Massage Madness

Top Ten Things You Don’t Want to Hear Your Massage Therapist Say

10.  Nice tan lines.
9.  Does your shoulder always do that?
8.  I need a full hour just to work on your right shoulder.
7.  Yup, you’re definitely a runner.
6.  Your back feels like speed bumps from hell.
5.  You are way too young to have this many problems.
4.  Relax, damn it!
3.  Oh my god!
2.  Your IT band is so tight, I could play it like a guitar string.
1.  I know it hurts, but I’m going to need to do this again in 3-4 days.

Why do I know this?  Because I heard all of them, especially Nos. 3 & 4, repeatedly, this afternoon during my 2-hour deep tissue massage.  I left dizzy, nauseous, sore to the point of feeling like I’d been hit by bus, and the proud owner of another appointment for this Friday.

After getting over the initial shock, I started wondering how I let it get this bad.  I ask my body to do a lot for me.  The least I could do is return the favor by taking good care of it.

As athletes, we often lull ourselves into thinking that persistent aches, pains, and tight muscles are “normal”.  News Flash :: They are not!!

You should still be able to touch your toes.  Your back should not feel like a series of rolling hills.  You shouldn’t cringe when someone squeezes your calf.  And, you shouldn’t leap off the table when a masseuse starts working on your glutes.  (Not that any of these happened to me today, of course.)

Lesson Learned — the hard way :: Sports massage is a key component training, not just a fru-fru spa treatment reserved for ladies who lunch.


A good sports massage will flush out the lactic acid that’s produced when we run.  When waste builds up in your muscles, it causes soreness over time.  Removing it speeds recovery and increases flexibility.  Sports massage also specifically targets and reduces tension in the muscles and joints that are affected by athletic use and are prone to injury.

But . . . getting a one-hour massage every few months just won’t cut it out.  And, getting a massage right before your big race could actually do more harm than good.

Getting regular massages, about every three weeks, but not during the week leading up to your race, is key.  A good massage therapist will get to know your body by taking a full inventory of your muscles and how they respond.  So, if there’s something lurking in your hamstring, IT band, or calf, they’ll find it!  By going every 2-4 weeks, you can focus just on any new issues instead of going once every 2-4 months and having to start over each time.

Because sports massage changes muscle tissue at a deep, structural level, it can have a huge impact on your performance.  In the short-term, the impact is usually a negative one, so you should always allow at least 48 hours (though, I err on the side of 5-10 days) between your last massage and your next race or intense training run.

With that little lesson behind us, I urge you to do as I say and not as I’ve done ::  Make sports massage as much a part of your training as every other run, recovery day, stretching, and nutrition.  Your body will thank you.


About Beth

Wife, daughter, big sis, aunt, friend, attorney, runner, cyclist, amateur chef & aspiring photographer. Thanks for keeping up with my life on the run!
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