A lot of people say to me they don’t know how to get into fitness, or how to start a healthier journey. And as much as I try to encourage and inspire, there are always a few who glaze over and lose interest, or even accuse me of not understand since I’ve always been fit. But that is a huge mis-conception.
Fitness has always been important to me, and daily workouts keep me happy (I love routine – blame the Army). But this time last year, I was in a pretty bad place. I’d been struggling to get back into feeling like me after the break-down of a relationship that’d left me feeling really lost and insecure. Whilst trying to be what I knew my ex wanted me to be, I’d completely lost sight of what was important to me. We would go on holiday and I’d leave my gym kit at home. I remember my dad’s ears pricking up when I told him that: “but you love running”. No matter how much you want to please someone, you have to still do you. And I wasn’t doing me.
Anyway. My point is, I had to start from somewhere near scratch, and I hated myself for it. I didn’t want to go to a gym because I didn’t want to prove to myself how much I’d lost. So when I sat next to Neville, co-owner of Duo Chelsea, the promises I made to visit his new gym off the Fulham Road weren’t necessarily honest. But something about Neville’s approach resonated with me. So the next week, off I trotted to Duo Chelsea.
We started with an assessment. Nev quickly figured out posture was an issue – stress and hyper-tension meant I was walking round with my shoulders protectively up around my ears, like a perpetual shrug. And aside from mapping out a fitness plan, Nev also told me he was prescribing me regular sports massages.
At the time, I remember thinking how un-necessary that was. From training in the Army, the principal of pain and exhaustion as a by-product of progress was pretty deeply instilled. I didn’t need massage. I wasn’t weak. I was also, as it transpired, completely wrong. Because there is an absolute myriad of ways that massage directly improves subsequent training ability. It stretches muscles that can’t be stretched in usual methods (e.g. manipulating bundles of muscle fibres both lengthwise and sideways), including the fascia that surrounds muscle. It breaks down inflexible scar tissue from previous muscle trauma and improves tissue elasticity resulting from hard training. In fact, one of the main reasons that hard training can plateau is because tissues become totally inelastic, preventing improvement. So I started having monthly massages. And you should too. Here are the best places I’ve found…
Jodie @ Duo Chelsea – Jodie is a trained sports masseuse with qualifications in PT and physiotherapy, so she knows exactly how to relieve muscle tension and aid training. Massage at Duo is in a private therapy room at the back of the gym, so appointments are functional and genuinely a key part of regular PT sessions. Jodie guides you through the process so nothing is a shock, and she’ll work as hard as you want her too, and then a little bit harder after that. Since seeing Jodie, my flexibility and range of movement has increased immeasurably.
Aveda Institute – Massage is a really key part of any Aveda experience. Based on Ayurvedic principles, Aveda believe that their spas and salons should be a haven, transporting guests from the hustle of normal life to a more balanced, mindful state upon stepping in the door. So all treatments begin with some form of massage, even hair appointments. For the full shebang, though, it’s downstairs to the blissfully darkened and sleepily warm Spa. I’ve had two massages at the Institute, and both times I told my therapist to get involved with my knots. Which she duly did, clambering onto the bed with me in order to exert suitable pressure. The release I’ve felt at the hands of Aveda is completely parallel to none – they seem to know exactly where your tensions will be just by looking at you, and you come out feeling at least a couple of inches taller (every little counts when you’re 5’4.2. I know).
Kokolokahi @ Third Spa Canary Wharf – You can go as hard or as soft as you like with a bespoke massage with Sam. Before we got started, we covered all the usual questions of scent preference (I went with an uplifting citrus oil) and pressure (me: “if I don’t feel a bit of pain I get bored”). Then Sam commenced what I can only assume was an amazing workout for her, assessing the location of knots and tension before going to town on them. Sam’s previous client had been so zen’d she struggled to make it from massage bed to adjacent relaxation room. But I left feeling buoyant and ready for a workout. Which is what I mean when I say massages with Sam are totally bespoke and flexible to your immediate wants or needs.