Cheap-but-legal massagesApril 6th, 2009
Last week, I hinted about my cheap massage adventure but, alas, ran out of posts for the week (I considered scrapping foodie Friday but I’ve had complaints before when I’ve skipped it) (from my mother). I apologize to everyone who sat on tenterhooks all weekend waiting to find out how to unbunch their aching muscles for less.
I love running books and magazines (especially iRun) but occasionally their advice can be…a little bit…ridiculous (except iRun). You know what I mean. “Run 6 miles tempo, jog 10 minutes and then run another 6 miles tempo to get used to running when you’re tired.” That kind of nonsense. They also do things like suggest you get semi-regular rubdowns to disperse the lactic acid in your muscles and promote healing. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love massages. I’m all in favour of massages. I’m just not in favour of massage bills (I’m going to play the penniless grad student card here). Case in point: There’s a place across the street from me that does massages but the last time I checked, I’d have had to put one of the cats up on eBay to afford it (probably Zest, the good one – I can’t imagine who’d pay for Zipper). So what’s a poor-but-sore runner to do?
Somewhere in the mists of time, I saw a brochure for the local student massage clinic at Algonquin college. It’s always been in the back of my mind to give it a whirl but I never had an impetus until I had a blog (it’s a weird feeling when people stop you in the halls and ask about your sesamoids). Anyway, the massage therapy students offer lost-cost massages ($25) to the public from noon to 6pm every weekday. So I booked an appointment and off I went.
The Algonquin college massage clinic is next-door-neighbours with the Algonquin college dental clinic. If the smell of a dentist office gives you screaming flashbacks, I wouldn’t recommend the place. I filled out some forms and settled in with my fellow cheap-massage seekers (mostly older pople – apparently everyone else is working at noon on a Friday). The massage-therapists-in-training marched in at the appointed time and stood in a lineup against the wall in the waiting room, all wearing matching polos. It was a little disconcerting. The guy on the far right called my name and off we went.
The actual massages take place in a very large room separated into a number of little doctor’s-office-type cubicles. Each is separated from the rest by curtains but you can hear everything else that’s going on. So on the downside, no aromatherapy candles or soothing music. On the upside, the kind of music they play in spas usually makes me need to pee so that was just as well.
My massage therapist began by asking about my knees and checking my legs for range of motion (he quickly discovered I don’t have any). Then he went off to consult with his supervisor while I undressed and got on the table. I tried to eavesdrop on their conversation but I couldn’t get much of it. I think he may have been worried that he might snap a tendon because I’m so stiff.
I’d just done a long run that morning so I requested a sports massage focusing on the legs. I’ve always gone for relaxing (wuss) massages and it seemed like the proper running recovery thing to do. It was much more..thorough than any massage I’d ever had (translation: it hurt). I could feel my student manipulating tendons or muscles or bands or whatever the hell leg component parts I’ve got in there. I sincerely hoped that those things being moved were supposed to be moveable and that they’d do back to their correct spots at the end. The student was very pleasant, chatty and constantly checked in to see if I was doing okay. At one point, his supervisor came in and gave him a few pointers. It was a little odd to have two people talking about me in the third person while I was almost totally naked.
One of the best things about the massage to me was that the therapist was able to tell me things I didn’t know about the inner workings of my legs. He advised me that my illiotibial band was thickened, not uncommon in runners but something I might keep an eye on. He also illustrated for me just how tight my hamstrings were (that, I knew). He recommended I do some stretching and showed me a few good ones at the end of the session.
So what did I get for my $31 ($6 extra for parking)? A very thorough consultation with the student beforehand, a massage of approximately an hour or so and some good advice. I would definitely do it again (I’d probably go for a wussier gentler massage). The only downside to the whole thing is that the program only runs September to April so get in while you can!
Tags: running experiment