From stress reduction to better sleep, the benefits of massage are plenty, especially for people who spend time in the gym. “For active people who work out regularly, massage can help relax and soften tired and overused muscles and can help athletes of any level prepare for and recover from strenuous workouts,” explains Michelle Ebbin, author and massage expert for Soothe.
But if you’re going to splurge in terms of time and money to get yourself on the table, so to speak, you’ll probably want to ensure you’re getting as much out of the experience as possible. Luckily, there are some very simple, straightforward ways to maximize your session, according to massage pros.
People often wonder what the best time of day to schedule a massage is, and the truth is, it depends. “The best time to get a massage is when you know you will have some time after your massage to relax,” Ebbin says. “It’s very hard to jump back into the fast pace of your daily routine after a soothing massage, so I suggest getting one in the evening or on the weekend, when you know you can kick back and chill when you get off the massage table.”
That said, evenings and weekends aren’t always possible, and everyone is different. Some people may be better able to relax in the morning, for example. Plus, sneaking out to get a massage in the middle of the day is better than no massage at all. Regardless of timing, Ebbin has this advice: “Just try to move slowly, breathe deeply and take the soothing, relaxed energy you have at the end of a massage with you throughout the rest of your day.”
WORK OUT BEFOREHAND
If hitting the gym is on your agenda for the day of your massage, consider fitting it in pre-treatment. “I think exercising after a relaxing massage defeats the purpose, so I suggest giving your body time to rest and absorb the healing benefits of the massage,” Ebbin says.
If you think about it, getting your muscles all relaxed just to tense them back up again immediately with exercise doesn’t make sense. “Your body has slowed down so, if you can, ease back into your daily routine with the idea of nurturing yourself.”
DON’T EAT OR DRINK A LOT RIGHT BEFORE
“To get the most out of a massage and be comfortable on the table, I suggest you avoid eating a full meal at least one hour prior and do not drink anything 30 minutes before your massage,” Ebbin says. After all, it would be a bummer to have to run to the restroom in the middle of the massage.
“I also suggest no more than one alcoholic drink before a massage,” she adds. While one drink is no big deal, drinking too much alcohol before a massage can lead to lowered sensation (so you won’t be able to enjoy the massage as much) and dehydration.
TRY THE SAUNA, STEAM ROOM OR PLUNGE POOLS
“If the facility has hydro and thermos therapy options such as warm and cold plunge pools, steam or dry saunas, all of these will help to improve your results,” says Grant Lessard, spa director at Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. These can all help you relax before the treatment so you’re able to feel completely at ease and release any lingering muscle tension.
“Showering is a courtesy all therapists will appreciate, but it will also help create the ritual of slowing down and going into the treatment with intent,” Lessard explains. Plus, if you’ve showered before, you can skip showering after and allow the oils used during the massage to soak into your skin.
“This is not the time for pride,” Lessard says. “Be honest and thorough when describing your needs and also don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more thorough your description of symptoms the better your therapist will be able to tailor your treatment.”
Some people are also afraid to say something when the pressure from their therapist is too light or too intense, but it’s important to communicate this, Lessard says. “Please speak up. While your therapist my seem to have magical fingers that can find all of your sore spots, they still need you to let them know if they are going beyond your comfortable tolerance. This is not a ‘no pain, no gain’ scenario. Massage should not cause harm, after all, you want to feel better and have improved performance after the treatment.”
Drinking plenty of water post-massage to help your body flush out anything released during the treatment (lactic acid, for example) is a must, according to Elizabeth Mendre, massage therapist at The Spa at Red Rock by Well & Being. “Avoiding caffeinated drinks and alcohol after a treatment is also a good rule of thumb. These substances can create inflammation and therefore be counterproductive.”
TAKE IT EASY
“It is often recommended to not tax your muscles in the normal way you would during your daily routine,” Mendre says. “For example, if you carry a large bag, feel compelled to clean the garage or want to hit your extreme daily workout after a massage treatment, don’t do it! Let your body and mind hold onto the stress-reduced space as long as possible.”