The first words you see when you land on Susan Findlay’s website are ‘be passionate, be the best’ -two things this expert has no shortage of. As we sit down to chat about Susan’s amazing career, her enthusiasm for sports massage was infectious. From her book, her years teaching and her involvement in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics games, Susan proves that with great passion comes great success. What was supposed to be a ten minute interview quickly became a twenty minute chat about athletes, injuries and her advice for those hoping to follow in her healing handprints. Ever dreamt of training again and following your dreams? Here’s someone who did just that.
So Susan, have you always been interested in sports massage?
Actually no, I started off as a nurse and my passion was to help people live a healthier life, but I found in nursing this wasn’t being fulfilled in a way I felt was successful. I was looking for something that was more satisfying, so I went into health and fitness, eventually my body started to give out teaching 20 classes plus a week so I wanted to incorporate both my medical background and fitness into one; hence I trained in sports massage.
Do you think your nursing background gave you an advantage when you came to sports massage?
No, not really – they are so very different, but it did help me with getting my head around the language of anatomy. Generally though, if you are in an unrelated field and want to get into sports massage, it doesn’t matter, you are still going to get there. It can sometimes be easier to understand the language if you’ve got a medical background, but it is by no means essential.
When did you decide to start teaching your skill?
Well I never really decided, somebody approached me to come and teach and then it just sort of happened. I was only in the industry for a couple of years when I was asked to teach, and then it developed from there.
In your experience, what is the hardest thing for a beginner to get their head around?
I think a big problem is sometimes people get the skill, but they don’t know how to get out there and market themselves. You can have great hands, but you might need some help with making connections. My biggest tip is to network, at every opportunity express your passion for what you do without selling. It’s important to remember your hands are an amazing tool and will be your best form of advertisement.
Can you tell us a bit about your involvement with the Olympics – this sounds amazing!
It was! Well again I was approached to come in and interview potential volunteers for sports massage therapists in the Poly Clinic, because of my understanding of the many qualifications within the industry. It was my job to determine whether or not they had the right skills to work with elite athletes. I wasn’t actually intending to volunteer thereafter, but they needed some people in supervisory roles, so I did an initial ten days at the Olympics. I loved it so much that I ended up doing ten more days for the Paralympics which was absolutely amazing.
Why is massage so important to elite athletes?
If someone has regular massage, you can stay on top of most conditions that could potentially be a problem, one of our roles is injury prevention as well as rehabilitation. With regular treatment, an athlete has a better chance of reaching their optimum goal. Sports massage is also not just for athletes but it also addresses soft tissue injuries that the regular guy on the street gets through every day activity. To me an injury is an injury; I approach it in the same manner whether I am working with an athlete or on my mum’s best friend.
What are the most common injuries you treat?
Things like strains and sprains are very typical. Overuse and muscle imbalances are also common problems – the client often isn’t aware that they are spending too much time training one area and not enough in another, with touch they gain a greater awareness of what is working well and what is not.
Do you think anyone can be a sports massage therapist or do you think you need a certain set of skills?
I think anybody can be a sports massage therapist, but whether or not they have a successful business depends on their personality and their ability to empathise. They need to be able to wear a number of caps; things like being a great detective, a problem solver, a teacher. Also something that makes an excellent therapist is the ability to respond to tissue, to feel and allow the tissue to direct you rather than approaching a patient with a preconceived idea.
What made you decide to publish your book?
When I was first asked to write the book, I thought, oh this could be a problem as writing is not a natural talent, but I was told to write the way I teach and speak, I thought well that made sense and I have been writing ever since. The books main focus is on how you can do deep work and still be sensitive. It focuses on the mechanics of how you can work in ease and still apply the required power without harming yourself.
Did this also inspire your ‘Massage Mondays’?
Yes! These are freebie videos for people. They’re only around two to four minutes long, but I wanted to share with therapists how they can work so that they’re more effective, but also to share some creative ideas.
Finally then, what advice would you give someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?
The biggest thing that has propelled me in my career is to stay curious. Even though I’ve been in the industry for twenty years, I’m still doing a minimum of 100 hours of CPD a year. I take courses all the time, I’m constantly reading, I’m trying new things, just reinventing what I do so that I’m responsive to all my clients. With sports massage there’s no one size fits all – human beings vary so much, size, body types, skills, attitudes and this influences what you do. So as you know my motto is ‘be passionate, be the best’.
Thank you so much Susan, this has been great!
If you are ready to turn your hand to sports massage, why not take a look at the courses listed on the site? With plenty of options available, we’re sure you’ll find the one to suit you.