Monday, May 7, 2012

The Leg Whisperer

I’ve become a convert to therapeutic massage. Specifically, I have found that a massage several days after a race helps accelerate the healing process.

My first exposure to therapeutic massage was back in 2009 when I started running. I was having trouble with my hamstrings (hamstrings are still my literal Achilles heel) leading up to the Wasatch 100. After months of excruciating pain at the insertion points, therapeutic massage finally gave me some relief and I believe put me on the path to recovery.

Fast forward several years and I’m even more of a believer. I’m a regular of Emma Maaranen at Focus Body Works. In fact, I call Emma the Leg Whisper because of her uncanny ability to know exactly how my legs feel and what is ailing them solely through feel.

Our conversation from last week’s session after the Salt Flats 100 is typical,

Emma: “How are you feeling after the race?”
Jay: “I’m not saying. Tell me how you think I’m feeling”
Emma (after several minutes of examination): “Tearing with inflammation of the left flexor digitorum longus and tibialis posterior. Both muscles are pretty worked. I’m guessing you ran fairly fast and were using your toes to push off more than you are used to.”
Jay: “Yeah, I ran hard. And, my calves were getting a workout, particularly during a six mile or so section of running on soft dirt and sand. They felt pretty fried towards the end. What else??” 
Emma: “There’s some inflammation between the 2nd and 3rd digits of your left foot. Otherwise, the legs feel like they’ve been well used – but everything else seems healthy.” 

While Emma aligned tissue and worked out adhesions we talked about what might be the cause of the inflammation in my left foot. Emma’s sense was that it was shoe-related. I told her that I run almost exclusively in the Montrail Fly and that they have a slightly convex sole. We hypothesized that perhaps the convex sole was causing pressure in this area. I told her I would run in Hokas (great recovery shoes) for a few days and report back.

Yet again the Leg Whisper was right, after a week of running in the Hokas the inflammation is gone. So the big test of Emma’s abilities will be this Friday when I run the Zion 100, just two weeks after running the Salt Flats 100. We’ll see if she has been able to yet again keep my tired old legs running!

I’m curious what others have experienced with therapeutic massage. Has it been beneficial? How has it helped? Is it worth the time and money?


Cory Reese said...

First of all, awesome job at Salt Flats! Second of all, looking forward to seeing you at Zion. I think it will be a fun race.

I'm also a massage convert. I was very hesitant until I actually went for the first time. I don't go a ton, but I think it definitely helps loosen things out a few days after a long race.

Anonymous said...

I'm a recent convert as well. I've been battling a case of ITBS and massage has proven to be the only thing that's helped much. Like you, I'll continue going as part of a recovery regimen.

Best of luck at Zion. I'll be in the park helping Craig with his Trans-Zion double attempt on Friday.

Jim M said...

Jay great job at the Salt Flats and good luck at Zions.

You know I am a convert and think Emma is the best. She has worked more miracles on my used and abused legs than I can count and is a big part of keeping me healthy. The only downside is man she can put the hurt on me but always in a good way.