Your first tune-up can be intimidating, so we tapped a physical therapist for deets on when to get a massage, plus what to tell your masseuse and more
Whether you're training for a big race, sore from your last CrossFit session, or just looking for an excuse to #treatyoself for working out six days a week, a sports massage is the best option for relieving the kinks the foam roller can't (even with these 4 Foam Roller Exercises).
So we tapped Luke Bongiorno, physical therapist and co-founder of NY Sports Med, to give us the lowdown on when to go, where to go, (even what to wear!) so that next time our body aches, we know what to do.
1. Don't Wait Until You're In Unbearable Pain
"If you feel pain, it's recommended that you look for a sports medicine doctor before getting a massage to make sure you don't feel any injuries," Bongiorno says. The doctor might suggest myofascial release therapy instead of a massage, which involves a sustained pressure into the tissue that connects the muscles to eliminate pain and restore motion. But if you're not in pain, it doesn't mean that you don't need a massage, either. "It's good to get a massage when you feel generally tight, usually a few days after a big run or intense sports activity or a few days before."
2. Go Where the Athletes Go
"Try to find [a therapist] who has worked with athletes or is an active person themselves," Bongiorno recommends. "They typically understand how much to push so you can get maximum benefit without causing too much soreness." Also check to make sure the place is sports massage accredited. It will usually be displayed in the lobby or listed on the website. You can also Google a masseause near you and make sure that they're accredited from one of these schools.
3. Let the Therapist Know If You're Prone to Bruising
Depending on your skin's texture and heredity, brusing is a possible outcome of a deep-tissue massage. "The therapist can adjust pressure accordingly if you are naturally prone to bruise or are taking blood thinning medication." Applying an ice pack to the affected area after your massage can help reduce swelling.
4. Don't Get a Deep Tissue Massage Right Before a Race
Every person reacts differently to a massage, so you don't want to find out the day before your race that deep tissue work makes you uncomfortably sore. "Usually once a week for the few weeks leading up to the event can be good for the muscles to relax and calm the nervous system," Bongiorno says. If getting a massage the day before, keep it light for calming nerves (it's one of our Best Running Tips of All Time), but make sure you're not trying to fix serious problems.
5. You Will Be in Your Underwear
Do you work out commando? Us too (It's safe, we promise!). In a massage, you'll have to take your pants off, so make sure you come dressed appropriately. But Bongiorno assures that the therapist will also drape you with towels or sheets to ensure comfort, so don't worry about putting everything on display!