Sports massage therapist Tessa Glover interviews her client Emily Hayter who is a competitive swimmer who trains with Spencer swimming club. Emily shares how she approaches training and competing and encourages us that swimming can be taken up at any age and stage. Thanks for sharing Emily!
How long have you been a competitive swimmer?
I always loved the water and I swam competitively for a few years in my early teens while I was living in Canada. I swam on and off on my own after that but was mainly keeping active through other things. After a 17 year break from club swimming I joined a Masters club, Spencer, in London in my early 30s and started competing again.
How did you come to choose your preferred swimming stroke and distance?
It's changed since I was younger, partly due to injuries (eg no breastroke because of my knees so no medley events anymore). The only one of my favourite events from when I was younger which I'm still doing is the 50m butterfly. One thing that's great about pool swimming is you learn and practise all four strokes, so everyone finds their own favourite.
Aside from the 50 fly I race all freestyle, everything from 100m to 1500m. This year I'm also doing my first open water event which will be 3800m. At some point I might need to choose between the short and long distances though, as it's difficult to train for both at the same time.
What do you love most about swimming? What does it give you?
As an adult, swimming in a club has brought me back to a regular fitness schedule, guided by a coach and in the company of great fellow swimmers. I get so much more from it than I was getting just from going to the gym.
I've also made new friends and started going on swimming trips like training camps at Club La Santa in Lanzarote and sea swimming holidays in Italy with SwimTrek.
I feel inspired by the older swimmers in Masters, many of whom are still racing and setting records in their 60s and beyond. Club swimming has brought me great examples of how to stay fit in later life.
What's the toughest part of training for a competition?
I've always been more of a training person than a racing person. I like training and usually go 3 times a week with Spencer. Some people are the opposite, they love racing but not so much training.
The unpredictability can be tough in both training and racing. You have good days and bad days in the pool, and they can be quite random (ie not linked to diet, rest etc) which can be discouraging. So trust and confidence in the training you've been doing throughout the year is important.
There's also a lot of technique to think about in swimming, and we work on that all the time. It's difficult to change ingrained habits and patterns of movement, and it takes patience. I usually find that as soon as I fix one technique detail I start doing something else wrong! So it's a continuous process.
Can a swimmer get into competitive swimming as an adult?
Definitely! I know several people who only started doing lane swimming or learned all the strokes as adults and then got into competitions, either in pool/Masters swimming, open water or triathlon. At my club not everyone competes in pool competitions, some people do triathlon or open water and others just train for fitness and don't compete at all.
How do you look after yourself physically and mentally?
I do pilates a few times a week, which helps with management of old knee and back injuries that would otherwise prevent me from swimming. Swimming encourages me to do these types of conditioning exercises I should have been doing before but wasn't motivated to do. I used to do yoga but after learning more about hypermobility I swapped to pilates and find it better for me.
I also go for massages with Tessa at WNT which really helps me manage a neck issue I've developed.
I'm lucky to have generally good mental health. I try to maintain it through exercise, work/life balance, social life and occasional restorative yoga.
I love food and eat a lot but generally pretty healthily. Another thing I should have mentioned that swimming gives me is the excuse for a lot of snacking.
How long have you been a swimmer and when did you discover the joy of open water swimming?
Although I learned to swim as a child I only took up Open Water swimming aged 51. As my youngest son finished his A levels, I found myself with more time at weekends.
I know you consider yourself to be a slow swimmer compared to others but you are a strong endurance swimmer. When did you discover that you can swim long distances? And what’s the key to endurance swimming?
After a few 1 mile (1.6km) lake swim events I decided I wanted to take on bigger challenges, so next up was a 1.9km then a 3km swim. I couldn't find anyone to join me for the Jubilee river 10km relay and ended up signing up to swim solo instead. It was at this point I decided I needed some swim coaching so joined Windrush Triathlon club, a multi-sports club in south London. After the Jubilee marathon I did several other long distance swims and also went on some open water swimming holidays.
My tips for endurance swimming are to keep working on your swimming technique over winter, then gradually build up to longer distances in lakes, rivers and the sea as the weather warms up. Experience of being able to handle currents, cooler water and all weather conditions helps a lot.
Breathing, technique and cardio fitness combined? Anything else?
Relaxed breathing comes with practice and I would also recommend some strength and conditioning sessions and of course regular sports massages.
What do you consider to be the main benefits of open water swimming?
I experience a huge sense of wellbeing swimming outside. I love the sensation of moving through the water, hearing birds, seeing fish (sometimes) and feeling part of nature. The open water swimming community is extremely friendly and I love the challenge of different water conditions. A sea swim between the same two points will be different every single time so you never get bored. I like to think there are health benefits and I definitely feel more mentally resilient.
