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By West Norwood Therapies Team, Oct 24 2018 08:00AM

Sports massage therapist, Tessa Glover, embraces a new challenge to train for an aquathon run by our good partners over at Windrush Triathlon Club. Read the first in her blog series charting her journey.


Welcome to my very first blog. I am a 53 year old sports massage therapist who hasn’t run more than 2km in the last 6 years and has never learnt the front crawl. However, while massaging at the Windrush Aquathlon in Brockwell Park on 24th June I shook hands with a colleague on both of us entering the 2019 Aquathlon. For those who don’t know, this event consists of a 500m swim (10 lengths of a 50m pool) and a 5km run. Oh dear, what have I done?


READ THE REST OF THE BLOG AT TESSAS BLOG PAGE




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 18 2018 08:00AM

Sports massage specialist - and dance - Lauren O' Sullivan considers how injuries can become more entrenched without listening to them at first, sharing a personal experience for you to avoid!


Injuries. Nobody wants them but almost everybody gets one. At some point in our lives we will injure ourselves. No matter how small that injury may be it can affect our everyday lives and prevent us from being the active and busy people we are. Things we take for granted, like running for the bus or walking uphill, can suddenly prove impossible and our injury becomes annoyingly inconvenient. Put on top of that a love for the gym, sport, or any highly physical career and it can put a big part of our life on hold.


So what do we do about it? Well, I can certainly give you a personal account of what not to do! I have been suffering with high hamstring tendinopathy since November last year. This means that I have damaged the hamstring tendon that originates from the ischial tuberosity (the ‘sit bones’); basically it’s a pain in the butt. I was working as a dancer in rehearsals for a very demanding show and the pain came on gradually. At first I just thought that my hamstring was tight from previous days’ rehearsals, but it soon became clear that the pain was concentrated at the top of my hamstring at the attachment point. The pain became more concentrated and my range of movement started to decline. I knew something was up.


Off I went to the physio and he told me it was most likely hamstring tendinopathy. The best treatment? REST. The one thing I couldn’t do as we were about to open the show. From then on it would be performing every day, most of the time twice a day, meaning repetitive movements and the worst of all: high kicks. I wanted to keep performing, or to put it another way, I needed to keep my job! The physio gave me some shock wave therapy, taped me up and said to sit on an ice pack whenever I had a break in the dressing room. Does that sound like the way to a speedy recovery? I can tell you that it wasn’t. Here we are in July and although my range of motion is slowly creeping back (thanks to my wonderful Osteopath), I am still suffering with the injury and its associated pain. As I sit here now writing this I can already feel pain around my right sit bone.


I hope that most of you reading this don’t have a dance career or other elite sport that restricts you in your recovery from any injuries. If that is the case then you have no excuse but to REST any acute injuries. I truly believe that rest is the most important thing at the very start of recovery. Most likely the injured area will become inflamed and red and you must let your body do this. It is its way of protecting the area and ensuring that blood flow is maximal to kick start the healing process. Let it happen. Anti-inflammatory drugs will inhibit this and while on the outside it may look better, the pain lessens, and you are able to go on with your day, it is not actually helping the problem. After about 3 days of TOTAL REST you may venture outside of your hermit-like existence and seek professional advice from either a doctor, physiotherapist, osteopath or someone similar. I know I may seem like a bit of a hypocrite, but I am so aware of proper healing because of the fact that I am dealing with a chronic injury. All injuries are different and need different things, but the one thing they have in common is benefitting from rest. It certainly doesn’t do any harm.


Perhaps the most irritating thing when you are an active person with an injury is the feeling that all your hard fitness work is just going to reverse itself. It doesn’t have to. Depending on what the injury is you can still train other parts of your body in isolation or take up a less impactful method of exercise. My favourites when injured are swimming, Pilates and yoga. Swimming is so great for injuries involving the foot, ankle or lower leg because there is no weight bearing involved. Pilates is always good to incorporate in your training regime no matter what, because a deep core strength will support your body in everything you do and help with proper alignment. I would say that Pilates is actually great for injury prevention! The last one, yoga, I still couldn’t do for a while into my recovery. With tendon injuries it can be difficult because they shouldn’t be stretched or strained, and yoga is all about flexibility. However, for injuries in the belly of a muscle, most physiotherapists will advise a stretching programme and yoga will do wonders to complement this.


Ultimately it is about listening to your body. If something hurts, don’t do it! Some people talk about good pain and bad pain…for example if you are stretching a muscle it can be painful but not in a harmful way. Most people can recognise when the pain becomes too much or ‘bad’, indicating that they have gone too far. On the flip side of that, we often cannot stretch certain muscles enough by ourselves. I would suggest seeing a sports massage therapist (such as myself!) or a physio to help you out with passive stretching. Particularly post massage, when all of your muscles are warm and adaptable, an assisted passive stretch can hit the spot.


Take care out there and rest up! (Just think of it as an excuse to have a 3-day long Netflix marathon #injuredandwinning).






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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