Some towns across the U.S. are fortunate enough to claim one, maybe two, elite athletes as their hometown heroes.
Not Boulder, Colorado.
This city located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is the home or former home of many high-level competitors, a few of whom have earned their way to the top slots in their sports of choice.
Boulder Massage Therapy: A City of Athletes
Take Emma Coburn, for instance. A track and field superstar who competes in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, this two-time Olympian was born in Boulder and later graduated from the University of Colorado, where she earned a major in marketing.
Then there’s Darcy Piceu, the runner responsible for setting the women’s supported fastest known time on the John Muir Trail. Piceu, who is also from Boulder, covered 222 miles in just 3 days, 7 hours, and 57 minutes in September of 2017.
The list goes on and on, which makes this geographical region full of opportunities for massage therapists who are interested in providing services to some of Boulder’s most athletic-minded individuals. This is exactly what David Abookire, LMT, CMT, RMT, does at his massage therapy practice.
Treating Boulder Athletes
A sports injury specialist, Abookire is the owner and director of therapies for Boulder Therapeutics, Inc., a sports massage and injury rehab treatment center with three Boulder-area locations.
“Boulder is an extremely athletic town,” Abookire said, adding that the athletes he sees most often include runners, cyclists and triathletes.
Abookire and his team do see team sport athletes as well, such as those who play soccer or hockey. They’ve also treated players from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Athletes and Massage
“Usually athletes need recovery massage after an event, game, [or] match,” Abookire said, “or maintenance massage to help them train harder or work out tightness. We customize every session so our massage techniques vary from therapeutic deep tissue sports massage, effleurage, pettrissage, trigger point therapy, myofascial release, and neuromuscular therapy.”
Research published in the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy reports that these types of therapy can provide many different benefits for individuals who live active lifestyles.
For instance, one study discussed in this research found that massage can help reduce blood pressure, an effect that can help with “pre-game anxiety or stress,” both of which can potentially increase injury risk or, at a minimum, inhibit performance.
Another study reviewed in this research discovered that massage can provide “significant short-term changes in hamstring flexibility.” This can be extremely beneficial with sports such as running, as Runner’s World shares that “hamstring difficulties are common among runners, with strains, ‘pulls,’ tendinitis and tears [as] the most common maladies.”
Abookire indicates that he also offers other services that can help athletes get and stay in top physical form.
“We offer stretching programs, injury rehabilitation treatments, deep tissue massage, and sports massage,” Abookire said. “Since we blend our techniques, we don’t offer separate services for neuromuscular therapy or myofascial release, etc. We simply blend those into our treatments.”
If the athlete is struggling with scar tissue or fascia restrictions, Abookire’s team will sometimes use IASTM (instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization) tools. One article published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation shares that IASTM helps athletes by decreasing pain, improving range of motion, and increasing soft tissue function in affected areas.
Advice for Massage Therapists
For massage therapists who want to do more work with athletes, Abookire suggested taking a continuing education class specifically focused on sports massage, preferably one that is in-person.
Additionally, “if you don’t have experience working with athletes, see if you can get involved working a local race,” Abookire said. Though you may have to volunteer at first, this can provide invaluable experience.
Another option is to get out there and get more physically active yourself. “While it’s not necessary to be an athlete, it does help to know what it’s like to train hard and be in need of bodywork,” Abookire said. “It also gives some credibility to your work.”
And once you’re trained in how to best treat your athletic clients and promote your services, Abookire suggests that you talk to local sports stores, shops, and running or cycling clubs. “Offer a big discount for your sports massage to incentivize athletes to try your work,” he said.
Just as it is important to know what actions you can take to best help your sports and activity-loving clients, it’s just as critical to know what not to do when treating them.
“A common mistake is working too deeply before a big training event or race,” Abookire said.
To avoid this, he suggests that massage therapists always talk to their athletes about their training schedules so you’re able to provide sports massage treatments at the appropriate time. Find out “what they’re doing later the same day and even the next day, so you can adjust your session accordingly,” Abookire said.
This helps you create a plan that won’t interfere with their training sessions and provides them the services when they can help most.
Being a top-notch massage therapist includes looking after the whole athlete.
“Sometimes athletes are dehydrated from their rigorous training schedule, so remind them to drink fluids and rest after your appointment,” Abookire added. “Also, if an athlete has a big event coming up, remember that they may be nervous. Be cautious not to point out too many ‘problems’ to them that may stick with them during their event and affect their mental state.”
Serving your athletic clients effectively involves talking with them. “Remember that you’re a medical professional and part of your job is to have open communication with your athlete,” Abookire said.
This includes referring them out if necessary, something you can do more easily if you build a network of medical professionals who provide services or modalities you don’t offer.
“Get involved with their training programs,” Abookire said, “and support them any way you can.”
Christina DeBusk is a freelance writer dedicated to providing readers relevant, research-backed content related to health and wellness, personal development, safety, and small business ownership.