As a fairly active gal and massage lover, I’ve always wondered if sports massages would benefit me more than your average Swedish massage. Sports massages claim to help performance and even prevent injury. We all know just how important stretching and keeping muscles supple is, and getting in a good massage can help ease sore muscles. Plus, massages just feel good. To investigate, we asked Chelsey Cooper, a massage therapist at the spa at the the Spa at Sports Club/LA’s location next door to the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C.’s West End to break down the basics and discuss who this type of massage might benefit.
“Individuals who are involved in athletic sports or activities tend to benefit most from this form of body work. There are two versions of sports massage, which are pre activity and post activity,” Cooper says. “The massage that comes before the event tends to cater towards energizing and prepping the muscles for intensity. Post massage aids in the recovery process. By getting this body work done you can help an individual with their performance, lower their risk of injury, and help the muscles keep up with the demands and toll that a particular activity has on the body.”
Cooper recommends that athletes get massages every two weeks in addition to pre- and post-activities. Sports massages differ from traditional Swedish massages in that the therapist performing them usually employ many different techniques to help clients.
“Sports massage differs from other types of massage in that there is often a combination of techniques used for the client to gain the most out of the session,” she says. “Depending on the client and what they need, a therapist can combine deep tissue, neuromuscular therapy, active and passive stretching to particular muscles to aid the client in better recovery and performance. Sports massage can also be done clothed, which is why there are often therapists at races to massage the runners before and after the race.”
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I put this sports massage theory to the test over the summer. After settling down in the dimly lit room in a secluded hallway at the gym and requesting coconut scented tropical massage lotion to remind me of summer, Cooper got to work. It was a little more rigorous than a traditional Swedish massage, but just as relaxing. Cooper took her time really “kneading” the areas that were tight. She also stretched my calves, which was a little different from what I normally expect from a massage.
As I left the spa, even the heat and stress that radiated out of the crowded Metro during a hot summer Friday night didn’t seem to affect me as much. The next day, I admittedly felt sore, but two days post-massage, my muscles felt much more relaxed. I can’t say that the massage helped my athletic performance in any way, but my muscles did feel better. If you’re an avid athlete and you have it in your budget, I’d consider getting sports massages. Plus, if you’re looking for a reason to get a massage, you can’t deny that this is a great one.
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