What advice would you give to people who would like to try lake or sea swimming for the first time?
Many venues have introductory sessions so I would try these. Don't wait until you can persuade a friend, as you will meet like-minded people there. For sea swimming I would rely on local knowledge and join online communities.
For a first time open water swimmer, what are essential items they should buy/borrow?
Essential items are a comfortable swimming costume, a brightly coloured swim cap and goggles. If you want to try a longer swim and/or cooler water, a wetsuit is recommended. You can hire these at many venues if you want to try one out. I bought my first wetsuit second-hand. Make sure it is a swimming wetsuit though, a surfing one will restrict your shoulders. I would also recommend a tow-float unless it is very windy and the first time you swim against the current (outside an organised event), fins can be useful.
Margi is Swim Captain at Windrush Triathlon Club
Sports massage therapist Lauren O'Sullivan shares some insights into what 'sports massage' actually is and the fact that it's benefits go far beyond sports people and also how the treatment might be adapted to suit you individually.
The term ‘Sports Massage’ can sometimes be misleading if taken literally. It is of course a very useful, and often necessary, treatment for sports people, but it can also be beneficial for a whole host of different people. People working from home since the start of the pandemic might not have the best ergonomic set-up and as a result are experiencing neck or back pain. Take delivery drivers, who are sat in the same position all day, using the same restrictive movement patterns to drive. Think of the security guard, standing in a stationary position on their feet most of the day. All of these people and more are using their bodies in a way that will build muscle tension, increase areas of restriction within the soft tissues, and cause restrictions in ranges and ease of movement. Sports massage can help them!
Sports massage helps to resolve chronic pain, injuries, muscle aches and restricted range of movement. At some point in our life, we have or will experience one of the issues listed above. What is great about sports massage is that it uses a range of techniques to assess and treat a problem, rather than following a repeated routine of massage strokes. Each treatment is tailored to the individual and your therapist will spend some time talking to you and listening to your story before assessing you physically. I have treated countless individuals and even if the problem seems to be manifesting in the same way, every body is different and responds differently to treatment, so no two treatments are ever exactly the same.
Something that seems to put people off getting a sports massage is the reported pain that comes with it. Whilst some techniques can and will cause some degree of pain, it is never the goal of sports massage to cause pain. Your therapist should maintain good communication with you throughout the treatment in regards to pressure and pain, and make use of your breathing to help with relaxation in those more intense moments. I always give my clients a choice if I think that a certain technique is going to really help them but I know that it will be painful for them. I explain the technique beforehand and constantly check in during the application, giving them the choice to bow out at any point. Any deeper massage strokes are always applied very slowly, giving the tissues time to adapt and let me in without causing damage.
If somebody is new to sports massage or is feeling particularly sensitive, I use lighter techniques to work with more superficial soft tissue. Sometimes, a lighter more relaxing touch is exactly what the client needs and it is important to realise that massage is mostly affecting the neuromuscular system rather than effecting change physically. Stress is a major factor is some muscle tension, particularly if focused around the shoulders. The nervous system responds to stress by increasing muscle contraction in order to protect the body and prepare it for fight or flight. A relaxing and gentle approach can melt away the tension because the nervous system is responding to that touch and sending signals to ease off protective muscle tension.
A sports massage should leave you with a feeling of freedom within your body, feeling lighter and moving with more ease. You shouldn’t feel limited by discomfort in your daily activities. Those little everyday stresses on your body can develop into chronic problems if left to their own devices. Sports massage plays an important part in the recovery process, whether that’s from an intense training regime or from everyday stressors. Regular massage allows the body to function with less restriction and the hands on approach provides an important element of social touch, something that has been lacking since the start of the pandemic. If you haven’t before, give sports massage a go this year and see the difference it could make in your life.
Sports massage therapist Tessa Glover celebrates National Bed Month by sharing her enjoyment at the amount of time in bed lockdown has given and gives suggestions of how to work more safely from your bed and tips for how to look after your body to enable more bed-time!
When I was offered the chance to write a blog about National Bed Month I jumped at it. You mean there's actually a recognised and dedicated month to staying in bed? Ok so I've probably spent way more than a month in my bed during lockdown but now I don't even have to feel guilty about it. Fantastic! But...on further study I find, no, it's not a celebration of staying in bed, it's about the importance of sleep. Yawn... As my colleague Erika is already writing a blog about just that, I thought, hey! You know what? I actually want to celebrate bed and all things beddie. A bed's not just for sleeping, it's for so much more * see footnote.
Work - Since March of last year bed has become one of the favourite places to work.
