Sunday, April 14, 2013

Book Review: Self-Massage for Athletes by Rich Poley

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good general facts and techniques
Cons: Little original ground; sometimes goes too far
The Bottom Line:
Not original
Many great thoughts in one place
Worth considering

It's Okay to Touch Yourself

Back in 2008, I was far from athletic. That's why I almost laughed when I was offered a copy of Self-Massage for Athletes to review. Yet I do enjoy some sports, and I figured it couldn't hurt to look through the book and see if I could glean anything.

The book is divided into three parts. Part one introduces the concept of self-massage and how it can benefit athletes. Author Rich Poley discusses the scientific evidence for the benefits of massage like increased blood flow and endorphins. He even discusses massage as a better warm up before exercise then stretching. Most of these arguments are very convincing, although at times he goes a little over the top. While discussing the health benefits of massage, he sites studies that show the benefits of regular massage, then just tells us these benefits must be equally true of self-massage. While I'll agree he's probably right, that quite leap bothered me.

Part two is the heart of the book. In it, he describes the seven self-massage techniques (glide; squeeze; squeeze and roll; press; press and roll; drum; and rock and roll). This section really highlights the strength of the book. Each page is 8 1/2 by 12, and each two page spread in this section is filled with black and white pictures showing models using the techniques he is discussing. That makes it very easy to see what he is talking about. He discusses each stroke in turn and variations to use on various parts of the body. Then he guides us through a sample massage, showing us how to use combinations together. He ends this section by encouraging us to experiment, reminding us that each massage can be unique as our body changes and grows.

Finally, he goes on to offer further suggestions to help with massage. This section discusses things like acupressure, trigger points, and tools that help reach those hard to reach places like the back. One chapter is devoted to ways to use the bathroom to give yourself a massage. While parts of this chapter were good, parts go too far. Yes, a washcloth would make for a great massage tool. But the water coming form your shower head? Or your razor? I don't think so. In his defense, he does offer a disclaimer in a separate chapter on times you should avoid self massage and go directly to a doctor. Most of these are obvious injuries, but it is nice to see he doesn't treat every problem like something that can be overcome by massage.

I read the book this last week as preparation for an Ultimate Frisbee tournament I participated in this last weekend. Over the weekend, I used the techniques I learned here to try to help my muscles, especially my legs. Despite my best efforts, just about every muscle I have is sore today. However, My muscles are usually worse then this and I feel like I played better Sunday then I normally do on the second day of a tournament. I spent some time massages my legs at my desk during the day today, and that really helped them feel better as the day progressed as well. To be honest, I wish I had read the book sooner so I could be better versed in these techniques to help myself recover even faster.

For me, this was one of those obvious books. What do I mean by that? There was great stuff in here, but nothing I couldn't have come up with on my own if I hadn't thought it through myself. Frankly, this is the kind of book I'd normally thumb through in a store and remember rather then buy and read all the way through. Also keep in mind the book is self-published. While it is professionally laid out and edited, it also means you might want to take what is said it an added grain of salt.

If you are honestly interested in the art of self-massage, don't let the title scare you away. While the book truly does focus on athletes, the tips and techniques can apply to weekend warriors, occasional athletes, or couch potatoes equally.

While Self-Massage for Athletes isn't earth shattering, it is nice to have the techniques in one place. I intend to keep this book handy and refer to it often as I try to get a little more into shape.

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