Talking Life & Sports Massage
with Award Winning Health & Fitness Tutor, Matt Brown
Sports Massage can be a mystery to many, but it’s a part of lots of people’s lives in a variety of ways. To get a real insight, I’ll be speaking to the professionals and everyday people who use and need it. This is the first of a series of interviews I have planned with local experts, business people, amateur and professional sports people, covering all things life, health and sports massage.
To start things off, I managed to pin down Matt Brown, award winning health & fitness tutor, lecturer, and one of my own mentors. We spoke about his work, life and thoughts on health and massage. He has a few wise words below.
"Teaching is hard work, but if you enjoy the experience of empowering others,
there is nothing better"
What is it you do now?
I am a fitness educator, I train people to work in the fitness and health industry. In the last 12 years I reckon I have trained in the region of 6000 people in fitness, health and massage qualifications.
So how did you get into sport & fitness in the first place, then later massage and teaching?
After a few years in business I wanted to get back to my passion and did my Premier Diploma in Personal Training and Sports Massage. I then spent the next few years practicing fitness and massage before coming back to Premier to teach.
Did you always want to work in the fitness industry? If not, what else were you interested in?
One of my greatest strengths and weaknesses is that I am interested in pretty much anything. Whenever I meet someone or hear about a job, I am interested in how it works and how it relates with other roles in society. I trained as a PE teacher at University, but then worked for a few years in Marketing at one point trying to launch a new form of global electronic cash.
Can you describe some good or bad experiences from your time before teaching?
There are no bad experiences, just opportunities to learn.
That’s a nice teacher’s answer! So what's it like teaching?
Teaching is hard work, but if you enjoy the experience of empowering others there is nothing better. Students come from a variety of backgrounds and different knowledge levels. For me the only thing that is important is how students feel about learning. Confidence and emotional safety is essential to enable students to focus on learning. Results come from creating the right experience and environment. I learn loads from my students too, who bring with them an eclectic mix of experiences.
What do you do outside of teaching, do you still do a lot or watch a lot of sport?
Not as much as I like, I tend to be working or get roped into something else when its on. I love all sports though still and took 2 weeks off to binge watch the Olympics.
What do you still want to do work-wise?
More of the same really, I feel passionately that people should be able to learn in a fun and accessible way and I would like to help more tutors develop the skills to do this. On the massage side, if I was practicing full time it would be great to go to some major championships.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in the fitness industry at the moment, and for sports massage?
I tend to focus on what I can change / influence rather than too much big picture stuff, but I would like to see fitness become much better at engaging those that are currently inactive and have no associations with activity and fitness etc. We need to be empathetic and more accepting of peoples own change journeys.
"So many injuries and conditions are avoidable
if we just kept track of movement and joint ranges from childhood."
Moving on to sports massage then, what specific work have you done, with teams or privately?
I have had a private clinic in North London and also did 2 years with Barnet Ladies FC at a time when women’s football was really growing. It was a really good experience and I was also asked to work with the Middlesex team. I have also worked with Netball and Athletics, as well as all the interesting cases that walk into clinic.
What do you see as the real value of sports massage therapy?
Put simply, it just helps you move better and that is not to be underestimated.
What's the best resource you've found for sports massage?
Hmmm, tough one. There is a lot of information around at the moment, but I actually believe that people are better off focusing on mastering the basics and realising you don’t have to find as many techniques as possible, just the ones that work for you. I sometimes use YouTube, there are loads of good apps now... anything that improves your understanding of functional anatomy.
So what's your favourite massage move and why?
I am great fan of basic effleurage and petrissage, but a good soft tissue release can feel really effective on those tighter areas.
"If education is preparing you for life, fulfillment and happiness,
being able to maintain good movement could go a long way."
What do you see as the future of massage, movement therapy and biomechanics?
I don’t think it will happen but I would love to see more healthy movement integrated into the school curriculum. So many injuries and conditions are avoidable if we just kept track of movement and joint ranges from childhood. If education is preparing you for life, fulfillment and happiness, being able to maintain good movement could go a long way.
What's the best advice you've been given, related to sports massage or not?
If you make no mistakes, you make nothing. I found that very liberating. I grew up avoiding situations where I may get things wrong and this makes the point that you have to put yourself in situations where you might in order to grow. Mistakes are an inherent part of action and the more things you do, the more you will get right and the more you will get wrong. Applies equally to massage as other things.
What is the favourite thing you've done, or way that you've helped someone?
I love making something complicated feel simple; it’s what I try my hardest to do.
What advice would you give to those starting in sport, or those who work in desk jobs to help avoid injury?
I have changed my view on this a lot over the years but my current view is that most extrinsic injuries are caused by tight calves and not getting into a deep squat position regularly – this would have been essential in natural world and tends to be neglected.
Who do you think benefits most from sports massage?
It’s difficult to see how anyone wouldn’t benefit. It’s great for tight muscles, postural stress and just feeling good.
And lastly, what advice do you have for those looking to work in sports massage?
Just start – do a course, get a couch and get out there!