Anatomy and biomechanics relevant to sports massage

Sports Massage

Working with athletes or active clients


My personal reviews of products and services


Research articles regarding massage therapy and sports massage

Orthopedic Assessment

Tips for finding the root cause of the injury

Home » Sports Massage

Post-Marathon Sports Massage

Submitted by on March 2, 2009 – 8:24 pmOne Comment

One of my favorite massages to give is the post-marathon sports massage.  Not because it requires any special ability on my part, but rather because of the drastic improvement the clients will feel from beginning to end.

For those of you who are not familiar with a marathon runner, here is a quick overview:

  • They typically average 50-80 miles per week in training for the race
  • They build up a weekly long run to 20 miles
  • Running 26.2 miles will cause significant soreness and stiffness in their legs (quadriceps and calves are the worst)
  • The day following the marathon they may have difficulty walking downstairs and will often crawl down them backwards!

By the time they have completed the marathon, their muscles have sustained significant damage from running 26.2 miles and our job is to simply improve the circulation to their legs and gently stretch their legs to increase their range of motion.

I recommend to marathoners that they come in to see me one to two days after they run their race for a light, 30 minute massage.  There is a big window in front of my clinic and  I often see them walking stiff-legged towards my door.  It’s then that I know I can really make a difference in this runner’s day!

Again, this massage should be brief (30 minutes) and utilize only light techniques.  I start with light effleurage (stroking) with the palms of my hands and gradually increase the pressure until I am performing light loose fist effleurage and light petrissage.  Be very mindful of your pressure, as they usually cannot handle anything more than light effleurage at the beginning (ESPECIALLY on their quadriceps).  Check in with them often and look for the non-verbal signals of holding their breath or clenching their fists.

Any deep tissue work MUST be avoided at this time.  It doesn’t matter how much you want to work out a knot in their thigh.  Just keep with the light effleurage and you will feel the lumps smooth out in a few mintues.

I will spend the final 5 minutes performing gentle stretching to their quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.  I will keep this very simple (no MET or PNF) as I don’t want to make their muscles work too much.  One final tip is to talk them out of running for at least a week.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but training for a marathon becomes part of their lifestyle and taking any time away from running can seem like torture to them.

To Summarize:

  • Perform post-marathon massage 1-2 days after the event
  • Limit the massage to 30 minutes
  • Limit the techniques to gentle effleurage and petrissage
  • Check-in with the client about pressure often
  • Perform gentle static stretching on glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves

After one post-marathon massage, the runner came out of the room with a big smile and said “I could put on my shoes!”.  It was then I realized how much value I could provide from a simple, 30 minute routine.


One Comment »

  • Kathleen Pollauf says:

    I have been reading alot about your techniques. I am a newly licenced massage therapist in Ohio, which involves medical massage. Your website has helped me tremendously. I work with quite a few runners and weekend (sports) warriors, but I would love to take sports massage to a higher level. I am looking forward to attending a seminar. I would love to see what you do first hand. I found you through the AMTA.