How Massage And A Balanced Lifestyle Can Make You A Better Athlete

Massage therapists and owners of EPT Recovery share their tips and tricks for optimal recovery.

Aspen Henriksen |

MH sat down with the owners of EPT Recovery, therapists Francois Retief and Russell Looms. We got the inside scoop on what it means to be a well balanced individuals, as well as why balance is so important when it comes to recovery. “In South Africa, we are too brute and too brawn. We prioritise muscle, power and strength. Make no mistake, these things have their place, but recovery should be at the top of your game plan,” says Looms.

Related: How To Get The Most Out Of A Massage

How Does Massage Aid With Recovery?

“For those days when you feel physically heavy, more often than not it can be put down to blocked lymph. Lymph is a circulatory system and a flush can alleviate a lot of this discomfort,” says Looms. 

“This is either venous return (VR) which means blood is returning to the heart, or it is lymphatic drainage, and both of those are vital for performance. You know what it feels like when your tooth is sore or you’ve got a headache? Muscle is the same. And gentle rubbing helps bora receptors, pressure receptors and pain receptors alleviate that pain.”

And according to Looms, one has to look at their central nervous system, “One of the most important things we do is shift you from a sympathetic nervous state to a parasympathetic state,” he says.  “A sympathetic nervous state is quite an aggressive system, whilst a parasympathetic system is more relaxed.”

Retief adds that “massage is often about so much more than the physiological healing. The mental side is equally important. It [makes a difference] to hear the words ‘you’re okay’ at the end of a physically difficult challenge. The first thing you do as a massage therapist is calm your client down because, ultimately, your mind is the biggest healer.”


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EPTrecovery therapist doing his magic to prepare athletes for the grueling 36one! #deepheat #compex

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Related: The Best Recovery Fuel Plus 8 Other Food Truths From Bertus Basson

What Should I Do If I Can’t Afford To Get A Massage?

If you just don’t have the time or you can’t afford a regular massage, there are plenty alternatives that play a big role in recovering effectively. Russell and Francois emphasise the importance of not over training. They advise that you “hydrate adequately, look at your mileage, work within your heart rate zones, listen to your body, and keep an eye on your rate of perceived exertion (RPE)”.

Sleep is also an essential part of sports recovery. REM sleep allows the body to repair memory and release hormones which is an important part of athletic performance. In addition, hormones are replenished during sleep, so a poor sleeping pattern will result in a poor performance.

“As much as people love having massages, using foam rollers, electro muscle stimulation (EMS) or lymphatic boots, if you’re not sleeping and you’re not recovering consistently you are not going to perform to your best ability,” Russell shared.

When it comes to machines such as massage guns, Looms and Retief are of the opinion that “not much replaces hands. A thorough treatment beats any machine. A machine is more point specific, whilst hands have a flowing and immediately healing feeling.”

With Russel adding that “technology has its place. But my advice? Everything in moderation.” 

Related: How To Fix The Four Biggest Sleep Disorders

And with regards to recovery, not only is it important to find a balance in your training, but in your diet, too. “If you put a nice piece of wood on a fire, look how it burns, but if you put a piece of polystyrene on a fire, look how it burns. If you are eating nonsense, you are going to perform like nonsense,” says Retief.

Owners of EPT Recovery, Russel Looms (left) and Francois Retief (right)

EPT Recovery is based in Stellenbosch, however, they have a national footprint. with 240 massage therapists operating across the country. Contact them at or on their website, EPT Recovery

READ MORE ON: advice balance massage muscle recovery recovery sleep

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