Health & Grooming

The sports massage

The masseur goes to work, starting by karate-chopping Heston’s neck muscles to mincemeat.

September 11 2009
Neil McLennan

It’d be a brave man who dared manipulate Heston Carruthers. As head of M&A for a leading player in the private equity scene, there’s not a lot of room for movement anywhere in his business life. A career built on 16-hour days, back-to-back long-haul flights and deskbound conference calls has left Heston with a body that isn’t so much a temple as a bordello. With frozen shoulders, a dicky back and creaking hips, he needs to put his house in order. Starting with a good rub down.

Unfortunately, Heston is a little fussy about who lays their hands on him and how they go about it. Years of five-star treatment have taught him that it takes more than a bit of light effleurage to render him putty in a practitioner’s hands. As a man who applies his moisturiser with more vigour than the effort some masseurs put in, Heston demands plenty of pummel for his pound. And no aromatic oils – nothing that leaves him greased and trussed like the Sunday joint, ready for a good roasting. Luckily, Banters of Bishopsgate have just the man…

Leon has just taken up residence at the City’s premier health club, offering sports massages and injury rehab to an exclusive clientele. His credentials are impeccable: with several seasons as physio-in-residence to superclubs ranging from the Wildcats to the Waratahs, Leon has coerced his fair share of pulled ligaments back to match strength (and made many a prop forward cry while at it). Brisk and burly, Leon doesn’t do preamble. So there’s no time wasted discussing Heston’s day, checking that he’s warm enough, or enquiring how much pressure he likes. Instead, Leon simply orders Heston to “strip off and hop up on the table”. For once, Heston is going to take what he’s given.

Frankly, he could have done with a bit more of a steer on the “strip off” request. Despite having been worked over from Berlin to Bangkok, Heston has never quite known the answer to the great pants-on-or-off poser. Which has only led to abject humiliation, particularly during an experimental reflexology session at the Mandarin Oriental. Having swapped his Paul Smith three-piece for his birthday suit, Heston was mortified when all he got rubbed was his feet. He’s kept his boxers (and his socks) on ever since. Besides, he’s confident that Leon’s hands won’t need to delve anywhere between lower navel and upper thigh.

As soon as Heston hauls himself onto the massage table, Leon goes to work, starting by karate-chopping Heston’s neck muscles to mincemeat. As they scream for mercy, Heston bites into the massage table when Leon starts kneading, pounding, pummelling, twisting and grinding Heston’s doughy body. It’s so hard that Heston isn’t sure if Leon’s making bread or tenderising steak. Either way, Heston’s body is not giving in without putting up a fight. Leon’s iron thumbs are in charge, though, carving tracks through toughened sinew, power-drilling stress knots to marshmallow and grinding each vertebra till it surrenders. Heston’s in agony. And he’s loving it.

“Everything all right?” Leon checks, as he starts working to the kind of bongo beat that literally takes Heston’s breath away. As he desperately tries to inhale, Heston only manages to emit a weak gasp, which Leon takes as an affirmative, and proceeds to drive the heels of his hands into the small of Heston’s lower back. At least Heston hopes it’s his hands. For all he knows, Leon could have climbed on board.

Soon, Leon’s gone about as far down Heston’s spine as he can before his fingers come up against an obstruction. Heston’s pants. Heston feels a blush rush straight to his coccyx. Not that Leon’s dextrous digits are fazed. With one deft stroke, Leon hooks thumb under elastic, whips down the offending boxers and drives his elbows straight into the heart of Heston’s glutei maximi. Heston had no idea he was so tight in that area.

Not that Leon is in the mood to show his muscles any mercy. Half an hour later, Heston has had his quads tenderised, his tendons elasticised, and the rope of knots that stud his spine unravelled. But somehow, though he’s got what he came for, Heston doesn’t feel so much manipulated as beaten into submission. As he slips back into his Savile Row, his business brain tells him he really should pop back to the office and work on that cross-sector buyout. Instead, he hobbles home. And runs himself a nice hot bubble bath.

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