For me, there’s not much better than the feeling of contentment after an intense ‘sports massage’! Elite athletes consider it an unmissable and totally crucial part of their ‘physical conditioning regime’, to improve performance and boost recovery. But whether you’re off to compete at the Olympics, are a regular gym bunny or a sedentary office worker, everyone’s likely to experience discomfort or tight muscular pain at some point. To clarify, a sports massage is not a ‘cosmetic’ or superficial ‘chill out’ treatment you’d find at a spa; it’s an intensive dose of focused, physical therapy schooled in the medically demonstrable study of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, administered by qualified professionals. If you’ve not had one, I would strongly recommend you to try! It can materially help you to prevent injury, relieve muscle pain and increase mobility… and there are so many other benefits. That’s what this post is all about! I have long considered it a great skill to help clients prevent or relieve injury/pain, so I got to work on a sports massage course with Discovery Learning! Read my top 8 reasons to go for Sports Massage here…
1) WHY OPT FOR A SPORTS MASSAGE?
i) MORE FLEXIBILITY / MOBILITY: Aggressive training can tighten and toughen the muscles, preventing them from stretching correctly; the ‘pumping’ (focussed stroking) of soft tissue, both longitudinally and laterally, will improve muscular mobility and can correct imbalances, as well as releasing accumulated tensions from the sheaths around the muscles.
ii) EASE STICKY BONES: specific techniques can separate muscle fibers that have either become adhered to one and another, or to other soft tissues structures around them, and even to bones. This again will all help with mobility.
iii) STRONGER FLOW OF BLOOD/NUTRIENTS: Overtrained muscles are tough and rock-like, which can squeeze out blood and nutrients, thus depriving the muscles of what they need! Better circulation which comes from softer, massaged muscles will consequently improve the supply of nutrients to tissues improving their health and aiding in healing and repair. Blood vessels dilate and membrane pores widen during the massage, which allows better oxygen passage, as well as nutrients for restoration of the muscles. Great!
iv) EJECTS METABOLIC WASTE: through increased blood flow, sports massage helps in the removal of metabolic waste products (e.g. lactates) from tissues, further assisting in recovery from activity.
v) REDUCES PAIN: by removing the pressure build-up suffered from congestion and metabolic irritants, sports massage can help to relieve pain. This is compounded by the release of endorphins .
vi) EASES DELAYED ONSET MUSCLE SORENESS: also referred to as ‘DOMS’, is the muscular discomfort experienced a day or two after a training session. The pumping and squeezing action of massage strokes will encourage blood and lymph flow throughout the body, which can help prevent muscle fatigue and encourage better oxygenation.
vii) PROMOTES RELAXATION: Sports massage stimulates your mechanoreceptors (sensory receptors which respond to touch), and as your body relaxes, endorphins are released which lift the mood and de-stress the body, minimising anxiety.
viii) BOOSTS PERFORMANCE: More oxygen flowing to muscle tissues which are lithe and mobile, nourished and free from toxins and knotted tension, is surely going to lead to a higher quality and more sustainable level of activity.
2) MY EXPERIENCE OF THE LEARNING
The course involved a thorough education on the muscular, nervous and lymphatic anatomy, along with a development of the practical and clinical skills required to administer an authentic sports massage. It’s demanding, and requires a working knowledge of some anatomy beforehand. Whilst Discovery very kindly sponsored me to take their course, I actively wanted to pursue the opportunity in order to dust off my anatomy skills (Latin names aren’t always instantly memorable for a native Swede), and to learn a new practical skill set – one from which I think all personal trainers could benefit. I took away a lot more from the experience than I’d expected.
The course tutor Mark Bussetti was a super-charismatic font of knowledge, which really helped bring to life a subject that threatens to be savagely dry, with a lot of theoretical knowledge. Enthusiasm, sensible demonstration and regularly relating the conceptual back to everyday examples of muscular problems made a huge difference to my learning process. It’s not an easy course whatsoever and there are a series of demanding assessments at the end, but I’m now qualified, and the learning has really augmented my understanding of how we humans fit together, and therefore how to train smarter and live healthier!
3) TO ENHANCE YOUR ENJOYMENT
Whilst it is a sports treatment there’s no harm in enjoying it alongside something indulgent. Massage without spa-like smells and beautifully fragranced organic oils feels wrong to me! Thank you to Neom Organics for spoiling me with the most delicious English Lavender, Sweet Basil & Jasmine goodies, which accompany me whilst I practise sports massage at home! My words won’t do the scent justice, so if you happen to be wandering along in Selfridges, stop and have a smell. Sigh.
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