What makes a great running buddy? You need one you can chat to, be silent with, complain to, laugh with, obviously. But even better than all of those things though is a running buddy who’s training to be a masseuse. Result!
Sarah, the friend I did the West Highland Way with and also one of my buddies for the Amsterdam marathon, is one such brilliant running pal. The leg massage she gave me after 26.2 miles was nothing short of incredible. Afterwards I had no DOMS, no niggles, nada, zilch, nothing whatsoever in the way of aches and pains.
Of course, unless you’re uber-elite, you’re not likely to have a masseuse handy after every hard run. By way of compensation, Sarah shares below her tips on the next best thing – self-massage for runners.
Two experiences prompted me to look further into the possibilities for self massage. One was the overwhelming urge to massage my quads at the end of a hard day’s running while travelling the West Highland Way. This we attempted each night, although we later discovered we’d been using hair conditioner that we mistook for body lotion… Yes, we both wear glasses!
The other trigger was that after completing my first marathon in Amsterdam recently the queues for post-run massages were long. This definitely didn’t fit into the 30min recovery slot recommended on my training plan.
In the tragic absence of professional help, after abnormal exertion I tend to rub my thighs or calves in a comforting manner, usually subconsciously. I’ve noticed that quite a lot of other runners do too. This can have a compromising effect on one’s social validity (especially if done in Vic Reeves type way*). Also I wondered, is this kind of random rubbing doing more harm than good?
As I am doing a Diploma in Swedish Massage I elicited some advice from the Sports Massage experts in the next room for those times when you have to manage your own aching muscles.
The Wisdom :
- If you’ve run a marathon it’s likely that you’ve damaged your muscles and other tissues and traumatised your joints. Usually Swedish massage is not applied within 48 hours of an acute injury. On the other hand, you’ll have loads of toxins and lactic acid kicking about. Leaving this to sit in your muscles will prolong the healing process and a gentle massage could help disperse these so …
- GENTLE/ CAUTIOUS is the way to go.
- Directly post-marathon it’s also vital to keep moving for a while and then follow the Rest, Ice Compression, Elevation acronym.
- If you are going to do a bit of self-massage
- Do use slow, gentle, gliding strokes.Therapist’s call this effleurage and it’s done with the palms of your hands . If you’ve ever had a massage this is the stroke they start with to warm the muscles up and to relax you ( and also when they are trying to think what to do next ).
- Only massage upwards towards the heart ( a golden rule of massage). This is not so easy on yourself but can be done. Just remember that the strokes should be coming towards the centre of your body, not away from it.
- Do use oil or lotion (or hair conditioner if you must). Holland an Barrett do a cheap solid oil that’s easily transportable. It’s called DOG OIL but don’t let that put you off. And don’t forget to warm your hands up first.
- Don’t massage over or near any injuries, bruises, lumps etc.
- Best practice would be to do it in private or amongst other runners as it can look a bit strange on the bus
If you’re lucky enough to find someone else to massage your tired limbs for you make sure they are very careful if they are not a qualified massage therapist so they don’t cause any more damage.
*In case you’ve never heard of him, Vic Reeves is a British comedian famous for rubbing his thighs in a lascivious manner. Which doesn’t sound that amusing when written down but he is very popular…
Sarah Leitch is an ex city dweller and a self-employed consultant, veggie wild food forager (thewesthighlandforager.com) and trainee massage therapist. Now living in the Highlands with her family and many other animals, she runs most days in the mountains and forests with Betty the collie dog.