The Importance of Sports Massage
By Sian Brice (No.1 GB female triathlete, bronze medallist at the European Championships and top ranked in the World) who is massaged by Chris Salvary (L.S.S.M. Dip., B.T.A.A., M.G.C.P.)
I am a full-time triathlete, having competed for Great Britain at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
I have been having regular sports massage now for seven years and see it as an integral part of my training. I rate sports massage as being as important as all the other parts of my sporting lifestyle - i.e. it is up there with technical, coached training sessions, general fitness sessions and mental preparation. Indeed, I see my sports massage therapist as an important member of my support team along with my coach, my sports physiologist, my team Doctor, my physiotherapist and my husband (and chief supporter!).
I train for 4-6 hours a day covering the 3 disciplines (swimming, running and cycling) as well as gym work three times per week and I feel that my weekly hour-long massage definitely prevents injury as well as the build-up of stiffness which would otherwise inhibit my training.
Each week, I really look forward to my massage; not because it is a totally pleasant experience - in fact, it is often far from it! I look forward to it because I know that I may have a few aches or slight strains that really need working on and will no longer be a worry after the massage.
Getting deep into the problem is often the painful part of a sports massage and may involve a lot of gnashing of teeth or even screaming! But as they say - no pain, no gain! - I know that 48 hours later the problem will, 99% of the time, have disappeared. Obviously for more serious injuries I may need further treatment by a physio or a massage may not be the correct treatment at all - my sports massage therapist always advises me on this. But with any aches or pains the massage table is definitely always my first port of call! I should also add that there are also some less painful and more relaxing parts each treatment - it's not all pain! Also, over the years I have learnt to try to relax, even when the most painful areas are being worked on, as this enables the massage to be more effective.
I think it is important to find a sports massage therapist who you can see regularly and thus build up a relationship with. This works because then he/she gets to know your body and how it should feel on good, bad or normal days. They also, then get to know your 'weak' spots and can always do a little extra work on them if required.
My sports massage therapist is also very helpful in that she points out how I can help myself remain injury free. Often she will send me home with stretches and exercises or just simply point out areas that I should ice. All this is part of a valuable supportive service for me!
I think that at all level of sport, massage is a necessity rather than a luxury (as many people see it!). The cost of a sports massage is money well spent especially if it saves expensive (both time and money - never mind the heartache!) trips to a physio because tightness has been allowed to turn in to injury! Perhaps it is not practical for people to go weekly as I do but something is better than nothing (fortnightly, monthly or when ever you can!).
Finally I would say that sports that do not use massage / it is not part of their 'culture' need to be educated as they really are missing out on something vital to their success, whatever the level they may be competing at! I see it as a small investment for a large return and wouldn't be without my sports massage therapist.