Self-massage is a handy skill to learn. It enables you to deal with your own sore legs, as well as giving you an insight into your own muscle structure. So just get stuck in and feel what’s under the skin.
In time you’ll learn to feel individual tight muscles and get to know where to apply pressure to get the best results for your legs. Armed with this new self-awareness, you will also be in a better position to guide a massage therapist to get maximum benefit from a professional massage.
To begin with, just sit with your legs out in front of you, putting your hands either side of the calf and push in with the heel of your hands with a circling movement. Don’t go in too deep at first; just gradually increase the pressure as your muscles slowly accept the force that you’re applying.
Slowly move up your legs and work into your thighs. Take the time to really think about what you can feel. At first you’ll feel apparently random bands and cords under your hands but, as you get into it, you’ll learn what your legs should feel like. Some areas are always tender anyway and some areas should feel tight. When you find an area that feels more tender or tight than normal, then you know you’re onto something.
Once you’ve found an area of unusual tension and tenderness, gradually work the heel of your hand into it. Don’t go in too quickly or you’ll just tense up more. If you get persistent problematic areas after training, it’s worth getting a massager tool from a health shop that you can really work into the area. But remember: you’re doing this to make your legs relax and recover more quickly, so more pain doesn’t always mean more gain.
If you’re doing this before a race or training session, gently slap the skin over the legs after you’ve finished to help stimulate the muscles so they’ll be ready to start working.
Whether you use a massage lotion or oil is really a personal choice. If you find that you’re pulling at hairs or hurting the skin, then try some form of lubricant. There are plenty to choose from but, when applying, remember the old adage ‘less is more’ to stop your hands sliding around ineffectively and just generally making a mess.