The great massage experiment

Some years ago I saw an advert on a tube platform that I thought was so preposterously stupid that I have never forgotten it: the advert was for a moisturiser and there was a photograph of a woman dominating the middle of the poster and text suggesting that this woman had applied the product only to one hand for 10 years. The photograph clearly showed her two hands – one looking like a wrinkled (dare I say it ‘normal’ hand) and the other smooth as a new-born babies skin.

I thought this was a very silly advert. After all, presuming the moisturiser did have this effect, why would someone spend 10 years rubbing it in one hand and not the other, for the sake of an advertisement a decade in the future.

Submitting myself for experimentation

Well yesterday I had my own mini-moment like the one-hand-moisturiser-lady.

I was due to be working at the Brighton marathon training day, which includes a 2 hour run starting at 8am. So I had an early start (pre-5am on a Sunday anyone?) and drove down to the Hilton, on Brighton seafront, which was hosting the event.

Despite it blowing an absolute gale, I managed 1hr 40min with 40 minutes of marathon pace and got back to the hotel before the runners attending the training day would be back. I got talking to the two physios who were there to talk to the runners about injury prevention and treatment and one of them suggested she could give me a 10 minute massage while we waited for the runners to return.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 07.48.29I haven’t had a sports massage for months due to lack of time and funds, so I jumped at the chance. I rubbed the back of my left leg and said that my hamstrings were particularly tight, so if there was anywhere that could do with a massage, that would be it.

The physio got to work on my left hamstring – it was perfect: that delicious pain of knots being worked out and tension being rubbed away. I felt relaxed and very fortunate. The physio commented on the fact that my hamstring was very tight and gristly and continued to rub all the soreness away.

And then after a while on my left leg… she stopped!

Sports massage really works

I guess she thought that when I rubbed the back of my left leg, I was indictating that I had a problem with that leg in particular and so she used the available time to work on that leg only. By the time she said “there you go – hop off the table” the first few runners were returning so I couldn’t ask to be evened up.

The silver lining to this, is that I now know, for an absolute fact, that sports massage works.

Before yesterdays unintentional experiment, I had always left the massage couch feeling better, but if you can’t compare right leg with left leg, it is hard to know exactly how much impact a massage has had.

Well I can tell you – as I write this, sat on a bar stool in my kitchen, the massaged leg feels loose and completely pain free, while the other leg, where my hamstring is sitting on the edge of the stool, feels tight and sore (just the way both of my legs have felt for months!)

So there you go – I have submitted myself to be experimented upon for your sake, dear friend and fellow runner. If there was ever a doubt that sports massage works, I can now dispel it. I can only hope that I don’t run in circles for an hour later today and if anyone knows of a masseur that is happy to do one leg to even me up, please let me know…

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About simon

I run marathons. Everything else is a result of that.

3 Responses to “The great massage experiment”

  1. Charles R February 10, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    While I was working at the Portsmouth marathon, one of the masseurs told me this analogy: “Imagine glue on an elastic band – you can’t stretch properly unless the glue is broken up first”. Presumably a very dumbed down analogy but it kind of made sense to me.

    I’m pretty sure without the massage tent at the TR24, I wouldn’t have been able to my 3rd and 4th laps after pulling my hamstring. I could barely walk on the way to the tent, but was fine afterwards.

    My masseur says if possible, to wait a few days after a long race (marathon) before booking in. Not sure what the rationale behind that is, but it seems to do the trick.

  2. dommy February 10, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    I love this completely unscientific experiment. I can’t imagine having one side of my body massaged, that would certainly feel odd.

    Charles, I think the rationale of waiting a few days until after something like a marathon is to give the muscles time to repair from the damage and micro-tears that are caused, otherwise they could make the damage worse and prolong the recovery.

    Similar sort of reason as to why its not recommend to hold stretches longer than 15 seconds after a hard session.

  3. Kyle hackett February 11, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    Hi simon,
    Very interesting read and something I have been shouting about for months.
    If you have a tight hamstring on the left leg, why would you have a sports massage on the left and right leg. It makes sense to just focus on the painful area!
    I am studying currently on sports and remedial therapy at Soton uni and we did soft tissue release on typical tight areas and instantly felt lose.
    Something to think about when having your next massage!

    Everyday should be an STR day ;)

    Kyle

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