Sports massage isn't just for fitness fanatics. Take your niggles along to Kate Airey to find out, say Jenny Needham

Kate Airey is one tough woman. After giving up riding, she took up triathlons and, alongside her equally fit husband, completed the Ironman Switzerland, a gruelling race in the stunning countryside around Zurich. Then her two children came along, and with them the realisation that the time she had spent training would be severely curtailed. There were upsides, though.

"This was when I really started to appreciate my health and fitness," says the 31-year-old from Melsonby. "I learnt to be more in-tune with my body, that mental and physical health went hand-in-hand. I learnt how to balance my lifestyle to have the best of both worlds - health and fitness and quality time with my family." She practises Pilates and loves running across the North Yorkshire and County Durham countryside with her dog Roo. "I feel stronger than ever," she says.

Now Kate has turned from clinician and sports rehabilitation expert to teacher. She runs Pilates classes in the region, including in the beautiful Old Forge Barn on the Middleton Lodge estate at Middleton Tyas.

"I offer general classes, prenatal and postnatal Pilates, and personal/small group training," she says. "My sessions teach people how to become more mindful about posture and movement. We work on a series of strengthen, stretch, release and mobilise exercises to create balance through the body. This way of training creates great foundations for a strong and more capable body. If I can help people move more, and move more efficiently, then this a great achievement."

Pilates is an excellent exercise for mobilising muscles and joints, for those of us tied to a desk all day, or with a sedentary lifestyle. But if your neck and shoulder muscles are already tied in knots, Kate can help there too, having just introduced sports massage therapies to The Treatment Rooms at Middleton Lodge.

"They're not just for fitness fanatics," says Kate. “That couldn’t be further from the truth – a sports massage really does have benefits for everyone. The treatments I will be offering at Middleton Lodge are finely tailored to embrace the specific needs of each individual client. As a clinician, I will advise each client and provide a home exercise plan that works alongside the massage to make sure they get optimum results.”

It might have been a long time since you kicked a football or picked up a tennis racket, says Kate, but that doesn’t mean a regular sports massage won't have some significant benefits for your body. Regular massage can improve mind and body awareness and reduce certain pains related to postural imbalance, such as tension headaches and lower back pain.

The Northern Echo: Kate Airey

“Sports massage can significantly reduce muscle tension, improve flexibility, and reduce stress levels and mood," she adds. "Throughout our lives we often pick up bad habits in our posture and movement. This can be from driving, office-based work, lack of movement and, of course, those inevitable effects of ageing. If you can relate to any of these, sports massage could be an incredible addition to your life.”

Every massage is tailored to each client’s tolerance, and areas of tenderness are treated with soft tissue techniques.

Kate's background is in sports rehabilitation. After qualifying, she worked in a private sports injuries clinic and for Manchester United Foundation Squads, before working with a GPs' surgery in the North-West to improve people's health through nutrition, exercise and healthy lifestyle. She and husband Mark, whose background is also in sports rehabilitation, moved to the region when he was offered a job working for Help for Heroes at Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick, helping wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans rebuild their lives through sport.

"As a family we try to live a healthy lifestyle," says Kate. "We very much base ourselves on the 80:20 rule – 80 per cent good, 20 per cent treat ourselves – which keeps it sustainable. We teach the boys about eating the rainbow – lots of natural colourful foods – to get all of the nutrients they need to be healthy. We live off four very simple rules:

1 Eat everything as close to its natural form as possible, ditch the processed food;

2 If it's grown from the ground, that's a big thumbs-up

3 If it's an animal or has come from an animal, great – just ensure it's had a good life

4 If your grandma would recognise it as food, then you are good to go!

To book a sports massage, available on Tuesdays, or to inquire about Pilates or yoga classes, call 01325-377977 or email



When you sit at a computer all day, "tech neck" is an occupational hazard. If you are sitting in one position for hours on end, there's no wonder your back and neck suffer. That's where all the tightness goes, those painful knots of rock hard tension that inhabit the neck and shoulder areas in particular. Muscle knots can form in your neck as a result of tension or inflammation; your neck may feel tight and difficult to move. In most cases, knots aren't a cause for major concern, though they can cause you a considerable amount of discomfort

Mine were rock solid and needed attention. A simple exercise at my yoga class, where we were asked to roll our heads from side to side, sounded as though someone was walking through Rice Crispies in my head. It was painful, too.

Kate asked me to take off my T-shirt so she could look at my posture; that's often part of the problem. There followed 40 minutes of manipulating, kneading and grinding my locked muscles into submission. This isn't a relaxation massage, but a series of pressure techniques, which allow the therapist to concentrate on your specific problem areas to give focused relief.

And it worked. After just one session, I could turn my head from side to side without hearing crunching noises, and look over my shoulder without pain.

Given my job, the pain and stiffness will probably be back though, and Kate also reminded me that there are simple exercises that you can do at your desk to help prevent the knots returning. I'll be following her advice...