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By West Norwood Therapies Team, Jun 24 2019 08:09AM

Sports massage therapist Tessa Glover interviews one of her traithlete client from WNT's partner Windrush triathlon club, Alicja Furmanczyk, about her training and motivaion



Why did you choose triathlon? Why not just swimming, cycling or running?


Triathlon was just something different to what I had done before, and an opportunity to do all three sports at once. I still do ‘one sport only’ events but with triathlon I find I’m under less pressure to match the pace of competitors around me - apart from the swim everyone starts at different times and goes about at a different pace.


Which sport do you find the most challenging and why?


It’s by far swimming. I’m a runner first and foremost, I love cycling but as much as I love swimming I’m just not a good swimmer, no matter how hard I try to improve my technique. I’m probably not patient enough. With swimming you always need to plan what time to go to the pool to get the most of your swim - it’s not as flexible as running or cycling which I can do anytime.


I know you work full time so how many hours training do you do a week for each sport?


It varies. Currently I’m training more than I have ever done. It’s typically up to 15 hours a week, occasionally a bit more if I do a very long cycle, a bit less when I’m having an easy tapering week. I also count my Pilates or strength & conditioning exercise into my training schedule. It all takes time after all.


How do you find the motivation to get up and go for a 7am swim in cold water instead of staying in bed with a cup of tea?


It’s definitely easier to train in the summer when it’s bright in the morning, and I wake up naturally at about 6am anyway... but I don’t always train in the morning and have days off when I have a ‘lie in’ - get up at 7.30am! With my job I often finish late, so mornings are more practical: it’s done and I’m set for the day. Motivation wise, I thrive on accomplishing goals so I think that’s part of it too - mentally I just tick off something on my to do list. And there are the endorphins afterwards. No matter how hard it is to start, when I finish I’m just full of positive energy!


Does belonging to a triathlon club push you to enter more challenging competitions than you would probably do left to your own devices?


Definitely. I don’t think I would have signed up for a full Ironman race if I hadn’t done the middle distance (equivalent to half Ironman) with Windrush last year. I wouldn’t have signed up for the middle distance if I hadn’t been encouraged by the club. So it’s all a chain reaction!


Are you competitive?


I’d love to say no but I know I am... but not in a bad way! It’s mostly about being competitive with myself and accomplishing my own goals rather than goals set up by someone else. I don’t think I would ever take up triathlon or any other sport competitively though (assuming I was very good at it!) - I would immediately lose interest and the joy of running, cycling and swimming, and that’s very important to me.


You mentioned that you are entering your first Iron Man triathlon this summer, how did you come to make that decision?


I did my first ever half middle distance last summer and when I finished I felt I still had some energy left... so I thought I should sign up for an even longer race... I also wanted to do something that will push me out of my comfort zone and be the ultimate event I would ever aspire to, which I believe Ironman to be!


What impact does this amount of training have on your mental state and social life?


A tricky one. Training overall makes me happy but with all honestly, at times, the amount of training and the fact I have to stick to a plan can be taxing. I do make sure I have proper rest. I do struggle sometimes with maneuvering my need to train (and rest & recovery time) with ‘normal life’ but also with some deeply ingrained societal expectations of what I should be really doing and focusing on (whether it’s my parents asking about grandchildren that they do not have or my friends questioning why I don’t want to go out as much). But I also keep trying to find ways of incorporating my friends into my training life, e.g. when going for a long run or cycle and visiting them afterwards, eating their food!


How do you look after your body to make sure you are in peak condition and injury free?


I never sacrifice a good night’s sleep. I also try to listen to my body, even if that means missing out on a training session... if my body tells me I need rest, then that’s what I do. I would definitely prioritise being injury free over my race performance. I am terrified of getting injured so I do a lot of ‘pre-hab’: strength and conditioning exercises, stretching, Pilates and I use foam roller and a massage ball on a regular basis. In fact, I go as far as to bring the ball to work sometimes (time is precious!). I also try to have a sport massage once a month and time it well before or after my races. Fingers crossed I’m doing the right things!


