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Massage Today
November, 2009, Vol. 9, Issue 11

Manageable Fitness Solutions

By Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT

A lot has changed in the world of massage therapy since I first started practicing more than 25 years ago. While massage has been used for healing in East Asia for a long time, our attitude towards it in the U.S. has evolved from a practice that simply feels good, into a necessary part of professional sports, and a respected form of alternative healing.

This shift has placed greater demands on massage therapists, often leaving us little time to take care of ourselves. Between seeing clients, presenting at conferences and teaching classes all around the world, sometimes I can barely keep track of what time zone I am in. More and more often, I must remind myself that when the time comes, I will choose to retire. I will not be forced to retire simply because I am worn out. In this hectic world, it is crucial to find a little time to stretch out and take a break.

I have found that as well as it being necessary to take time out for relaxing, recreation and fun, it is also essential to be diligent in daily exercising and stretching while at work. The most manageable solutions and excellent choices for exercising during the working day or working travel are using hand weights, resistance bands and stretching. I make time to stretch between each client appointment, focusing on a different muscle group each time. If there are only one or two breaks during the day, I focus on my upper body and back first, and then the lower body. At the end of the day, always allow yourself a significant amount of time to stretch out your entire body.

To help maintain upper body strength, consider keeping a set of hand weights at your office. Using light weights will keep the focus on building strength instead of muscle mass, and your routine should consist of higher repetitions (10-12) and more sets (2-3). Lunges and squats are good choices for building your lower body strength at work. However, be sure to protect your knees when doing these. This means making sure your knees do not extend past your big toe when you bend down for both a squat and a lunge. To perform a proper squat, from a standing position, imagine you are lowering your rear end onto the edge of a seat, then return to an upright position. Keep your upper body as upright as possible while doing this. Both legs should form a 90-degree angle when performing lunges properly, and the rear knee should not touch the floor. Again, be sure to keep the front knee from extending past the big toe.

One of my favorite exercise aids is resistance bands. They are versatile in that they help strengthen and stretch, and they can be used for both the upper and lower body. They are so portable that I use them during conferences or layovers to get the blood flowing in my legs and lower back. Bands are available in different resistance levels, which makes it easy to find one that is compatible to your level of strength. Research has shown that training with resistance bands improves balance, and balance - physical and emotional - is an essential part of being an effective massage therapist. By spending a little quality time on yourself now, you are providing for a longer and healthier career down the road.

Click here for more information about Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT.


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