I am a huge proponent of massage therapy during marathon and half marathon training. In fact, this is really the first time that I have trained for a marathon and had regular massages and I really do believe that it has helped me stay injury-free. I try to go every three weeks or so if my schedule allows.
If you can afford to get a quality massage at full-price every few weeks, then my hats off to you. I, however, am normally on a pretty tight budget and refuse to pay full-price for a good massage. So how do I do it?
Before the advent of Groupon, Living Social, and other similar deal sites, I would “spa hop” around town and take advantage of all of the introductory prices (where your first massage is only around $39). Luckily Groupon came around shortly thereafter because I was starting to run out of spas. Seriously, though…I live by Groupon and Living Social. There is usually one massage deal every day or so. I obviously don’t buy all of them, but when there is a super deal or when there is a business featured that works with a lot of athletes, I take advantage. You can usually score a massage at a very reputable and quality place for $30. And I have had some fantastic massages at these businesses.
So what type of massage is best? If you’re looking for something more relaxing and stress relieving, a Swedish massage is always a good bet. You can get one of these anytime and feel awesome. This is usually the kind of massage you’ll find at the end of a marathon – they stay pretty light and simply help loosen you up a bit.
If you are looking for something a little more intense to really get the kinks out of your muscles, however, a deep-tissue massage is great for marathon runners. With the deep-tissue massage, timing is important. You don’t want to have one of these the day of or day after a marathon or a long run. You should wait three or four days post-run for this, ideally after most of your soreness is gone. Getting a deep-tissue massage when your muscles are sore and damaged can lead to more soreness and damage. When you run long (anything over 12 miles or so), your muscles get tiny tears in them. For the same reason you shouldn’t stretch immediately after a long run, you also shouldn’t get a deep tissue massage after a long run: You could turn those micro-tears into macro-tears and could end up injured.
There are many other kinds of massage therapy, including sports massage, hot stone massage, shiatsu, reflexology, etc. I’m not very familiar with each type, but when it comes to massage therapy, my philosophy is that you can never go wrong. I would get a massage every day if I had all the time and money in the world.