So as we are spending more and more time in our single, double, King, Queen or super King work spaces, we must ensure to look after our bodies and our environment. If you are determined to work from your bed, although it's not ideal, it's the reality for many people therefore here are some tips to make your desk nest safe and comfortable.
Posture and pillow arrangement - Try to sit in the most upright position possible, with a firm pillow in the small of your back and one or two more for your mid and upper back. You may find a plump pillow under the knees also helpful.
A pillow or tray of some description may assist laptop position (and mouse, phone etc).
Try to make sure your shoulders are relaxed and down while hammering at the keys.
Drinks of any kind should remain on the bedside table in case of spillage over laptop and phone.
Alternative working positions.
1. Sit cross legged on the bed, back straight, computer on pillow on lap.
2. Sit cross legged on floor (with or without pillow), computer on end of bed (only if bed is at a reasonable height for this)
3. Childs pose (see below) on bed with laptop at end of outstretched arms. This position should only be held for short periods of time and definitely not for Zoom meetings.
Wear something loose and comfortable.
Cotton or silk are preferable as man-made fibres may produce sweating and overheating after 15 mins or so of being in the same position. Note: if you start to feel uncomfortable and are sweating profusely this may be due to the heat of your hot water bottle (or hottie bottie as my Mum calls them) so kick it out of the end of the bed before you pass out. NB. In the event of a temperature of over 38 degrees centigrade or above after 10 minutes of removing HWB please seek medical help.
If you have poor circulation and typing makes your fingers cold and numb, try wearing fingerless gloves. If this doesn't work try rubbing your hands together vigorously or warm them in a sink of warm water. If this is happening frequently and you are concerned, check out this NHS page about Reynauld's .
Take regular breaks after 45 mins to get more water, go to the loo and don't forget to...
Stretch - get out of bed (I know. It can be a struggle) to give your neck and shoulders some movement.
Bend head from side to side, flex it forward and extend it back then rotate from left to right (repeat 5 times). Hunch shoulders up to your ears and drop. repeat 3 times.
Get back on the bed... phew...
Hip flexors will get short and tight sitting for extended periods of time especially the Rectus Femoris which is the quadriceps muscle that crosses your hip joint. Lie on your side (having removed aforementioned tray/laptop) bend both knees, then reach behind you and grab the ankle/calf nearest the ceiling and stretch your foot behind you towards your bottom, keeping your hips level. Hold stretch for 15-20 seconds and repeat on other side.
The psoas muscle is also a major hip flexor. For this, lie on your back very close to the edge of your bed, bend the knee furthest away from the edge and rest your foot on the bed, let the other leg nearest the edge,dangle off the side of the bed until you feel a stretch through the front and inside of your hip. Turn yourself around on the bed and repeat for other hip.
Hamstrings - lie on your back, reach for a towel, scarf or resistance band, place it under your foot, and do a straight leg raise (keeping your shoulders relaxed) feel the stretch at the back of your leg and flex your foot towards you). Hold for 15-20 seconds. Repeat for the other leg.
For your back.
Child's pose. Kneel down on the bed, sit your bottom down on the back of your calves and slowly reach your outstretched arms forward and slide them away from you on the bed, trying to keep your bottom on your calves. breathe deeply and relax into the stretch.
Cat and Cow. kneel on the bed, placing knees hip width apart and hands on the bed directly under shoulders, back flat, tilt your head up to look towards the ceiling while dipping arching your back, hold the stretch then lower your head while pushing your back upwards towards the ceiling, hold the stretch. Repeat.
Presentation and Self care -
Painting nails, doing hair and make-up for zoom calls, plucking nasal hair, spraying on a bit of deodorant (if you have had complaints), laying out the day's outfits (change of pyjamas, socks, or if venturing out, other appropriate clothing)
WARNING: you will have to get out of bed again for this.
After all that work and effort, you must be exhausted so relax and try some of the following...
Fact: In 1988 a groundbreaking study found that by switching an uncomfortable old bed to a lovely new one meant an extra 42 minutes of sleep! So if you've still got a job and can afford a new mattress go for it. If you haven't, try giving it a hoover and flipping it over (knees bent, core engaged to protect your back). BINGO! Like new.
I think I need a lie down after all that typing... zzzz
* for censorship and health and safety reasons I am omitting an extremely popular cardio activity often carried out in bed.
If you have any questions about stretches, cramps or any aches and pains, Tessa can be reached via email@example.com or on 07966 473738.
ISRM/BTEC (Level 5) Professional Diploma
Clinical Sport and Remedial Massage Therapy
Blogs from the WNT team. For our blogs from before June 2020 please see individual profile pages - it's a good way to get to know practitioners too.