Sports massage before a race

Good idea or not?

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16/08/2012 at 14:49

I was speaking to someone (friend of a friend) who does Sports Massages and recommended it as a good idea a few days before I do the Great North Run. Never had this done before and I wondered whether any folks on here had done before a run and what sort of benefit they derived.
Any views?


16/08/2012 at 15:02
Yes it's a good idea to have a sports massage before. It's important to have one done a therapist who specialise in sports, especially in running. The right type of massage is needed.
16/08/2012 at 15:07

Cheers SR, they advertise themeslves as Sports specialists, they also do physiotherapy. They seem to have a good reputation. How will it help me? Take some tiredness out of the legs post training?


cougie    pirate
16/08/2012 at 15:47

I thought the jury was out on the benefits of massage ?  I've never gone for it anyway and I'd not want to mess with my legs before a 'big' race.  Maybe try it first before the big day. 

16/08/2012 at 16:22

What Cougie said. I've not had one myself but I've heard it can lead to a lot of soreness afterwards, so you wouldn't want to schedule it too close to the race or it could be counter-productive.  At the very least have one to try it out, see what recovery's like afterwards, and how it affects your running.

16/08/2012 at 16:44

As ever PP is super sensible.I wouldn't do anything for the first time just before a race

I like to have a leg massage 3-4 days before a big race, but that's because I am old & creaky and various bits of my legs will be stiff and knotted, so the massage brings me back to some vague semblance of symmetry and flexibility!

However I've been seeing the same massage practitioner for six years now and have complete faith in her. If I had to go to someone new I'd try them out a few weeks before the race first. And if for any reason (e.g. not training!) I'm not stiff and knotted, I probably wouldn't bother getting kneaded.

16/08/2012 at 16:47

Hmm, so perhaps I shouldn't rush into it? Either that or try it out during training over next few weeks and see what effect it has on my recovery.

Thanks folks.


16/08/2012 at 16:52

I do sports therapy and I usually suggest to people that if they have never tried it before, then 2 or 3 days before a race is not the time to start!

Have one maybe a month before to see how you will react to it, or leave it for now and have one after GNR to loosen up the legs post-race.

Some people find it can make a difference, and others find it makes no difference at all, in the same way that some people rave about acupuncture and others don't see the point of it.  If it works for you then that's what matters.

Some people do notice that they feel some discomfort in the day or two after a massage, similar to DOMS after heavy exercise sessions.  That's why I wouldn't recommend it so close to the race.

16/08/2012 at 17:02

I had one before my last race, physio wouldn't do it too close, and on her advice I had it 5 days before and still felt crap when I ran it, I won't do it again, but maybe that's just me.

16/08/2012 at 17:29

They're agony at the time and you feel funny and wooden legged the next day. Def wise to have an experimental one one few weeks before to see how you react. I suppose all the elites get them but doesn't actually mean there's any evidence for or against them like most things

16/08/2012 at 17:35
I would have been saying the same thing as Phil and Cougie just over a year ago but I got into sports massage about this time last year. The guy who who does me has years of experience and also does top British marathon runners. Someone who doesn't know what they are doing can do more harm than good. Anybody can add sports massage to their CV but a lot have no idea about how to handle athletes. I went into sports massge a cynic and came out a believer. I usually get 5 or 6 weeks of running on air afterwards. A couple of times I have gone in with a chronic problem and come out able to run. I try to be pro-active these days and go before I have a problem. Now I'm a believer.
16/08/2012 at 17:36
A massage a few days before the race should be an easy one. A good running therapist will know what is required.
16/08/2012 at 23:42

I wouldn't risk it, not before a race!

Seriously, don't even consider it.

If you feel the need to be pampered, or to relax have a back massage/head massage....whatever, but don't let a physio/masseuse anywhere near your legs!

17/08/2012 at 08:31
That's very severe advice Jamie but unless you tell us why you think that, then it just sounds you are having a rant against massage therapists. I bet most Olympic athletes had a massage before their events. Sounds like you had a bad experience. Hard to comment since you don't say but if someone didn't know what is required and you got too hard a massage too soon to the race then that would be bad. Trick to to get someone who knows what they are doing. Get one recommended by other runners or your running shop.
17/08/2012 at 08:36
Fraser....I would think there probably is some decent evidence for the use of massage. Massage has been around for a very long time and top athletes in almost every sport wouldn't use them if it was just hocus pocus. Massage isn't this months fad in Men's Fitness magazine, it is tried and trusted and been around a long long time.
17/08/2012 at 09:35

Sussex - I think they seem to help me too but I suspect it's all anecdotal in reality. Has anyone ever done a proper double blind randomised controlled trial with decent statistical power ?? Probably not !!

17/08/2012 at 09:58

Mmm interesting debating over massage.  I usually have one once a month.  I think it helps,  I find them strangely enjoyable and I feel I'm also paying for someone to listen to me talk about my running for an hour.

My quads got a bit mashed when I did a downhill HM a month ago and every time I'm doing faster stuff they feel heavy.  I realised its 3 months since I had a massage so got one on Wednesday to see if it helps.  I will be running my intervals tonight so will see if there's any difference then.

I was told on Wednesday that indeed my legs were ready for a 'good washout' to removed all that build up etc.  But I did wonder at the time, what exactly is being washed out.   Its lot like you've got anything in a jar to take home afterwards.

MTV if you go to a person who knows there stuff they'll give you the correct depth of massage before your race but I wouldn't have anything done after the Wednesday or Thursday and as others have said its a bit risky if you've never had one done before.  Why not book one for afterwards to help recovery?


Edited: 17/08/2012 at 09:58
17/08/2012 at 10:00

Hi Sussex Runner,

I wasn't having a rant against massage therapists, I just don't think its wise to have a 'sports massage' a few days before a race. Something very, very light might be ok, but you leave yourself in the hands of the competence of the therapist......and severity can vary greatly between them. Yes, I have had sore, jelly legs after certain massages, not what you need at all. Even certain massages that seem light and relaxing can have leave you feeling a little strange in the legs in the following days. The overall effect after a week or so is probably of benefit, but I'd say keep away for a few days before if the race means something to you.

Granted, you might find someone who'll give you something that is of benefit, but its too much a gamble when its something that you are seeking to try for the first time (as the opening poster is).

But to conclude, I think sports massages are a great thing for athletes. I'd just leave them till after the race or well over a week before just to be safe. You don't know who you are going to get or what the effect will be.

17/08/2012 at 13:32
My anecdotal evidence was that I did my back in doing some gardening. I had already had my first massage booked so I went along wondering if it was worth even going. Getting out of the car to walk to see the therapist was very painful. The massage was painfull. I went in hunched over and in pain. I came out feeling great and later that day went for a 9 mile run. My own body gave me all the evidence I needed to support that massage.

Jamie is absolutely right about finding the right person is a huge gamble so close to a race. Also, if it ain't broke......
17/08/2012 at 13:53

The only experiences i've had with sports massages have been very good. But I wouldn't go closer than 2 days before a race. If its a light rub just to loosen out a muscle then i would imagine its fine to get done on the day, even right before the race. But from my experience sports massages are supposed to hurt. If they go deep then it takes a couple of days for the muscle to recover fully.

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