Don’t Be Kinky: Benefits of Massage for Athletes

Last night after a quick 2 mile run, Husband and I went for 90 minute massages.  We have a membership at our local Massage Envy, which lets us get monthly massages for a crazy discounted price. I guess I was super spoiled with my massage therapist back in Los Angeles, Dave from LA Body Mechanics, because each visit to Massage Envy left me wanting.  Until last night.

I finally mustered up the energy to set things straight with Freakishly Tall Manager*.  I told her I’m a frustrated athlete with sore, achy muscles and I need someone who knows what they are doing to work them out.  She stared down at me. “Alfonso* is the best. He is the only one I let touch me.  But he books up pretty fast soooo…” So WHAT, Manager lady with the adorable horn-rimmed glasses and condescending tone? Do you see these toned calves and ham hock thighs??  I’ve run 10 miles totally dehydrated and sick without quitting, I’ve biked 5 miles straight uphill only to find another hill waiting at the top, and I’ve swam 1.5 miles in the freezing cold shark infested San Francisco Bay.  All by choice.  What makes you think I won’t jump across this counter and wrestle you to the ground for an appointment with Alfonso? “He sounds great!  When is he available?” was my reply. And man, oh man do I know why her precious “Alfonso” is harder to nail down than a two-by-four in an earthquake (…..What???).  He’s. On. Point.

Why Jeremy and Dave are so good is because they, too, are athletes.  They know where I am sore and they know WHY.  They understand the importance of massage therapy for athletes in relation to recovery and performance, whether it is with a therapist or self-administered. Dave actually was working his way through school while he and I were training for our first triathlon, so he knew first hand how joyous massage can be for muscles.  Let’s take a look the the benefits of massage therapy for athletes.

Dave (visor & shades) and I before our first 1/2 marathon. And I swear to you I have NO idea who the lady in the pink hat is. Classic.

1.  Elevates muscles soreness: Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a familiar feeling for any athlete – and yes, you are an athlete if you work out!  You know when you wake up in the morning after a tough workout the night before, only to realize that you physically cannot get out of bed because your ______ (fill in the blank with the appropriate muscle group) hurts too much? That’s DOMS.  Massage increases blood flow, which can remove pain enzymes that have developed as a result of DOMS.  Overworked muscles also tend to swell and inflame and massage has been known to reduce both. More on DOMS here.

2.  Improves Flexibility and Range of Motion: Just as you’ve heard that stretching can improve your flexibility and range of motion, so can massage.  Massage works your muscles, connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, and joints, which stimulates production of the body’s natural lubricants to keep flexibility and joint movement at a maximum.

3.  Prevents Injury: Massage temporarily elongates muscles, improving posture which in turn promotes proper form. And we all know the importance of proper form.  A good massage therapist will be able to pinpoint your tight or troubled spots, monitor them for developing problems and keep them healthy and loose. Loose muscles are less prone to strains. A good therapist should also be able to give you at-home techniques to work on between visits. My favorite is a foam roller.

4.  Feels Awesome: So this last one is less “scient-ific” and more “terr-ific”, but let’s face it –  having someone gently (or not gently, whatever trips your trigger…..sicko) rub your aching muscles is pretty much the greatest thing since sliced bread. And sliced bread was introduced in 1928 so…it’s a pretty big deal then.

Husband and I Getting Massages Oceanside in Puerto Vallarta Me-hee-co. You can't tell from this picture BUT...

See that rocky ledge by the staircase? That's where our massages took place. Sick.

So, in conclusion, find yourself a massage therapist that fits your needs.  Do your homework, ask questions, get referrals and don’t be afraid to speak up to the lady giant behind the desk when those needs aren’t being met.  Happy Muscles = Happy Athlete!

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.