but found that they were about $80-$100 per session and with a recommended visit of once per week, my wallet couldn’t afford $400/month on massages. However, a Living Social deal popped up a few weeks ago for a sports massage for only $30. The place is located right near my office, so it seemed perfect. I quickly snatched it up and also told Allison about it.
Benefits of Sports Massage
Before I launch into my experience, I’ll point out the benefits of sports massage:
- Increases range of motion
- Decreases injury potential
- Speeds recovery of muscle and tendons after hard exertion
- Increases efficiency of muscle use
- Increases oxygen and nutrient absorption and removes lactic acid
Recomended Frequency of Sports Massages
How often should you get a sports massage? The best bet would be one per week. But since this is unrealistic for most people’s budgets (although many massage studios have monthly memberships so you can get a discount if you come often), it is more realistic to every 2-3 weeks, and definitely make an appointment for the week before the race (but not less than three days before the race).
My Sports Massage Experience
My sports massage took place at a local fitness center. The building was small and it didn’t have a lot of equipment. From the looks of it, the company specializes in personal training and sports rehab. The room that I was led to was nothing like the room where I enjoyed my massages after my last two half marathons – instead of a tranquil environment with soft music, low lights and a heated, comfy massage bet, I was greeted with a small, quiet room with a simple bed in the center. The room was so small it was practically awkward to chat with the masseuse before the massage because there wasn’t much room for two people to stand up without being very close to one another. I had changed into a dry-fit top with a built in sports bra and a pair of running capris. Usually I just wear underwear for massages but since I figured we’d be doing lots of stretching, I left my pants on.
The massage was definitely not relaxing. The masseuse was very chatty at first, so I tried to discourage him by not responding with lengthy answers. The bed was somewhat cold and the silence was eerie. At one point someone sued the restroom next door and I could hear their urine hitting the water in the toilet. Not peaceful.
I do have to say that the masseuse seemed to know what he was doing. I typically don’t like my massages to be deep or hard, but I figured I needed to just let this guy do whatever he wanted since I was there to prepare my body for marathon, not to relax. He worked for a while on my back and then moved up to my neck. My neck was one of the tightest parts of my body so he really worked on it for a while and it was painful. He had me breath through the pain and I just kept telling myself that it was good for me!
The massage on the bottom half wasn’t any less painful. He found that my IT band was very right and was kneading it with his fists for what seemed liked hours. It was pretty painful but I just breathed through it. Next he moved down to my feet and worked on them for quite some time. He said that runners need a lot of attention on their feet, specifically their arches, so he spent a lot of time on them. I’ve gotten a cramp in the arch of my foot a few times during a run so I was glad that he worked on this area, although it was painful of course!
He finished the massage by literally pounding on my legs and back, which was similar to the massages I’ve had in Thailand.
My thoughts? It wasn’t as relaxing as I expected and there as a lot less stretching than I had anticipated. I definitely felt like I was looser after the massage (plus I’m sure it benefited this cold that I contracted to have my neck and head massaged), but I’m not sure I’ll be heading back. At the end of the day, I really can’t afford it (it’s only $50/session here) and it’s not all that enjoyable! I’m hoping that stretching and using the runner’s stick (a tool that massages your legs) will be good enough.