As a professional athlete who asks a lot from my tiny, tight, generally unimpressive, muscles and stiff joints, I think that it’s important to have a team of healthcare professionals to work with in order to ensure that all of those silly little muscles of mine continue to work correctly. Or, more realistically, just continue to work. These professionals include a strength coach, chiropractor, massage therapist Mexican food cook, and barista. While I could, and probably will at some point, write about the value that each one brings to a professional runner, today we’re going to focus on the massage therapist, Angela Gavelli.
It turns out that when you use the same muscles in the same way at a high frequency, those muscles have a tendency to get tight and although I am super dedicated to stretching and foam rolling (i.e. laying on my yoga mat while looking at my phone with a foam roller under my head) sometimes you get a knot that no amount of rolling (twitter) will fix. When this happens it becomes necessary to get a massage. Luckily for me, Northern Arizona Elite has enough money in the budget to afford to pay for my bimonthly massages, which is awesome because I am very frugal (poor) and might not splurge (be able to afford) for a professional massage when my roommate Stephen and I can trade the occasional hamstring rub.
When I informed my parents that free massages were part of my life, my mom exclaimed, “Man, I wish I had a job where they made me get massages.” Well guess what? These massages aren’t your typical spa experience, Mom. Here’s my take on massages:
Massages are kinda like nights when I cook dinner for my girlfriend, there’s Alt-J playing, candles, and I spend the whole time trying to hold in my farts and tears. I mean some tears are ok on a date, right? Love you Hayley.
As I prepare, mentally, for a massage, I always feel the same way. I feel like I am about to take a test that I haven’t studied for. However, instead of getting a D on this chemistry test and having to explain to my parents that I just don’t give a shit about ionic bonds, I am going to go through a lot of pain and hopefully not bum this massage person out too much by emitting smells that should be reserved for a track side porta-potty. Supposedly, massages are less painful if you are more flexible but, I stretch (scroll through Instagram in the prone position on my yoga mat) and foam roll (Grab a foam roller for under my head while I check Twitter) a lot and I just haven’t seen any decrease in the suffering.
As I lay there on the table in my running shorts, because getting completely naked for a stranger to rub your muscles is gross and weird, I start preparing myself for the upcoming trauma. I silently repeat my pre-massage power phrases of, “just breathe, Scott” or “it’s only an hour, you can make it an hour” or “you’re a tough guy, you’re tough.” I build up my toughness until I hear the lotion being squeezed out of the bottle and onto my torturers hands. At this point all my goals of being tough go out the window and I settle for just not embarrassing myself too much.
I internally swear like a sailor as Angie’s hands, which are stronger than any muscle in my body, press on my scar tissue laden plantar fascia. My internal dialogue gives way to frantic breathing as she moves to my achilles tendon. When she gets to my calves I am perspiring heavily and my composure is completely shot. By the time she has worked her way up to my hamstrings any semblance of a happy place I’ve previously cultivated has turned into a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s nightmares. My only respite from the pressure is when Angie needs to reapply lotion, and in these brief moments where the only pain I feel is the residual soreness from her fingers pressing through my muscles to the bone, I try to return to my power phrases which, by now have changed drastically. I know silently tell myself, “Shit, that was only 15 minutes?” or “Scott, you deserve this for checking social media feeds instead of stretching” or “Uh oh, 2 cups of coffee and a breakfast burrito were bad dietary choices!”
At my hips the tears start welling up in my eyes and soaking the head cradle, I get a quick break as Angie hits my lower back and then it’s right back into the fire when she gets to my shoulders. As her fingers dig into that tiny little crevasse between my shoulder blades and rib cage, my legs writhe in pain and the tears really start to flow. “Ok, Scott, why don’t you turn over and I’ll hit your front really quick” she says. “Uh oh, the tears” I think as I roll over. Angie is nice enough to not mention my red puffy eyes as I roll over and try, unsuccessfully, to wipe away any evidence that I’ve been balling. The rest of the massage goes quickly, I grit my teeth and hold my breath while Angie blows past my pain threshold and seemingly separates my quad on her way to my femur. From there, it’s all a blur as I usually pass out while she works on my shin area. Upon regaining consciousness, I make a quip about how it wasn’t as bad as last time. It’s a lie, but Angie doesn’t call me on it. We both know that it was THE WORST. After my sub par joke, I hustle out the door and go sit in my car where I try to make sense out of the last hour of my life.
I’m not pro-torture, per say, but if I was, maybe Guantanamo bay could employ a couple of massage therapists. Just saying.
Somehow I, usually, manage to get home and curl up in a ball in the shower and remain there until the hot water runs out. Then, I stumble into the kitchen, microwave a burrito, crack open a pint of ice cream (don’t judge me), and lay on my yoga mat stretching (tinkering with my fantasy football team) until it’s time for bed. The next morning, I go for my run and like magic, my hamstrings extend a little bit farther and my hips move a little bit more freely, my calves seem to have a little more pop and I begin to pick up the pieces of my obliterated ego. So, if you’re in Flagstaff and are feeling particularly masochistic, or just need a massage, Angela Gavelli and her two tear factories for hands is a GREAT option!