A blog by runners. For runners.

Self massage techniques for athletes


Aches and pains. Even if you’re a seasoned runner or walker, you get them. And they can completely ruin your day. Massage – specifically deep tissue or sports massage – can help, but heading to your local spa or wherever else that offers these services can be costly. So, between sessions with licensed therapists, consider trying out these self-massage techniques. And remember, it’s better to do a little each day versus waiting until you’re still and in pain.

Here are some moves to get you started:

  • Calf milker: This calf massage uses a baseball or lacrosse ball (tennis isn’t firm enough). Simply sit on a hard surface and roll your calf over the ball, varying the pressure by feel. You don’t want to be grimacing in pain, but you also want to make sure you’re getting in there deep.
  • Foot tamer: Ah, the feet. They take in the brunt of the pain. Thankfully, a good foot massage isn’t hard to do at home. If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, you can even use a frozen water bottle to target the three major vertical zones of your foot. This detailed guide breaks it down and offers several strategies to help keep your puppies happy.
  • Glutes go-to: You can use a tennis ball or Runner’s World even suggests using (the blunt end of) a screwdriver handle to pinpoint specific points for release. Whatever your tool of choice, just push for a few seconds and hold steady versus rolling, as your glutes are mostly an area of pressure points. Go by feel and resist pushing too hard.
  • IT-band releaser: If you have IT-band woes, one of the best investments you can make is in a foam roller. If you regularly roll out the notoriously tight band that runs from above your hip down into its insertion point at the knee, you can keep it loose and lessen inflammation –and this means you’ll enjoy more consistent, pain-free training.
  • Back and shoulders: The simplest method of a self back massage is to lay down on a tennis ball on a hard surface. Bend your knees and start with the ball around where the shoulder blades hit (do not roll your actual spine, just the muscles/etc. on either side of it). Then slowly roll your body over the ball and keep moving it down your spine until you reach the base.
  • Yoga: While not massage specifically, getting in a good stretch can be a substitute for releasing all those tense muscles. You can also do yoga moves at home, including some smart poses that are specifically helpful to athletes.

Written by Ashley Marcin.

RELATED yoga for runners | foam rolling for runners