What do you think about when someone tells you they are getting a massage?
Do you picture a spa setting where plastic, rich cougars get their nails "did", with their faces caked with mud from some pristine mountain-top and who later get greased up by some underpaid, 24hr Fitness/glamour shots reject named Zafron?
Do you picture a dark, dank, secluded hole-in-the-wall where a thick, hairy, slobbering stink of a man, gets a sweaty handy from an old, haggard Chinese woman who is so bored with the current activity "at-hand" that she lets out an audible yawn?
If you answered neither, then you are a good person and have a cleaner imagination than I do.
Either way, massages haven't had the best reputation. Even in our current time of corporate massage chains and better education of fitness recovery, I hear horror stories from my massage therapist friends. "So...this guy came in for an hour session and then asked, is that it?" (While pointing at his junk.) As if he was expecting a "happy ending". Yeah, this behavior happens even in the higher-end joints.
Massage therapy is great when you find the right massage therapist...
Before I had my friend practice on me while she studied, I had done what most others do in order to find a massage service, I bought it via social deals sites. I purchased a massage here and there from Groupon or Living Social just to see what all the hype was about. Needless to say, I was unimpressed and had no inkling to return. I would have had better results sitting on my hands. "This menthol based oil will open up your sinuses and aid your recovery" said my Groupon massage therapist. Um, no. It didn't do shit, just made me smell like an oversized Altoid.
Once my friend got her degree, it wasn't long before I developed a much needed relationship with sports massage and its benefits. Good god almighty how well it helped my recovery time. My back felt better, my knees felt loose, my anxiety was in check. Until...she had to stop due to wrist issues.
Reset the research.
Damn, it's hard to find a good massage therapist. Word of mouth is usually a decent avenue to find a service worthy of high caliber. However, that proved tedious and difficult once I realized just how much of a masochist I am when it comes to sports massage. My pain threshold can be pretty high and most massage therapists won't go deep unless they know you. Yeah, that IS what she said.
Enter the miracle worker.
I met Lena at my old gym downtown. At the time I was working a very stressful job at a law firm and one of my only outlets was going to a bootcamp class at the gym 2 blocks away. I don't recall who made first contact, but I am glad we got to know each other. She happened to be an ambassador at this gym so I was able to see her quite often. Eventually we established a friendship and I quickly found out she was trained in the massage field. Lucky me.
I previously mentioned my masochistic tendencies in this area, but Lena would probably still say I'm a pussy. I don't know if she eats a can of spinach right before working on me, or she takes her frustration out on me because I'm brown, but whatever her pre-massage ritual is, it works. Deep, concentrated and oh so good. She has also used hot stones and some little wooden knobs that feel incredible on those tiny knots. She could explain her tools of trade better than I could. I just lay there like an old wife and take it. In any case, all this jib-jab and I haven't gotten to the actual benefits.
Well, for one, the release of tension throughout your body does wonders for the physical and mental knots we keep. If you are like most Americans, you spend most of your time sitting down on stiff furniture or standing on your feet on stiff areas. Our nervous system gets out of whack, our muscles tighten and we build up stress. Massages help alleviate this build up, loosen our tendons, our muscles, take pressure off our joints and release toxins. Foam rolling can only go so far. Stretching can only go so far. Only a trained professional can actually assess your individual situation and hone in on the root of the problem. Sports massages are even better considering their nature is to prevent injuries, improve range of motion and help recovery.
In our current state of society we prioritize our gadgets before our bodies, our guilty pleasures before our minds. Our cars need maintenance in order to function properly. If our internet goes down, we problem solve until our connection is up and running. Why gloss over the care needed for our state of living? That is the most important aspect of our immediate world. If you are depressed, anxious, stressed, unable to cope with the grind of our fast-paced society what should you do? Drown your sorrows in booze, prescription drugs, or false hope? No. You seek a solution to the problem at hand. Your car needs oil and a mechanic to keep up maintenance. Your body needs healthy foods and a good massage therapist to do the same.
Like your car, maintenance of your body can be costly. We get into our bad habits and begin to prioritize and monetize obvious health services. Massages can run from $50-$100+ /hr depending on the therapist and the length of the session. Well, do the math. How often do you spend upwards of $50 on dinner a month? Sacrifice and compromise with your bad habits. That should be leave sufficient funds to schedule at least one session a month. If you are relatively active, this could be enough for you if you also maintain good habits on your own with the aid of other tools available. Here are some tips and tools I have found to help me when "adulting" and excuses get in the way of scheduling a massage therapy session.
Get a foam roller. There are several clients I have trained who have never foam rolled and it is painfully obvious to see how tight their muscles are when they writhe in pain the first time they push up and down on their iliotibial band (IT band). The one pictured above is a good, cheap one from Amazon. I also keep my Tiger Balm with me at all times, stretch and roll my little knots with the aid of a pool ball or lacrosse ball and hydrate, for god's sake HYDRATE! Some people may think a lacrosse or pool ball may be too hard for them so they substitute a tennis ball since it's softer. Like any habit, an overdone good habit can turn bad. Asses your situation and apply the correct form of recovery tool. If stretching doesn't help, foam roll. If foam rolling doesn't help, use Tiger Balm. If that doesn't work, use your ball. The important thing is to stay consistent. After all, you have one body.
Here she is, my massage therapist Lena reppin' some of my FAAAST 5280 - Colorado leggings.
I am trying to make these legs famous. Yes, they look just as good, if not better in person.