Training and racing offer a fantastic way to challenge the body and mind, but what happens when things start to break down from fatigue and wear?
For a lot of us, this problem requires us to find someone to help alleviate the aches and pains we all experience when pushing our bodies. Finding the right massage therapist can make all the difference in enhancing your ability to absorb the heavy training load. A proper massage routine can balance the workload with proper recovery.
When your training load begins to exceed your capacity to recover, the body resists for a short while before it fatigues and small aches give way to full blown injuries or all out exhaustion. This can happen when you either increase your workload too quickly or remove the ability to properly recover. I often call this psuedo-overtraining, which can happen when you experience reduced sleep, increased stress in other parts of your life, nutritional or hydration changes, or weather changes (such as the heat of a summer in Texas).
The key to the value of regular massage in a training program is understanding that the body has a limited capacity to absorb stress and create a positive return though improved performance, fitness, or strength. Simple and effective, investing in semi-frequent massage is an excellent way to increase your recovery and capacity for work.
Here are a few tips that can guide you in finding the massage therapist that works best for you:
Determine your goals and needs.
- To relax and reduce stress
- To manage acute or chronic pain
- To treat injuries
- To support your medical care (i.e. referral from a PT or Doctor)
- To improve sports performance
- To increase recovery, mobility, or range of motion
- To prepare for or recover from an event
Ask for Referrals.
Not only can friends and training partners provide a few names to start, they also can answer questions about a therapist and how they benefited from the work.
Additionally, coaches or medical providers often have relationships with local therapists and can speak to the knowledge and efficacy of the care they have seen provided to prior clients. They may also know which therapists may have the experience to match your exact needs. Coaches and medical providers have a vested interest in making sure that you receive the care that is the most beneficial – either for aiding recovery or improving performance.
You can also check with the national licensing bodies for therapists in your area. The Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP – www.abmp.com) and American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA – www.amtamassage.org) list qualified therapists and can often provide additional information.
In Texas, licenses for massage therapy are based on a minimum of 500 hours of training through a licensed and accredited school and a national exam and background check.
Consider your Preferences or Timeline for Work.
Would you feel more comfortable with a male or female therapist? Are you looking for someone near work or home? How often do you want to meet with them? What kind of work do you hope to receive? (i.e. deep tissue, A.R.T., myofascial release)
Find a Time to Talk to the Therapist.
The therapist should be open and willing to answer any questions that you have on any of the following. Taking a moment to chat about these points allows you to decide if the therapist is currently a good fit for you.
- Background and experience
- Types of styles and techniques
- Areas of specialization or experience with particular conditions
- Advanced education or certifications (such as A.R.T.)
- Comprehension of the demands of your sport?
- Length of provided sessions (i.e. 30, 60, 90 min, or 2hr)? Does that include intake time?
- Hours and rates.
- Package offers
- Acceptance of insurance
- Cancellation policy?
What to Expect in your Session?
Prior to coming into the session, be sure to ask the therapist if you need to bring running shorts and/or a sports bra, or if they use draping. This often depends on the type of work that you need and if you will move through stretches and a range of motion work, such as with A.R.T.
Here are a few notes on the timing and type of work that might be most appropriate for certain points in your training.
Keep in mind that while training, the sore muscles, aches, and pains are the physical manifestation of an overloaded system. The benefits of massage not only address those tissues to speed healing but also help you decompress overall and bring the body back to a state at which it can recover and start absorbing the training load again.
If you’re in the middle of a heavy training cycle or pre-event, consider keeping the massage work moderate and focus on restoring range of motion by removing fascial restrictions. Heavy deep tissue work can leave you sore and flat, limiting the ability to perform for a few days immediately following the massage.
After an event, after a big training weekend, or near the start of a recovery cycle are excellent times for getting deeper work to help address that chronic build-up from the last cycle of training.
If you’re currently ill or have a fever, forgo the session and reschedule. Bodywork during this time not only risks the livelihood of the therapist, but when the massage pushes those byproducts through the system, it can easily overload your system and leave you feeling even worse than before.