Monday, August 11, 2014

Training and Recovery : Massage Envy Spa of Pleasanton, CA

What could be better than being part of the 2014 San Francisco Marathon Ambassador team and finishing the marathon on July 27, 2014?  A complimentary post-race Sports Massage that's for sure!

I had been contacted a month before race day by Massage Envy Spa if I'd like to enjoy a Sports Massage in exchange for reviewing the experience. Heck ya!

For the record, I had a three month pre-paid massage contract early in the year (Jan-Mar, 2014) and had already found Massage Envy Spa in Pleasanton and had my favorite massage therapist (Charles).  But, I got busy with life and training and didn't renew.  Since March I've run two 50Ks, a road marathon, did one day of the Western States (WS100) training camp up in ForestHill, CA and paced the last half of the American River 50 mile race.  I was beyond ready for a professional tuneup.

Based on my post-race sports massage on Aug 7th, I have officially started my next three month contract (Aug-Nov, 2014).  Here was my experience.

Meet and Greet

I arrived 15 min early to my appointment to sit down with Heather to review my Wellness Chart and based on my Survey to fine tune my session with Charles to pointed out any areas that needed special attention.  For me my calves were still a bit tight around the Soleus as well as my shoulders.  The session was to last 1 hour total and broken by:
  • 5 min discussion with massage therapist, dress down
  • 50 minutes of massage
  • 5 min wrap-up plus redress
Forms and fine tuning request with Heather

Tranquility Room

After my chit-chat with Heather to fine tune today's session, she lead me to the 'Tranquility Room' or waiting area where she offered my choice of infused or plain water while Charles finished with his other client.  The seats were comfortable, with pleasant music, faux waterfall (can't see but on the right) and a chance to just relax or chi-chat with other customers.

Chill 'er Tranquility Room

The Sports Massage

Sorry, no naked shots of myself nor Charles. [Thank goodness]  The large rooms have a massage table in the center, small table with mints (my favorite) and rear counter-top with cabinets.  The rear counter area has sink, towels, microwave for heating towels, etc.

Depending on if you requested a full-body massage or wanted specific areas worked on you could be on your stomach, back, side, etc.  I started on my stomach and Charles went to work first relaxing my shoulders (Trapezius muscles) by using his thumb/palm as point source then his arm to generally relax the area.  I requested 'deep massage' so yes initially it hurt but hurt good!  I get tense shoulders not only wearing a hydration pack on long runs but as an office worker spending way too much time sitting poorly in front of desk, staring at a computer screen.

If you want to keep from getting injured it is very important to keep your string of muscles loose since it only takes ONE to tighten up and start a snowball event on the other muscles getting pulled.  So, while on my stomach, the first series he worked on my foot arche (Plantar Fasciitis), Calves (Soleus, Gastroc) then hamstring. [Technically Gluteus would be the last but I normally don't get sore nor cramp up there]

For the last part of the session I flipped over and he worked on my quads and some of the minor shin stabilizing muscles.  I have a tendency to get shin-splints (inner shin) which is probably due to some muscle asymmetry in my quads. So, Charles helps to keep them knot free as I perform squats and step exercises on my own to build up my inner quads (v. Medialis, etc).

Lets dig deep (pun intended) on what I mean by 'worked on'.  It is one thing to merely apply light pressure up and down a muscle.  Fine for general work but does little to restore flexibility.  To get a tight calve to relax after a tough workout you need to search the muscle using a finger for either a tight spot or a clients face cringing (or audible 'ouch!').  Once a sensitive spot is found and if it is indeed a knot (which is probably is) the knot needs to be 'melted'.  The best way to melt a knot is to apply point pressure and hold until the knot relaxes.  The first time I saw Charles I had 4 knots in my Soleus junction.  This time I only had one.  It is hard to explain how you feel after having all the tightness removed from your calves and have your full or near full flexibility back.  Feels wonderful afterwards like you can run another 50K trail race!

Post Massage

Charles offered me the infused water then back to the reception area.  As I wrote in the intro.  I didn't realize how tight I was until my session with Charles and realized based on the amount of running and races I'm doing I really need a sports massage once per month and signed up for another three-month plan.

Charles - one great Sports Massage Therapist!


  1. This is also a very good post which I really enjoyed reading. It is not everyday that I have the possibility to see something like this..

  2. Thanks all. A good sports massage is just another tool to add to your tool chest to not only recover from a demanding workout but in preparation for one as tight muscles may lead to a pull down the road.