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Training for a marathon - sports massage

 

Training for a marathon sees many clients coming in for a variety of treatments, some for injury, others for a general loosening up, while the proactive runners come in for an MOT to ward off any potential issues.

Keeping track of running niggles

Niggles are normal with running and keeping a monitor on them can help identify ones that could potentially flair up and cause problems sticking to your training plan. Keeping a training diary can help monitor niggles and help notify you if you need to get it treated. It also helps the therapist understand your injury with a little more depth. Coupled with useful training stats such as rest heart rate, number hours sleep and feel good factor at waking, nominate a pain scale, identify if it feels like ‘good’ pain or ‘bad’ pain, when do you feel the pain - all the time, descending stairs, on waking then eases - and crucially the duration. Any bad pain lingering more than a few days is worth investigating. Good pain generally disappears after a few days, unless you’ve over done the good-mornings or the weights and DOMs has taken a strong hold of your legs.

When is the best time to get a sports massage?

As an athlete these generally work for me, but you may vary a little.

  • For niggles and injuries - just after a very hard session is not the best as the therapist can’t work deep into the area within a comfortable pain scale for you and very little benefit comes from you tensing muscles to avoid the therapist causing more  pain and potentially damage to muscles with micro-tearing post a heavy session.
  • Recovery from hard sessions - there may be instances where you may not want to quicken the recovery phase of a hard session, but for runners this may help get the best out of your next sessions, for instance recovering from a long run in order to hit those harder mid-week sessions.
  • Tired legs - as your training accumulates and your legs are tired, especially towards the part of your training plan with heavy miles, getting a treatment before the longest run of the week can help get the legs a little fresher for long run. In my experience as an athlete there are very few therapists who have truly given me ‘new legs’ and I generally find those trained in myofascial techniques have a better understanding on how to achieve this.
  • Race legs - one of the questions I answer frequently is should I get a massage before or after a marathon. My answer is always the same - before - if you’re going to spend money I’d say it’s wiser to spend it to help your race rather help you recover from the race.

Treating running injuries, the runners way

There can be any number of reasons you face injury when training for a marathon. no matter the cause, they almost always result in the same cycle of worry - largely due to being on a progressive, incremental timeline - resulting on the same path to resolution. 

  • a google search of your aliment
  • Seeking the best treatment for said “ailment”’or seeking advice - usually on a forum of non-medically trained peers
  • Foam roll like crazy to no avail, the injury persists
  • Being fixated on your diagnoses and presenting at defined medical professional’s door with your self-diagnosis
  • Then throw this massive red-herring in the room by presenting your diagnosis

I’d be bald if I plucked out a hair for every client who presented with a mis-diagnosed injury. It takes a very experienced and skilled therapist to navigate through your ’story’ to find the real cause of the problem. Sometimes it’s not helped by someone in a white coat giving you a mis-diagnosis, but it happens.

This leads onto two trains of thought: how do you present your injury in the best way to obtain a more targeted treatment and to whom do you present? The former is easier to resolve than the latter. 

Presenting your injury - a therapists suggestion

As hard as it may be and despite your online diagnosis - which you’d want to do in order to identify who best to fix you - present your injury on these criteria:

  • point to the part that hurts, if you can’t reach, describe where it is. Refrain from giving it a diagnosis or anatomical name (more on this later)
  • Say when it came on (doing hill reps, end of a long run or - god-forbid, you decided to play football for the first time in 10 years, 3 weeks before your marathon (true story); 
  • how long you’ve suffered
  • any movements recreating the problem/pain
  • remedies you’ve tried

Why not ‘present your diagnosis’? 

Time is a great data-collector and as the years ticked by and experience came along, it surprised me how frequently clients mislead me about their injuries. It’s only with experience and scepticism  I am able to distinguish between a self-diagnosis and where the actual problem lies. For instance, a woman presented with shinsplints - diagnosed by a Chiropractor, the aforementioned white-coat practitioner - this is usually a three month break from running to recover from shinsplints. As I was treating her shin, my fingers started raising up a concern. I could not find any of the usual fascial damage I’d normally see with shinsplints. On questioning - think Sherlock Holmes - it turns out it was a small bruise on her shin caused by a pair of boots. If she’d pointed to the sore spot at the start of the session, I’d have spotted a faint bruise caused by her boot zip and would not have wasted 30 minutes looking for shinsplints. It also meant she could go back and run straight away. Without my years of experience and questioning what I was feeling under my fingers, I’d have presumed shinsplints and advised and treat accordingly. I can’t tell you the number of time someone tells me they’re suffer with ITB tightness, only on further investigation when I ask the person to point to the pain, that we find out it is surrounding structures causing the pain. 

