With respect to timing, here are a few guidelines
Your last massage appointment shouldn’t be booked closer than two or three days before the event, to allow tissue to re-hydrate, and repair itself post-treatment
Your post event massage can be booked two or three days after the event, to allow tissue to heal a little, before receiving treatment (otherwise, treatment may feel uncomfortable, so just be sure to communicate effectively with your therapist, with regards to your pain experience and threshold on that day).
The type of massage you receive before and after competition can vary depending on how you feel, and what your goals regarding treatment are.
Periodized training schedules will end with what is called a ‘taper’. This is a one to three week reduction in training volume leading up to competition to allow the body to be fully rested. The taper is as much an art as a science and different people react to it differently. If you find yourself tense, anxious or on edge during your taper then a full body swedish massage for relaxation can help take the edge off. If you are prone to pre-event nervousness and/or do not sleep well the night before competition then a relaxation massage 48 hours before an event can help you get a good night’s sleep.
Others find the reduced volume of the taper leaves them feeling heavy and sluggish. In this case a massage that utilizes faster rate techniques designed to stimulate muscles may reduce these feelings of fatigue.
The prevailing theory behind post-race massage used to be that it would aid lactic acid removal from muscles and therefore promote recovery and leave you feeling less stiff and sore. More current research suggests that lactic acid is not to blame for sore muscles and that immediate post exercise massage may actually delay blood flow to muscles and therefore delay lactic acid clearance. So feel free to skip the onsite massage offered at most events!
A few days after the event your muscles may still be tender and not up to being compressed and pushed. Do not let this deter you from visiting a registered massage therapist. Massage is not always about direct pressure applied to muscle. In the days following an event what often feels best is a facilitated stretching routine. This allows joints and muscles to be passively moved through all ranges of motion counteracting the stiffness that comes with repetitive motion. The rhythmic nature of this type of massage can also be very relaxing.
During your training, before your race, and after, a skilled massage therapist experienced in working with racing athletes can help her see you through every phase of your journey!