Today I have an amazing guest post from Heather of Heather Eats Almond Butter (aka HEAB)! I love Heather and her blog for many reasons…but one of the main ones is she is a great example of how to listen to your own body, fuel it well and exercise it in the way that’s best for you.
Heather is a masseuse by trade and after my massage last week I thought I’d ask the former runner and now hardcore yogi some questions. She has a ton of great advice and information so I wanted to share it all with you! Enjoy
Hello fans of Run Eat Repeat. First off, many thanks to Monica for asking me to write a guest post for her blog. Monica, I’m truly honored.
A little background on me…
Back in the Fall of 2002, When I was training for my first full marathon, I got a little over-ambitious and increased my mileage too quickly. I ended up with a stress fracture in my pubic bone…and a pulled groin muscle. Ouch! Let’s just say that getting dressed was a real challenge for about 3 weeks. After taking several months off from running to allow my stress fracture to heal, I was still having groin issues. 2 different orthopedic doctors and a little physical therapy later, I decided to give massage therapy a try. Well, it worked wonders for me, and I was able to complete my first full marathon in November 2003 when I ran New York City.
I quit my job in non-profit the following month and entered massage therapy school in January 2004. I worked part-time jobs, and with the help of my parents, I was able to complete the 500 hour program in about 8 months, and I’ve worked as an LMT (licensed massage therapist) ever since.
Monica wanted me to address a few commonly asked questions when it comes to massage and running. Most of my clients are runners, and so I’m happy to share with all of you what I’ve learned over the years.
Q; How often should a runner receive a massage for it to benefit his or her training?
A: Honestly, I think it depends on your weekly mileage. If you’re a casual runner doing 20 miles or less a week, I think a monthly massage would be great. If you’re running more or training for a mid to long distance race, then I recommend a massage twice a month. If you’re running 50+ miles a week, you are forcing your body to do a lot of work, and a weekly massage will really help your taxed muscles. Now, I know massages are not cheap, but shop around. Don’t run to your nearest spa where the bodywork is often overpriced. Find out if there is a local massage therapy school in your area. Students are often required to complete an internship before they can be licensed, and the schools will offer massage to the public at a discounted rate. It may not be the best massage, but at least your muscles will get a little love.
Q: Should runners only get sports massages?
A: No, there are all types of massage therapy modalities that will benefit both runners and non-runners. I tend to work a little deeper, and not all of my clients necessarily want me to. So, I’ll do more of a Swedish massage which is very gentle and more relaxing. Most types of massage will benefit you in someway, and often times, it boils down to personal preferences. However, if you are running high mileage and training for a longer race, then yes, I think you should seek out a massage therapist specializing in sports massage, deep tissue, and or neuromuscular therapy. They’ll know exactly what to do with tired, overworked muscles, and a GOOD therapist can help with muscular injuries, and if they can’t, then they should refer you to someone who can. I can’t stress how important it is to find a GOOD therapist. Again, don’t run to the nearest spa. Those therapists are often overworked and underpaid. Talk to your running friends…ask around and find someone who understands runners. A lot of therapists don’t.
Q: Is there anything in particular you should tell your massage therapist before your session?
A: If you are a new client, your massage therapist should have you fill out an intake form asking basic questions about areas of pain, medications, activities, etc. If they don’t have you fill anything out, then go somewhere else. Before working with a new client, I always ask them if they have any pain, how much they’re running, injuries, etc. I also tell them about my massage technique. Since I tend to work deeper, I always encourage them to speak up if the pressure is too much as well as focus on their breath. Deep slow rhythmic breathing from the client really helps when I’m trying to smooth out any knots. Let your therapist know if you are uncomfortable with them working certain body parts. Some of my clients would rather me not touch their face, toes, etc.
Q: Underwear off or on?
A: NEVER feel weird about taking your underwear off as we are trained to work on the glutes sans clothing. I almost have to hold in laughter when a client tells me they’re having sciatic nerve problems, or pain radiating down their entire backside, only to lift the sheet and discover they’re wearing knee-length boxer shorts. I tell them, well your piriformis muscle, a deep gluteal muscle, is probably pinching the nerve…let me get in there and see what I can find, but I really can’t get in there if I have to dig through a layer of clothes. If you’re not completely comfortable removing all your clothing, it’s not a problem. Usually I just work around the underwear. However, if you have pain in your butt, lose the underwear. I promise we are expecting you to.
Q: What if massage therapy doesn’t fit into my budget at all?
A: Well, there are several at-home methods of massage that I recommend. All runners should own The Stick. It’s a great self massage tool as is a foam roller. I actually recommend the black foam rollers for runners. They are more firm than the white one pictured here:
Also, I’ll let you in on a little secret…we massage therapists love a good trade. I trade out massage for my hair, and I used it “to pay” for a lot of my wedding expenses. I know some therapists who trade for their dental work, accounting services, etc. So, if you know a good therapist and can offer them something in return, ask them if they would be willing to barter.
Hope all this info helps. Please feel free to email me with any questions at heather (at) heathereatsalmondbutter.com. Thanks again to Monica, and best of luck to all you runners out there. I know how hard your muscles work, so much so, that I retired my running shoes for the yoga mat.