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Molly Coeling Massage - Helping Me And My IT-Band Run Through Injury

Back in April, after the Ravenswood Run, I got a post-race massage that was especially memorable to me (if you've gotten enough post-race massages, you probably know that they're helpful, but they also kind of start to blend together). This one was different and I wrote about it at the time (from April):

Before I left though I got a free 10-minute sports massage from Molly Coeling. She and another massage therapist were there for the Fleet Feet No Boundaries group but they were nice enough to let me slip in and get a massage as long as I promised to hop up if anyone from the No Boundaries group came over while I was there.

I told her about my IT-band injury from last year and she worked over my left side pretty well. Definitely something I needed done before I headed to the second race (and just in general). Luckily no one from No Boundaries came over while I was there so I got the full massage. 

This week, with my IT-band acting up and the Chicago Marathon looming (not to mention pacing my uncle at the Arkansas Traveller 100) I decided to go in and get a 90-minute massage from Molly. I told her beforehand that I had gotten her card from a race and we set up a brief interview so I could find out more about her practice before going in.

Located just south of Montrose on Lincoln, Molly Coeling's studio should look familiar to anyone who has been to a massage studio before: lots of wood, several private rooms with massage tables, relaxing music, dim lighting and subtle aromatherapy. You take your shoes off at the door before proceeding back to a massage room for a discussion of what ails you (if that's the reason for your visit) and what you're looking for within the session.

Despite only being a practicing clinical massage therapist for a year and a half (and only transitioning to full time five months ago), Coeling works like a seasoned professional, coaxing your preferences (and injuries - present and past) out of you to assist in her work. With her business recently added to Yelp, she's already got a solid 5-star rating. Perhaps it's her own experiences as a runner and dealing with running injuries (she's been running since she was 12 and has run two marathons, a handful of triathlons and an unknown amount of half marathons and shorter distances) or her focus on energy work (Reiki is one of her specialties). It could also be that she's just really good at what she does - she did graduate as valedictorian of her class from the Soma Institute National School of Clinical Massage Therapy, after all.

Whatever it is, Coeling knows how to talk to runners (who she says make up about 1/3 of her customers) and help them address their own chronic or one-off injuries and pains. One thing she avoids when working with runners is telling them to stop running. "Fortunately - or I guess, unfortunately - I've experienced lots of running-related injuries myself and I know that telling someone to stop running to fix an issue doesn't work for some people, because it didn't work for me," she says. As someone who went through physical therapy last year for my IT-band with my physical therapist constantly telling me to stop running, I can appreciate this approach. It can sound unreasonable to non-runners (and, if we're being honest, it IS unreasonable) but, to me, stopping running completely is only an option to be implemented in the most drastic of situations.

I asked her what types of issues her running customers come in with most frequently and she listed the usual culprits: IT-band problems and especially tight calves (the latter is especially prevalent in newer runners). She also pointed out that runners who are consistently hitting higher mileages - while they tend to be incredibly fit cardiovascularly and weight-wise - tend to have extremely "locked-up" bodies. On the plus side, runners tend to have a better understanding of self-care and are usually better at maintaining regiments suggested by a massage therapist (foam rolling, stretches, etc.) than non-running clients. So, while we're good at running our bodies down... at least we're also good at attempting to slow the run-down.

I also asked Coeling what tips she might offer runners (both new and veteran) on taking care of themselves. "If you start feeling uncomfortable just sitting or going through daily life," she said, "There's probably something that should be addressed." And for newer runners: "Any time you're having pain during or after running" you should think about looking into it. Most importantly, the location of the pain can be deceptive. "Some people might dismiss pain in their back as unrelated," says Coeling. "But if you've just started running - or just increased your mileage - that can also be something to look into."

After a 17-mile run on Saturday my left IT-band had been hurting in my day-to-day life, making me nervous about my upcoming distance runs, but after my 90-minute session in which Coeling worked not only on my IT-band but on a number of other areas that were/are either tight or painful, I felt both groggy and relieved. During the massage, she spent a lot more time applying pressure to tight areas until they "released" rather than constantly moving around as other massage therapists have done with me in the past. She also involved me in the process, asking for feedback throughout regarding pressure and levels of pain. This interactivity helped me stay focused on my own body and to think about where I should be focusing my own efforts. Afterwards, we had a discussion about ongoing exercises to work on in order to strengthen important muscle groups to keep my IT-band (and the rest of me healthy) and I walked out of the studio with a pain-free left leg and a clearer sense of what I needed to do to keep it that way.

There are lots of places to get your running injuries looked into, but after visiting Molly Coeling I can't recommend her practice highly enough. And on her website she offers $20 off your first visit. If you're trying to run through some kind of injury, I'm the last person who will tell you to stop running through it, but I will at least tell you that you should let Coeling run through it with you.


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