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How does a sports massage help swimming recovery?

City of Derby Masters swimmer Val Thorpe catches up with sports masseuse Helen Wright to find out the benefits of a sports massage for Masters swimmers.

After a hard training session we all know it’s important to recover properly. So what do we do?

A few lengths swim down? Stretches in the shower? A pint of beer on the way home? How many of us consider having a regular sports massage?

Many of us may well have seen sports masseuse Helen Wright and her students giving sports massages at the Etwall Eagles meet and at Nationals. I asked her to explain the science behind the sports massage and how it specifically helps swimmers.

Sports massage is the scientific manipulation and assessment of soft tissue for the prevention of injuries. Massages maintain your physical condition by normalising and improving muscle tone, promoting relaxation and stimulating your circulation.

Massage should play a huge part in any swimmer’s training programme alongside warming up and cooling down.

You know those general aches and pains that build up as you gradually increase the intensity and duration of your programme? Most people seem to just accept them or try to suppress them with drugs.

But these aches and pains can lead to more serious problems and sports massages are the best way to treat them.

The benefits of a sports massage for swimmers

For the science-minded, here’s a bit more detail about how sports massages work on the body:

  • Maintains better physical posture

A sports massage improves blood circulation, helping to keep your muscles and soft tissues in an optimum state of nutrition.

Better circulation means reduced muscle tightness and improved range of movement, flexibility and relaxation.

  • Cures and restores mobility to injured muscle tissue

Repetitive motions of strained or injured muscles causes adhesions (you’ve probably heard them called ‘knots’) and the formation of scar tissue.  This is a tough, inflexible material that forms around torn muscles.

Massages are the best way to reduce these muscle adhesions and the formation of this scar tissue to allow a fuller, stronger range of motion in a shorter space of time.

  • Reduces the chance of injury and loss of mobility in potentially weak areas

While massages help you recover from injuries quicker, they also reduce the likelihood of further injuries in the same areas.

Recovery from injury is more rapid, and reduces the likelihood of further injury because the massage will re-align strained muscle fibres. So, as they recover, they will be less likely to strain again.

  • Boost physical and mental performance

As well as the physiological benefits, sports massages can also provide a mental boost. Massages deliver renewed energy, a clearer mind, and as any athlete knows, much of sport is played out between the ears.