Sports massage: Yes it hurts, yes it works
Matthew Jenkin grits his teeth and wishes for scented candles and whale music for a painful, but essential, sports massage during his Olympic body challenge
If your idea of a massage is scented candles, whale music and an hour’s kip, it might be wise to give the sports variety a fairly wide berth.
Make no mistake, there is nothing, I repeat, nothing relaxing about sports massage.
It was a truth which professional masseur Darryl Carty was quick to point out before I lay down and braced myself for the worst.
‘You are behaving quite well,’ he said as he began to dig into my back muscles and I felt an uncomfortable pressure on my back. ‘Most of my clients scream and swear at me.’
‘Thanks,’ I replied before uttering the following famous last words: ‘Well, it’s really not that bad.’
When he reached my shoulders, which I have repeatedly strained and pulled during my three-month challenge to achieve the body of an athlete before the London 2012 Olympics, I yelped, grit my teeth and thought of Matthew Mitcham naked covered in whipped cream to take my mind off the excrutiating agony.
With the help of Maximuscle, the UK and Europe’s number one sports nutrition brand, I have been manscaping by body into the ripped and defined figure which is most gay men’s wet dream.
But while it’s true that beauty is suffering, it’s a necessary pain in order to maintain healthy muscles.
‘With a sports massage you are talking about getting deeper into the muscle fibers,’ Carty explained.
‘The biggest aim is to get more blood flow to your muscles so they get more nutrients. Also you help them to rid the body of lactic acid.
‘When your muscles are very tight, they act as a sponge and squeezes the blood back out, so your tissues are not getting the nutrients they need, so your lymphatic system is running really slowly.
‘With sports massage you are also helping to stretch your muscles in both directions, which obviously you cannot do with any normal sort of stretching and that is very important because you need that range of motion.
‘It is painful because when you have imbalances with your muscle, your nervous system is aggravated. But it’s helpful because it helps to realign everything.’
He adds that while sports massage may not be able to help if you have a serious injury, it can help prevent one.
Although, he adds, it can aid rehabilitation, including reducing scar tissue.
But having shirt tearing biceps and button popping pecs may not, necessarily be a sign of health.
He said: ‘I know the difference between what healthy muscle feels like and what it doesn’t feel like.
‘People seem to have this idea that rock hard muscle is the ideal, but it’s actually very unhealthy. Healthy muscle should be soft to the touch.
‘So people who do work out a lot, their muscle isn’t healthy. They look big and strong but it is very tight, which means they’re not going to get much motion.
‘Sports massage is about getting your muscle back to the way it should feel, getting blood flow back to the tissue and getting rid of waste products.’
Despite how uncomfortable it felt, and the soreness continued the next day, my shoulders did feel relief and I noticed a lot more mobility.
So while sports massage may not be a blissful chill-out, it remains essential for any athlete or gym fanatic who is serious about taking care of their body.
Along with a healthy diet plan recommended by Maximuscle nutritionist Gareth Nicholas, I have been working out three or four times a week, including taking the Maximuscle Promax Cyclone shake, Maximuscle meal bar and Thermobol supplement.
Follow my Olympic body challenge progress on Twitter @matthewjenkin