Massage in the athletic realm is getting a lot of press these days. Big name athletes are coming forward to state the importance of massage in their training regimens.Seattle Seahawks’s player Russell Wilson received both flack and admiration after his admission to getting five two-hour massages every week during training season. I say, more power to him! Personally, I would love to receive ten hours of massage a week!
Similarly, my most recent issue of Massage & bodywork Magazine shows a burly NFL football player on the cover, with the accompanying article titled “Razor’s Edge — Achieving Peak Performance through Sports Massage.” You can click this link to read that article (P. 53), and another titled “The Evolution of Sports Massage” (P. 62) if you are interested to see how sports massage is infiltrating the world of athletics.
As a massage therapist and athlete, I think this publicity is great! Emphasizing the role of massage in professional sports helps focus attention on the importance of massage for athletes of all types. You certainly don’t have to be a professional or olympic athlete to benefit from massage! The benefits of massage for athletes are well-documented, and multitudes of articles detailing such benefits can be found through a quick internet search. Here are links to two articles on the subject if you are interested…Massage Therapy for Those Who Exercise and The Benefits of Massage for Athletes.
All this has me thinking about why I Love Massaging Athletes. When I say athlete, I am referring to anyone who participates regularly in some type of sport or physical activity. While I have had the privilege of working with a handful of paid athletes (bikers, runners, and mountaineers), most of the athletes I work with do it just for fun or as part of a passion for being active and physically fit. I have to say I thoroughly enjoy working with athletes of all types, from weekend warriors to skilled performers. Here’s Why…
Seven Reasons I Love Working with Athletes:
- They have a keen understanding of their bodies. Generally speaking, most athletes have excellent body awareness. They are able to communicate effectively their bodily issues and concerns, and how they would like massage to help them achieve their fitness pursuits. They often have a good idea of what strategies work best to relieve whatever physical symptoms they are experiencing, and how to best facilitate the process. During massage, this awareness and communication helps me to pinpoint and specifically target my work to ensure that the client’s goals for the session are met.
- They care for their bodies like well-tuned machinery. Like any piece of valuable equipment, our bodies are best maintained with regular maintenance. Most athletes understand this concept very well. They realize that they need to regularly fuel, pamper, and check in with their bodies to make sure they are running and performing as well as possible. They understand the importance of balance in the areas of proper nutrition, rest, and training. They tend to value regular massage as an essential part of their optimum training program. I am thankful when anyone receives regular massage, athlete or not, as this makes my job easier and more fun. With regular massage, the body “learns” how to respond more quickly and readily, and the process goes smoothly.
- They are able to endure and breathe through “beneficial discomfort” on the table. Most athletes, particularly endurance athletes of any sort, appreciate that sometimes discomfort is necessary to get a desired result. While I am not a huge advocate of “no pain, no gain”, I AM an advocate of client’s understanding that sometimes discomfort during massage IS beneficial and even optimum for best results. I am referring to the “hurts so good kind”, where muscles can let go and release after the initial intensity passes. I have found that athletes get this, can breath into and through this process, and together we are able to achieve great results.
- I do like working with long, sinewy, well-defined muscles. I have always been drawn to working with athletes, in part because of their keen muscle definition. It’s like a live anatomy lesson, right there on the table! Even in massage school I enjoyed working on legs, and my deep tissue instructor told me I should open a clinic called “Legs by Kathie”. I enjoy teasing out the tightness between muscle compartments, and it brings me great pleasure to facilitate a release that I know can help an athlete resume his or her regular training schedule.
- I like to use my body to help heal yours. Let’s face it, massaging athletes can be a challenging endeavor. Since I am a physically oriented person, I find immense satisfaction in using my body to help facilitate healing for my client’s bodies. It adds another layer to the “hands heal” adage of massage. The intense physicality sometimes required during massage with athletes seems to perpetuate the healing process…perhaps for both of us.
- I can relate! I have done athletics of some sort my entire life. I am very physically oriented. I have also experienced an enormous amount of obstacles, setbacks, and necessary alterations in my pursuits. As a result, I understand the athletic mindset in full. I get the frustration and challenges associated with pain and injury. I understand completely the desire to be in the game, stay in the game, and get back into the game following an injury or illness. Whatever your game is, be rest assured that as your massage therapist, I will work with you as best I can to help you be there participating to your heart’s content!
- I am inspired by and get to live vicariously through my athletic clients. I have always respected great athletes. As youngsters, my sister and I would watch olympic gymnasts, ice skaters, and divers with awe and amazement. We were astounded at the ways they twisted, turned, and threw their bodies around with agility, power, and grace. I still love to watch elite athletes do their thing. As I have aged, though, I have come to appreciate athletes of all types and calibers, especially those who stay with it well into “older age”. I have one 73 year old client, who not only doesn’t look a day over 60, he also rides his bike 26 miles to his job in Ferndale four days a week and runs regularly. I am incredibly inspired by him, as I similarly am by all my “athletic” clients– young, old, serious, and recreational. While I cannot do all of the things I would like to do athletically at this time, I DO get to live vicariously through my clients, as they run, bike, and perform athletically at levels that continue to astound me.
To clarify, let me say that, regardless of a client’s athleticism, it’s deeply satisfying to be able to help someone return to or stay in the activity of their choice. There is nothing that means more to me than helping others be able to do the things in their life that they so enjoy. Sometimes this is athletics, and sometimes it’s some other more subtle type of movement related activity. Whatever you love to do, I look forward to helping you stay loose and free to participate in the desired activities of your life.