My advice would be

  • point to where the pain is, some areas you can pin point others not so accurately
  • Demonstrate any limits in movement or what movement causes pain
  • Say when the pain came on
  • A good therapist will ask some other pertinent questions

Adapting training loads through an injury period

One of my more crucial parts of treating running injuries is advising on safe training through the injury phase and building back into their existing marathon plan. I’m not a fan of advising to stop exercise completely- movement is good for us - so a plan to keep moving is key to recovery. It’s just getting that plan right which matters most.

Does your sports massage therapist actually play sports?

Some of my best learning as a therapist comes from suffering from injuries myself in the sports I play or in knowing just how sensitive DOMs are and that I don’t really want someone going hell bend for leather on them under the myth they should ‘strip out’ any tension. It also gives me firsthand knowledge of how I’d like to have a particular problem treated and this guides my thinking when working in my clients. Seeking out someone who can relate to how your limbs are feeling or how an injury responds to different techniques can be a shortcut to recovery.

New legs for endurance athletes

Clients told me they were not sure what I did - some ventured it was voodoo magic - but I gave them new legs. I had no idea what they were talking about as I never experienced this as a receiver of massage. I worked with a fellow myofascial therapist - a properly trained one, studying for a few years rather than a half day on a massage course - for the first time ever I had new legs. He quit to work in Formula 1 doing biomechanics and I’ve yet to find someone who gives me new legs. I’m working on changing this with a series of training courses for therapists to hone their skills. As the miles add up and the fatigue accumulates as you progress through your training plan, treating your legs to a good massage, even when they are not injured, can help put a little life back in them and give you some psychological relief that it's just fatigue and not some underlying issue you should be worrying about. 

 

In order of numbers over the month, here are our top hot spots for sports massage near me:

 

Sports Massage Liverpool Street

To reach our Sports Massage clinic from Liverpool Street or Moorgate tubes stations is a short 3-5 minute walk, we specialise in going beyond a standard sports massage, aiming to find the problem causing you pain. Marathon season is underway, treat any niggles early especially before the training ramps up. 

 

Sports Massage Moorgate

It’s a short walk from Moorgate Tube station, we are located on London Wall between Moorgate Road and Old Broad Street. Our therapists are registered to accept medical cover under cash plans, such as Healthshield. 

Sports Massage Bank

Bank Tube station is a 5 to 8 minute walk to our Sports Massage clinic, unless you know the quick back way, head along the big roads as there are two Throgmorton’s (Road and Avenue) which can be confusing. 

Sports Massage near me

Googling sports massage near me may not find you the best solution for your injury, we see clients come from quite far away based on our reputation - we’re happy to help no matter your location. 

Sports Massage Old Street

We get plenty of clients making the trek from Old Street, there are railings right outside our front door so you can lock your bike to if you cycle over.

Sports Massage Spitalfields

Getting to us from Spitalfields is easy, you can aim directly through Liverpool Street station or skirt around it to avoid the crowds.

Sports Massage St Pauls

It’s an 8-10 walk to get to us from St Pauls and Cheapside, we have evening appointments so you can drop in on your way home. 

 

Travelling from some distance to get to us always gets a mention, a professional chef from Manchester, a ballet dancer from Russia spring to mind this month. 

 

If you’re training for a marathon, come in and get a marathon MOT for a proactive approach to getting to the start line or come in early to avoid causing changes in your running style due to compensations. 

Peta McSharry

Peta McSharry is an experienced Sports and Remedial Massage therapist living in London who has been treating clients since 2004 and teaching bodywork since 2006. Her therapy is based on a good grounding in sports along with a structural approach to resolving issues.

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