How much has sports massage helped you during your training as a triathlete?


A lot. A couple of years ago I had an injury whilst training for a marathon, and I strongly believe that part of the problem was that I didn’t have a sports massage on a regular basis, no trusted professional to tell me about my muscle imbalances and weaknesses, and how to work on those. I now treat sport massage as part of my routine and a treat too!


Bonus question:

What is the most common question that you are asked about triathlon? Have I asked it?


Yes! Why do I do it to myself






By West Norwood Therapies Team, Apr 29 2019 07:29PM

Sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares her fabulous experience massaging at the London marathon in aid of the NSPCC this year, we're proud of her efforts and enthusiasm :-)



Last year I volunteered with NSPCC, giving post event massage at the London Marathon 2018. It was such a fulfilling experience that this year I went back for more and I couldn’t wait to put my green t-shirt back on! As you can probably remember, 2018 was the hottest London Marathon ever recorded. Water stations started running out of water and medical teams had their busiest year treating heatstroke. This year already looked to be shaping up for a stark contrast on the weather front. With strong winds and heavy rain dominating the weather forecast, I prepared to massage some soggy windblown runners!


Waking up this morning to calmer winds and a nice fresh feel in the air might have tricked some runners into thinking they were still dreaming! Pretty ideal weather conditions for long distance running. So far so good. I was feeling positive as I walked through Trafalgar Square and looking forward to working with Chris and the team again. After a quick hip loosening demonstration, Chris talked about posture and how to maintain good form. It’s all about keeping that chest forwards and proud!


At around 12:45 we applauded the first runner into our massage area. There was then a slow trickle of runners for about half an hour before the trickle turned to a steady stream and all 20 massage therapists were working flat out to ease the aches and pains. The atmosphere in the room was absolutely buzzing; you could almost feel a physical energy to it. Congratulations and elations never ceased and every time someone came up to me, no matter how exhausted they were, they had a smile on their face and such a sense of pride in what they had just achieved. Not one person was moaning or grumbling about any pain they were in, their achievement seemed to lift them above it.


At events it is likely that you will be massaging through clothes and there are several techniques to achieve great results with this. One of them is simply compressions and you can even try these on yourself (mainly on the legs) after a hard training session, event or performance. Simply use the heel of your hand or make a fist and press down on the muscle using your other hand to create the force, holding the compression for 10 - 20 seconds. Vibrations can also be another useful tool, as well as pin and stretch – compressing a muscle when contracted and then slowly extending the muscle whilst keeping the compression; something I like to use on the hamstrings especially and it can be done passively or actively.

Conversations with the runners sometimes verged on hysteria due to adrenaline and exhaustion! However the main topic of the day was their appreciation for the overwhelming support they received: from the crowd, from the charity, from their friends and family and from us! Times didn't matter. They had just run 26 MILES. I chatted to one runner who was running a marathon for every month of the year...that’s 314 miles this year! What an incredible human feat let alone the amount of money raised for charities. The 500 runners for NSPCC today raised £1.1 million between them. What an amazing event to be part of.
Conversations with the runners sometimes verged on hysteria due to adrenaline and exhaustion! However the main topic of the day was their appreciation for the overwhelming support they received: from the crowd, from the charity, from their friends and family and from us! Times didn't matter. They had just run 26 MILES. I chatted to one runner who was running a marathon for every month of the year...that’s 314 miles this year! What an incredible human feat let alone the amount of money raised for charities. The 500 runners for NSPCC today raised £1.1 million between them. What an amazing event to be part of.

Even though it was a long and tiring day, I went home ecstatic and full of inspiration from everybody I had met, runners and volunteers alike. Just knowing that I had helped some of those amazing people in some way gave me my own sense of pride and achievement.


If you ever get the chance to volunteer with a charity at an event like the London Marathon, DO IT. You’ll find me massaging next at the Windrush Aquathlon on Sunday 30th June at the West Norwood Therapies stall. If you’re racing come and see me for some post event massage! If you’re there supporting, come and say hi to some of the team – we offer a whole range of complimentary therapies and classes.




