FOR MUCH OF MY LIFE, I’ve been a runner. Not to brag, but I can finish a 5K or knock off a mile in a decent time. Just don’t ask me to touch my toes. ¶ I’ve always scorned the habit of stretching. Why strike poses when you could be warming up the muscles and burning up the road? A study I once read about in a men’s magazine suggested that limbering up before a workout was a waste of time: Medical researchers found that soldiers in basic training who stretched before doing exercises were no less likely to suffer injury than those who didn’t stretch. Loosening up was for losers. ¶ But training for an upcoming marathon has turned me into a human knot, so when a co-worker suggests a sports massage, I set up an appointment. Unlike Swedish massage or shiatsu, a sports massage is meant to treat injuries and enhance athletic performance. It’s vigorous: I feel myself breathing hard as a massage therapist named Georgia untangles the muscles in my neck, presses my torso into the table, saws away at my shoulders, and works my arms like she’s squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of a tube. This is a workout. ¶ Halfway through the session, I ask Georgia if she can tell I’m a runner because of the tightness in my legs. In fact, she says, the evidence is in my shoulders: Miles on the road has turned them into granite. ¶ A few hours after the session ends, I go for a short run. My stride is loose, I feel limber. Maybe stretching isn’t such a bad idea. Perhaps it pays to be a loser.
Sports/deep tissue massage
Minneapolis Life Time Athletic Club
615 Second Ave. S., Minneapolis
TIME: 30, 60, or 90 minutes