Benefits of Massage and Self Massage
Benefits of massage and self massage was a topic that was posed to me recently by a journalist for Trail Running magazine. Below is an excerpt from the questions.
TRM: Massage and self massage has played an intricate part of your becoming an ultra trail runner. I understand you had a few nagging injuries associated with your shins. What was the benefit of massage and self massage in enabling you to become an ultra trail runner?
HWR: As you mentioned, my major issue with running was dealing with shin splints. You can read my entire story of overcoming my shin splints and becoming an ultra runner. For now I will be specific on the issues that I had with shin splits and the benefits of massage and self massage, and how they played a large role in allowing me to become an ultra runner.
There was a point that my shin splints were so bad and flared up that it was impossible to distinguish between my muscle and my bone. My sports doctor at the time was very concerned at this and thought that I possibly had some hairline fracturing of both of my tibia. At this point the pain was pretty bad and I needed to do something different than what I have been doing.
I needed to get the swelling reduced and part of that was going to be with deep intense massage and self massage therapy. The benefits of massage seemed counter intuitive to me. Why would I want to poke and prod at my muscles that were already inflamed and tender? It was my lack of knowledge about the benefits of massage and self massage at that time that made me think this way. I learned that the benefits of massage was going to be the path to start to break up the buildup of my rock solid muscle tissue.
TRM: Did you find the experience of massage and self massage initially uncomfortable?
HWR: I had to laugh at this question because because massage is still uncomfortable. I love when friends make comments like, “it must be nice to be getting another massage.” What they don’t realize is that it the type of massage and self massage therapy that I need is anything but soothing and relaxing. It is like going to the dentist and just waiting for the pain that may or may not come when he is drilling. I have had massage sessions where I have broken out in cold sweats, and once almost puked.
I’m not saying that if it does hurt that it is not beneficial. However, there was a time that I really let myself go as far as keeping my muscles healthy. Most of my issues are under control, but my current issues are with my calves. My current therapist is amazed that she can spend an hour just massaging on my calves.
TRM: Tell me about the type of self massage that you do.
HSR: My self massage routine starts with a stretching routine, then I will start my self massage. I usually will start massaging my feet by using a wooden foot roller. The arches of my feet tend to get tight and the foot roller works really good at helping them stay loose. Next, I massage my gluts and hamstrings with the foam roller. Then comes the mentally challenging portion using the foam roller, massage of my IT Bands and Quadriceps. These areas take some time to be able to build up a tolerance for increased pressure. Then I save my back for last because it feels so good and I like to end my session feeling good. I typically use the foam roller on my back, but if I have some nagging spots I’ll breakout the La Cross ball and roll around on it.
TRM: What type of special massage tools do you use for self massage?
HSR: In my article Active Recovery for Runners I discuss a few options that I use for self massage. My instruments of torture, err I mean my massage tools includes: a black foam roller (the white ones are too soft and deform easily), ice cups, The Stick, a travel size Stick, a T-Bar for deep pressure, a foot roller, and a La Cross ball (I find that tennis balls are too soft for me). I use the La Cross ball mostly for my back and gluts. I use The Stick mostly for my calves, and I love the foam roller for my back.
TRM: Other than self massage, do you see a massage therapist?
HSR: During the “off season” I like to get a massage about once a month. Last year I had no “off season” and would go for massage about twice per month. However, I was getting weekly massages for about 8 weeks prior to the 2011 Leadville Trail 100 Ultra Running race. My goal was to run sub 25 hours and I did with a 24 hour 40 minute finish. Seeing a massage therapist and self massage was a big part of my training program that allowed me to achieve this goal.
TRM: Now that you are over your shin splints, do you still find there to be benefits of massage and self massage?
HSR: Yes, massage is a regular part of my training program. After long hard weekend training and after long races I like to get a massage to stay loose and healthy. I have a membership at one of the national massage chains and they are perfect in this capacity. However, when I am injured and need a massage therapist that understands sports injury & healing, I employ the therapists from Boulder Therapeutics. Boulder Therapeutics is one of the major factors of my being able to run ultra marathons.
TRM: What might you tell fellow athletes about the benefits of massage and self massage”?
HSR: As saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding”. I am a living example on how the combination of professional massage and self massage can help a person actualize their potential. I really realize that professional massage can be very expensive. But that should not be an excuse for not keeping your body in the best health by performing self massage. There are many resources available online to guide an athlete through self massage. Anyone should feel confidence in their ability to perform self massage since the bottom line of most of these resources is that you can’t really do self massage “wrong”.