Tuesday 11 September 2018

One day one photo - 11: Sports Massage

I get amazed when I meet some of my fellow amateur athletes who say they have never had a sports massage before. They must be so lucky to be able to train and compete without needing a massage.  But no, wait - when I get into such conversations with these people it is exactly because they've got an injury that has stopped them from running or cycling, and they are looking for treatment.

But still, it does surprise me to know that here they are at the age of 35 or 40, and it is only now that they are leaving "the age of innocence" when they could just run and cycle as much as they liked without getting any overuse or wear and tear soft tissue injuries. My age of innocence finished when I was 26 and ended up with patella syndrome, which kept me out of any proper running for about a year.

It all happened when I was living in Paris and took part in the half-marathon there. I didn't know much about training programmes. I just ran it, based on the fact that I was fit and my weekly runs were 8km, so it wasn't as though I wasn't used to running. Sure, if it was bad for me my legs would hurt and I would stop and get the tube home quite easily. After all, I lived in the 12th arrondissement, and most of the route (at that time) went through the 13th arrondissement, so it would be easy enough to get home.

I managed to get through the 21.1km without any issues, apart from the fact that it was quite a wet day - as it usually is when the Paris Marathon takes place!

Feeling motivated, I then went to join a running club based at the Bois de Vincennes. Sadly I only lasted two or three sessions when I developed severe pains at the side of my knees and on my left patella, to the point that I was limping. One of the coaches there said that I had tendinitis, and I went to see a sports doctor who told me I would be fine within four weeks.

It was a very long four weeks....I spent six months visiting the sports injury department at La Pitie Salpetriere Hospital getting massaged, undergoing ultra-sound treatment and going weights all as part of my rehabilitation. Not being able to do much sport, go to the gym or run in the way I had been accustomed to all my life up to then was very frustrating, and it annoyed me not being able to take part in the various races and sports events around me.

It was only when I returned to the UK about eight months later that I contemplated any form of running, and had to start everything from scratch - running for just five minutes, then ten minutes and only steadily increasing the time on my feet, until six months later when I was in a position to run five kilometres without getting problems.

As a precautionary measure I started going to Crystal Palace Sports Injury Clinic, as it was known back then. They were very good, and have been ever since. I have been going there for over 20 years now, and I swear by them for getting the right treatment and monitoring for my legs and keeping injuries to a minimum. I regularly get massaged - particularly at moments like now when I am doing quite a lot of racing, and preparing for a marathon. Sports massages have definitely helped to keep injuries at bay.

I have not been completely injury free over the last 20 years, and have had Achilles problems along the way, and a recurrence of mild tendinitis, as well as golfer's elbow through mountain biking. But that loss of innocence in 1995 means that I am very conscious of not overdoing things, and  none of my injuries have been as debilitating as what happened after the Paris half-marathon. So as long as I keep on getting massaged I like to think I will generally be okay to carry on my competitive activity - touch wood.

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