The Missing Link
By Todd Gates
About a year ago, I was complaining of tightness and not feeling right, when a colleague of mine said to me with this incredulous look on his face, “get a massage.” I shrugged it off, thinking when I get time I will get one, “MAYBE”. Then I thought to myself- what was the apprehension in getting a massage? I do it all the time with self-myofascial release. Foam rolling, lacrosse ball, soft ball, the sick, PVC piping are all tools utilized today in order to relieve muscular tightness, and guess what? You feel so much better when you’re finished! The most neglected component of fitness is the recovery process, which is essential to strengthening and repairing the body. I have done a much better job recovering by stretching more, but I don’t utilize a massage therapist the way I should.
We spend hours in the gym pounding the floor with our legs and upper body-- Box Jumps, battle ropes, spin, group classes and every kind of lunge walk-- in order to facilitate changes in our body. On top of that, NYC is a walk or ride-you-bike city. New Yorkers beat their bodies up from sidewalks to subway stairs to buses. The daily grind is taxing on our bodies, so we must not neglect a missing link in recovery.
With that being said, everybody should get a massage at least once a month. A massage can make your body feel like you swam in the fountain of youth. A good massage therapist can target muscles in your body that you didn’t realize were tight, and once they are loosened and allowed to do their job, amazing things happen. The body is one big, integrated chain reaction. A tight calf doesn’t just effect your calf; it effects every muscle around the calf as well as muscles on the opposite side of the body. Loosen up the calf and your entire body gets back into alignment.
Self-massage can be very effective, but getting a massage from a professional is even better. There are many types of massage therapists out there. You have your standard massage therapists, reflexology, sports massage, Swedish massage, Active Release Technique (A.R.T.), eastern therapeutic massage and functional massage therapy. The goal of all therapists is to get your muscles and body working correctly again. Muscular tightness can cause major dysfunction and pain in your body. Many people mistake pain for tightness because if your muscles aren’t working properly or a muscle is doing the job of another, this can cause dysfunction and pain. A good therapist can identify your muscular tightness and then fix it so your muscles work the way they are supposed to.
The question is- what kind of massage therapist should you get? It depends on how tight you are and where you’re feeling the pain and tightness. Athletes and intense fitness enthusiasts tend to need deep tissue massages, A.R.T. or a sports massage. These can be a little more intense because they work deep into the muscle fascia and at insertion points. If you sit a lot at work and are tight in your upper thoracic spine and shoulders, you won’t need the same kind of massage as an athlete. It’s important to communicate with your therapist and tell him/her exactly what you are feeling and your background. This will allow your therapist to correctly assess you and choose the right technique. If you’re not that tight and just feel rundown, a deep tissue or Swedish massage will suffice. It is important to remember that if it’s your first time getting a massage and you’re very tight, you will need more than one session to loosen up your muscles. Muscular tightness didn’t happen overnight so don’t expect it to be gone in one session. Also, look at the movement patterns or lack of movement patterns in your life that led to your tightness. Your lifestyle is a direct correlation to how your muscles work or don’t work.
Massage therapy is an important addition to your recovery routine so that your body can work well and feel great.