Question: I've had a (sports) massage before but didn't like it. I know I need a massage, what can I do?
You probably have been to a doctor or other health care provider with whom you had a bad experience. As with any other professional service provider, there are some great ones and some not-so-great ones. Remember, 50% of the M.D.’s graduated in the bottom half of their class. Ask around, a personal recommendation from a friend is a good way to find a talented massage therapist. Don’t be afraid to interview a prospective therapist over the phone. Ask the therapist for references; ask about his or her training and experience. Most qualified therapists are eager to tell you about their qualifications.
Question: What do I wear (or not wear) during the massage?
Your personal comfort during a massage is the highest priority. Remove only the clothing that you are comfortable removing. You will be fully draped during the massage. I prefer that my clients wear running shorts and the women a bikini top or sports bra. You'll be allowed privacy to change before and after the massage.
Question: When should I schedule my first and subsequent massages?
You should schedule your first massage today, of course. Subsequent massages should be scheduled depending on your training schedule. Deep tissue work should not be scheduled within 2 or 3 days of a quality workout. That means you should not have a deep massage the day before your long run or before your track workout. The day after either of these workouts would be ideal. (See “How will I feel...” below.)
Question: How frequently do I need a massage?
In large part, it depends on your current financial situation. It also depends on your particular goals and your training schedule. If you are really working hard with two or three hard workouts per week or trying to set a new PR, I would recommend one or two per week. If you are interested in simply finishing the marathon, you are probably not stressing your body as much, so for you, maybe every other week would be fine up to the marathon. If your budget can’t afford the extra $, then once a month will have to suffice.
Question: How will I feel during and after my first sports massage?
Sports massage therapy attempts to release adhesions between muscle tissues and fascia and to increase circulation to ischemic areas. The particular therapist and the type of massage that is used, will determine the level of discomfort that you may experience during the massage. Be sure to give the therapist feedback on painful areas. These areas may need special care or attention so as to not cause undue soreness. A good therapist will work the tissue in layers, gradually increasing the pressure as the outer layers relax. Subsequent sessions should be less intense, as your muscles have adjusted to the pressure and the conditions causing the tenderness may no longer be present. As the tissue becomes healthier, you will be able to appreciate deeper massage. Some people have reported feeling slightly nauseous immediately after the massage, possibly because of the release of metabolic wastes and toxins into the blood stream and the lymph system. Others feel deeply relaxed, while others have reported feeling “beat up”. Typically, a day after your first session, you may be a little sore. This should pass after 1 or 2 days leaving you feeling much looser and relaxed. Maintaining a high level of hydration after the massage helps to reduce post massage soreness.
Question: Can I massage myself?
Absolutely! We do it everyday and don’t even know it. We reach back and grab behind the neck or shoulders and rub. You can sit on a hard chair or stool and work the quads. Reach down and grab the calves. Rub the feet. There are a number of rollers, percussive devices and massagers on the market. Use at your own discretion. The idea is to use these items for maintenance between sports massage sessions. Be careful; you can absolutely do too much, which may result in tissue damage.
I recommend learning about your own body and the major muscle groups that are involved in the activities that you are doing -- be it running, biking, swimming, weight lifting etc. Get an anatomy book and study the particular muscles and their functions.
What does this muscle group do? Where is it attached and what joints are involved in the movement when the muscle contracts. What muscle group opposes that muscle group? Knowing your muscles will help you to better focus your stretching activities.
If you get an injury or a sore spot, try to determine exactly when it hurts. That is, does it hurt when you land or when you push off? Does it hurt when you make this movement or that movement? “It hurts when I first start running, but then goes away,” or “It hurts when I stop running.” Does it hurt when you run, but not when you ride or swim? You will be better equipped to tell your massage therapist (or your physician or PT) exactly when it hurts.