By West Norwood Therapies Team, Oct 10 2018 08:00AM

Sports massage specialist Lauren O'Sullivan shares some tips for training safely and effectively as the days get colder...


Many of my clients for Sports Massage are keen runners, cyclists or swimmers, or sometimes all three! They regale me with their tales of miles covered and stretches of water paddled, and I am constantly in awe of their determination and drive for their sport. I often think of their training regimes and processes, and as the weather is changing it turned my mind to the effect this must have upon them. Obviously training can be carried out indoors, on a treadmill or a stationary bike say, but how does this compare to the real environmental conditions that may be experienced in a race or event?

We were all aware of the drama surrounding the heat for this year’s London Marathon but as the temperature starts to drop, let’s turn our thoughts to what happens at the other end of the thermometer.


Your physiological responses to exercising in cold air are different to those that occur in more temperate environments. Research has shown that exposure to cold air can have perverse effects on the immune system. The cold enhances the effects of a type of ‘suppressor’ macrophage which depresses the functioning of the immune system. So what can you do to boost your immune system back up? More cold weather training! Prolonged exposure to cold air training can blunt this suppressor macrophage response, so keeping your outdoor training regular throughout the colder months will fair you in better stead than only venturing outside periodically, or only when competing.


Sudden and unexpected exposure to cold air carries the most risk and not just for your immune system. Cold air increases the heart rate and blood pressure, therefore putting more stress on the heart and it’s also known that our blood clots more easily in cold weather. It makes sense that if cold air exposure is sporadic then it will come as more of a shock to the body and increase these changes. To minimise the magnitude of our physiological changes, ‘getting used’ to training in the cold may be the answer.


But it’s not all bad. In fact, cold weather training is the best environment for aiding fat burn. Glycogen depletion is fast due to shivering and adrenaline from the cold and so the body quickly turns to its fat stores for energy. Training in cold air enhances the breakdown of fat, particularly the kind that clings to your internal organs which is most closely linked to high levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDLs). Other benefits may include faster times! Training in cold weather places greater pressure on the breath; this is a good thing! It helps train your lungs and whole body to utilise oxygen more efficiently, therefore boosting your overall athletic performance. Some research has found that as a result of this, regular training in cold weather has the potential to add an average of 29% to athletes running speed. And if you needed any more encouragement, it’s a fool proof way to beat those winter blues due to the mood-enhancing effects of exercise. So what are you waiting for?!


Here are some pointers you can start to implement as the weather changes. Although you may experience faster times in regular cold weather training, speed work should not consciously be added to your training regime during winter. In terms of clothing, dress like an onion and peel! You should be a little bit cold at the start of your workout so if it’s only moderately cold wear no more than 2 layers. If it’s really cold, wear up to 3 layers and think about how you can protect the face and neck areas as these can easily be exposed. Also think about protecting your hands and feet especially if you have bad circulation or low blood pressure. Swimmers think about full wetsuits in cold water and always have your head and feet covered. It’s useful to plan the time of day that you will work out as it’s colder in the early mornings and evenings, so running or cycling in the ‘heat’ of the day could be better, particularly if you are not used to cold weather training. Also think about your direction; go into the wind on the way out and have the wind at your back on your way home. Remember: mind over emotions. And don’t forget the lip balm and snacks!
Here are some pointers you can start to implement as the weather changes. Although you may experience faster times in regular cold weather training, speed work should not consciously be added to your training regime during winter. In terms of clothing, dress like an onion and peel! You should be a little bit cold at the start of your workout so if it’s only moderately cold wear no more than 2 layers. If it’s really cold, wear up to 3 layers and think about how you can protect the face and neck areas as these can easily be exposed. Also think about protecting your hands and feet especially if you have bad circulation or low blood pressure. Swimmers think about full wetsuits in cold water and always have your head and feet covered. It’s useful to plan the time of day that you will work out as it’s colder in the early mornings and evenings, so running or cycling in the ‘heat’ of the day could be better, particularly if you are not used to cold weather training. Also think about your direction; go into the wind on the way out and have the wind at your back on your way home. Remember: mind over emotions. And don’t forget the lip balm and snacks!

