The Importance of Massage
Performing your best on the slopes is a combination of having the proper gear, being in proper shape and taking care of your body.
Below, let's take a look at the importance of massage for skiers (or any recreational athlete, for that matter).
How Our Muscles Work
Hundreds of muscles throughout our bodies serve the sole purpose of stabilizing us, so that we don’t fall down. When skiing, we especially need this system to work properly, so that we don’t lose our balance while moving at high speeds and yard sale, or worse yet, hurt ourselves. To do their job, these muscles engage in complex communication with our nerves, which fire even before our brains are aware of what is happening. By continuously monitoring our position in space, nerves determine whether muscles need to contract or release in order to keep us upright and thus protect our brain and organs.
Our muscles, in turn, must respond instantaneously to the nervous system’s requests. They can do so only when they are hydrated, resilient, and pliable. Massage is meant to produce that hydration, resilience and pliability.
Skiers especially need massage, since the very act of skiing requires sustained contraction of the muscles in the legs and core. Without contraction, skiers are unable to maintain high speeds over moguls, through trees, and in choppy snow. Yet contracted muscles increase the risk of injury. By flushing out toxins, such as lactic acid, hydration assures that muscles can lengthen when necessary. Staying hydrated at high elevation, though, is a challenge; and cold weather only exacerbates the problem. The next time you walk out into the cold, pay attention to your neck and shoulders. Most likely you will find that you have raised your shoulders toward your ears and tucked your neck in between them in an effort to snuggle into yourself and stay warm. This is exactly what happens on a chairlift, which means that your muscles start contracting before you ever hit the slopes.
Massage after skiing pushes out toxins. It warms the muscles so that they can let go, re-hydrate and lengthen. In these ways, massage helps assure that your muscles will recuperate and be on their A-game for the next day’s skiing.
Finding A Massage Therapist
Whether you are on a ski vacation, or are based in a mountain town, here are the three best ways to find a massage therapist in a ski town:
Ask a few locals. I recommend a local skier you might ride the chairlift with, a boot-fitter or another employee at the local ski shop, your server or bartender, or perhaps a shuttle driver. Locals usually know the best massage therapists in town.
Browse websites of local massage therapists to see if any resonate with you. Read through the massage options they offer to see if they offer what you are looking for.
Call the office of a local physical therapist or a chiropractor for recommendations. These professionals typically know the best of the best in town and can offer great advice.
Once you have an option or two lined up, don’t be afraid to call them to ask a few questions.
Following are some items to consider when you are choosing a therapist. Remember, experience counts!
Ask how long the therapist has been practicing and remember that the longer, the better.
Ask whether the therapist has ever worked with a physical therapist, a chiropractor, or any other medical practitioner. Massage therapists who have done so are likely to have encountered all kinds of injuries and preexisting conditions. As a result, they will have both the confidence and the knowledge to assist your body with its needs.
And last, find out if the massage therapist skis. A fellow skier knows exactly what parts of your body need work.
Ski Massage Tips
Once you have decided on a massage therapist, get on their schedule. Massage therapists in ski towns fill up quickly during ski season. Here are some top tips for scheduling a massage:
Schedule early. A few days (or more) ahead of time is a good idea, especially if you prefer the après ski slots or if you need multiple therapists to accommodate a big group. Good therapists are in high demand.
Consider having a massage upon arrival in order to ensure that you are ready to hit the slopes. You may also want a massage at the end of your trip in order to prepare you for travel.
Drink lots of water. Start a few days before you leave for your ski trip. This will help you to acclimate faster and to benefit fully from your massage.
Knowing that massage has helped my body be pain-free and stay strong and hydrated so that I can ski my best, I am committed as a therapist to help others achieve similar benefits. I regard massage as one of the most beneficial things skiers can do to help their body and minds be in shape for the high demands of skiing hard. Take some time out of your ski vacation to take care of yourself so that you can rip up the slopes the next day.
This article was written by Joanna Mularz
Joanna Mularz is a massage therapist and owner of the Health Massage Studio. After graduating with a BA in history from her hometown university, CU Boulder, she spent time living and playing in the Colorado high country. Aches and pains in her body eventually led her back to Boulder to study massage. In 2005 Mularz graduated from the 1000-hr program at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy. Since graduating from BCMT, she has taken hundreds of hours of massage training including Sports and Orthopedic Massage (both lower and upper extremities), Myofascial Release I and II, Cranio-Sacral therapy I, Unwinding as well as extensive courses on the hands and feet. Joanna has worked in spas, as well as with an outstanding physical therapist. This range of experience enables her to draw upon numerous styles of bodywork in order to create a dynamic touch tailored specifically for you.
Licensed Massage Therapist and Owner of healthmassagestudio.com