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…
I was recently invited to try out the Gym at London’s Corinthia Hotel, which recently opened at a reputed cost of £300m. Given that level of investment, I’d assumed the fitness facilities would be excellent, and unsurprisingly, I wasn’t disappointed. It’s invariably the largest and best equipped hotel gym I’ve been to, with an ample supply of soft fluffy towels and refrigerated bottled water on hand at a moment’s notice. Fantastic, great workout, good…
… But it’s not the gym that blew me away, unsurprisingly, since I spend most of my days in one! That was reserved, instead, for the Spa. Or more specifically, Espa Life at Corinthia. Living in a ‘never-sleeps’ buzzing city like London, it sometimes seems impossible to stop moving and take a deep breath. That’s never more apparent, I think, than when you go on holiday only to realise how exhausted you feel. But there are things you can do in the meantime to mask that dilapidation of the soul, and to ensure you don’t turn into a ball of stress and combust before you reach the beach!
Aside from the obvious – eating healthy, training regularly, sleeping well etc – spending a day at a spa is the ultimate indulgence for both man and woman! The mood is boosted by endorphin, dompamine and seratonin release, it promotes regeneration and healing, muscular relaxation as well as invigorating & energising, and expunging toxins in your body through the cycles of sweating and re-hydration. Plus it’s likely to make you sleep like a baby later that night! Espa Life is impossibly relaxing, blending outrageously ‘cool’ design (e.g. a sauna with no perceptible walls, sleek lines and fibre-optics) with all sorts of fabulous spa innovations, from heated-stone ‘anatomical loungers’ to effervescent ‘vitality pools’ and regenerative ‘sleep pods’. This hotel basically bisects Trafalgar Square and Embankment – both frantically stressful parts of the City – but you wouldn’t know that you within 500 miles of the nearest ‘Nelson’s Column’! The cavernous (but always intimate) 3,300 square meters of uber-luxurious spa space are spread over 4 floors (!!) which has to be verging on excessive indulgence! You can literally watch the stress receding.
Admittedly, maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle takes planning, dedication and hard work; the pay back is without a doubt worth it, but sometimes a little reward to pat yourself on the back isn’t just allowed; it’s compulsory. Many find that staging a ‘cheat day’ once a week is a great option to keep you on track, especially knowing you’ve earned yourself some extra chocolatey calories. But for me, given that I spent 1 hour in the gym and 3 at the spa, there can be no better treat than this place!
These days you’ll find ‘Foam Rollers’ in pretty much every gym, generally in the ‘stretching mats’ area. This is great news as it suggests we ‘exercising types’ are becoming more aware of the importance of taking time to stretch, which helps us to stay flexible and prevent injury (as you might remember from my previous post on stretching, here).
WHAT DOES IT DO & HOW DOES IT WORK ???
I had key-hole surgery on my knee a few years ago and my doctor recommended I use a foam roller, as it’s a fabulous tool in the physiotherapy industry – it massively helped my recovery by encouraging correct and supple muscular rebuild. By applying pressure using your own bodyweight on sore spots, it’s a kind of self-accu-pressure technique (self myofascial release) – or simply a nice self-massage! Manipulating the soft tissue will support and massage muscle groups whilst improving balance, stabilisation, flexibility and core strength. It’s a valuable part of any workout and I recommend incorporating it in a warmup (to help increase blood flow, and relieve muscle tightness to encourage better training) and likewise in a cool-down (to flush out toxins and help soften muscles for faster recovery).
They are available in different densities from relatively soft foam, to high-density rollers that are like granite. The more accomplished, athletic and muscular the user, the more dense the roller should be. Try out a few different ones and see which one’s for you. Work your way up from the softest as a beginner. If one of this blog’s goals is to share great tips that help you train smarter, this intermediate Foam Roller from Myprotein (which provides unlimited self-massage for under £15) comfortably ticks that box!!
HOW TO USE IT ???
This collection of pictures I shot in Regent’s Park below should help to demonstrate some of my favourite exercises with this training aid. Try to target the areas that are more tender, then roll them out to release & decrease some of the over-activity. It can be hard work and can even border on being painful or uncomfortable, much like stretching. It’s important to distinguish between a moderate level of discomfort and a discomfort that can lead to injury – your body will tell you this loud & clear! Below are just a handful of many exercises to try!