Lastly, ensure you have a full warm up before training and a thorough cool down/keeping warm afterwards! Do your warm up indoors where you can properly warm the muscles and deeper muscles ready for training. Take your time, do some light stretches and get the blood pumping around the body. When you get home or back to the car, ensure that it is warm. ‘Cool down’ with some light mobility exercises and as long as you are warm you can include some deeper stretches to maintain good flexibility and form. Importantly, listen to your body and train as you see fit – if you are not used to cold weather training take things slow and give yourself time to experiment with your clothing and distances. It also wouldn’t hurt to get a massage! As I mentioned before, your immune system may be slightly under-functioning as you begin training in cold air so a massage is perfect for increasing lymph flow which is packed with white blood cells. As well as lymph flow, massage increases blood circulation and skin hydration – so bust those winter blues and treat yourself to some regular cold weather training followed by a sports massage. You’ll feel like a superhero!






By West Norwood Therapies Team, Jul 11 2018 08:00AM

Sports massage expert, Tessa Glover, shares some info about the all-important powerhouse that is the glutes and suggests how you can stregnthen them and use them more effectively to improve your running and reduce the chance of injury. Helpful stuff!


‘The glutes’ are three muscles of the hip called the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. The minimus is located beneath the medius and the medius partially beneath the max and their actions are the following:


The glute max has an upper and a lower part. The upper abducts (lifts the leg away from the side of the body) and laterally rotates the thigh. The lower extends (takes the leg behind the


body) and laterally rotates the thigh and extends the trunk of the body.


The glute medius and the glute minimus both abduct the femur at the hip joint and rotates the thigh medially (inwards and towards the other leg)


So now you know where they are and what they do why is it so important to know how to engage them and to feel them being used when running?


A simple explanation is to think of your glutes as the powerhouse of the lower body. If you can run with your glutes activated then you are not relying on your hamstrings as much, therefore reducing the risk of injury in these three overused muscles of the posterior thigh. You will run faster and more efficiently.



Two ways to activate your glutes


1. Hold on to something for balance then stand on your left leg. Stand up straight and lift your right leg behind you without bending your knee. Now, lower your leg and squeeze your right glutes. Then do the same movement again and see if you notice a difference. You should feel a warm ‘burn’ feeling in the glutes as you lift the right leg for the second time. Try this experiment on the other leg now.


2. Hold on to something for balance with your right hand, raise your left leg with your knee bent and lift it as high as you can until you feel that warm burn sensation in your right glutes, hold that pose for up to a minute, then externally rotate your left hip and hold that for a further minute. Repeat on the other leg.


Now that you know the feeling that you are looking for, try to keep that burn feeling as you walk, very slowly and pronounced with the thigh raised and knee bent (a little like a dressage horse would do) for about 10 paces. Now try it with a slow run. Do these as part of your warm up before running and see what a difference it makes.


Strengthening the glutes


Because many of us work in sedentary jobs, the glutes become lazy so you may find that even though you now know how to activate them, they may start to fatigue quickly.

Here are some simple exercises to begin to strengthen the different glute muscles.


Glute maximus


Lie on your front with your head resting on your hands. Keeping your front hip bones flat against the floor, lift your left leg,keeping it straight, approximately 6 inches (15cm) off the floor, then abduct the same leg (taking it slightly sideways away from your body) approximately 4-6 inches (12-15cm), then return it to the raised but straight position and then lower it to the floor. Repeat until tired and then do the same on the right leg.


Glute medius and minimus


Lie on your left hand side, with your left arm extended above your head and your head rested on your arm. Bring both knees up to a 90 degree angle to your body and with your ankles staying together, externally rotate your right hip (open up towards the celing) and then return to the first position. Continue until your hip is a little fatigued. Then change sides.


To feel the muscles being used, rest the palm of your right hand on the side of your hip as your externally rotate it.


Images from “Atlas of the Skeletal Muscles” by Robert J Stone and Judith A Stone




















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