Yesterday I lay on the massage table with the front of head buried in that circular cowl where the snot builds up inside your nose until you finally have to sit up or risk drowning in your own personal version of a Mucinex commercial.
That’s if you don’t already have sinus issues or a cold. There’s something about lying with your nose slightly lower than your clavicles that seems to draws every available snot molecule from a three-county area into the front of your head.
Other than that, massage therapy typically feels great. Until, that is, the massage therapist decides to get serious.
I think I’ve gotten a pass on serious massage therapy until yesterday. But when things feel tight in some area of your body, it’s as if some massage therapists to take it as a personal insult. Then they’re like an accountant looking at an unbalanced budget sheet. Never happy until those figures get smoothed out.
By way of compliment, my massage therapist Sarah Farsalas is an intuitive wonder who works on a number of athletes. She’s an Ironman triathlete herself who coaches and has served as a Liv cycling ambassador the last couple years. This April she is going down to The Woodlands, Texas for her Ironman. So she’s in the thick of training right now. “I’ve been soooo busy,” she admits.
Her massage technique is so intuitive I marvel sometimes how she know what hurts, and where. But this time around there seemed to be a different agenda afoot. She asked me how I’m doing. “I’ve been a little tight around the hips,” I told her in the pre-massage consultation. Well, that became the mission of the day. Somehow my thighs and hamstrings also fell in line with this Massage Therapy thing. Some people actually seem to think these body parts we have are all connected somehow. Sarah set out to prove it.
While I was lying on my stomach she cranked on the hamstrings all the way from butt to knee. At one point, the pressure felt so intense behind my knee I thought something would pop. The aging muscle and fascia seemed to creak and groan like the rusted steel hull of a Lake Superior ship in November. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The cables behind my knee hummed under the pressure after she released them. I half expected to look down and see St. Elmo’s Fire quivering around my legs.
After half an hour she flipped me over and rode her elbow down the ridged range of my quadriceps. This hurt quite a bit, but I kept silent other than a couple inhalations. “Sorry,” she told me. “I know this is hard.” And it was. But I spoke up after a few minutes and said, “This is good. I can feel things loosening up.”
Two years ago I needed a series of massage therapy treatments to break up a bundle of scar tissue that had formed in my back. It was necessary after a stupid bike incident in which I was looking down during a ride and slammed into a fallen tree. The accident messed my side up really badly. It took a lot of massage and finally some intense scraping by a chiropractor using a plastic tool to break down lumps and cords of coagulated blood and unnamed whatever. That really, really hurt. But it really, really worked.
So I’m a great believer in massage therapy and its benefits. The “hands-on” aspect of direct manipulation of muscle tissue cannot help but increase blood flow, loosen knotted fibers and squeeze out built-up toxins or lactic acid.
There’s a temporary cost to that. Most therapists recommend drinking plenty of fluids following a massage. This is advice is designed to encourage us to flush out any “baddies” that might have been lurking in some area of the body. And then there’s the soreness that comes with intense massage. This morning before my four-mile run to the gym, my thighs and hamstrings felt a bit tender. I thought, “That’s good. She really got in there and loosened things up.”
And then there’s the soreness that comes with intense massage. This morning before my four-mile run to the gym, my thighs and hamstrings felt a bit tender. I thought, “That’s good. She really got in there and loosened things up.”
Adhesions. Tight iliotibial bands. All these little tensions build up in our bodies and we try to get through it all without thinking about it. Bad idea sometimes.
But as I ran in early morning darkness down the wide shoulder of a very busy road, I could feel my legs swinging loosely below. The (ouch) was worth it.
Right now I only go once a month to check in with my massage therapist. She’s helped me through recent calf problems and untied some knots in my upper shoulders from swimming. I swear she can see some sort of aura around my body. It’s like she knows what hurts before I tell her.
This time around she put the hurt on me for good reason. So it’s a tradeoff. Or a collaboration. What matters is getting back out on the road in looser shape than before. That’s why I pr(ouch)aise massage.