The White House Athletic Center, like any gym, is a place where people exercise, de-stress and socialize—and, also like most gyms, the White House Athletic Center makes massage therapy sessions available to its members.
The way in which this gym is not like most gyms is the clientele who frequent it: The White House Athletic Center is dedicated to supporting the health and physical fitness of federal employees, including those working in the Executive Office of the President of the United States.
Massage therapist Antoine Chevalier, L.M.T., M.P.P., H.K., N.D. cand., has provided massage at the White House Athletic Center since 2001. He spoke with MASSAGE Magazine about the people he works on; the power of incorporating advanced techniques into his sessions; and about being a native Frenchman who massages the most dedicated public servants in the U.S.
Although Chevalier has massaged his way through two presidential staffs over the course of 16 years, he has yet to work on a president—instead, the positions held by White House Athletic Center members include those within the Council of Economic Advisers, National Security Council, the Office of the First Lady, the Office of Urban Affairs and many others.
“These are hardworking, over-stressed, and dedicated people who need the benefits of massage,” he said.
“It is one of the most stressful environments in the world,” said Chevalier. “I do work in other places, but [the White House Athletic Center] is the most stressful place that I’ve worked.”
“[My clients] work very hard and are very dedicated public servants,” he added. “They could easily make three to four times more in the private sector, but stay where they are because they love their country.”
His clients pay out-of-pocket for their massage sessions.
Once a client is on his table, Chevalier does five minutes of manual therapy and then 40 or 45 minutes of MPS Therapy. He follows that up with reiki or osteopathic manipulation.
Having taken continuing education classes in Erik Dalton’s Myoskeletal Alignment Technique, CranioSacral Therapy, structural integration, osteopathic manipulation, myofascial release and James Waslaski’s medical massage, Chevalier is a proponent of advanced training for massage therapists.
When he discovered MPS Therapy, he felt he’d landed on what he calls “the wave of the future for the massage therapy profession.” (Disclosure: Chevalier is a paid instructor for MPS Therapy Education.)
MPS therapy is an FDA-approved technology that combines principles of neurology, acupuncture and microcurrent stimulation.
Although MPS has not been within all massage therapists’ scope of practice, with some states excluding it, now some MPS technology is sold over the counter, and may be used on massage clients after therapists complete a continuing education course.
According to Chevalier, this technology has revolutionized what he is able to do for massage clients.
“I very quickly took on further research and investigation of this modality and blended MPS with my manual therapy skills, and had amazing outcomes,” he said. “Massage therapy and MPS are being recognized as a valid form of therapy at the highest level.”
Chevalier said he teaches MPS classes at Joint Base Andrews, a U.S. Air Force base in Maryland. “They gave me the worst cases—[post traumatic stress disorder] in Marines, active duty personnel with lower back pain, concussion—and I was able to fix everything, in front of them,” he said.
He also runs a private practice, Natural Health DC, LLC, which schedules appointments around the Washington D.C. area and New York, New York. He is working on his second PhD., this time in naturopathy.
The U.S. by Way of France
When he speaks publically, there’s a joke Chevalier likes to tell: “I don’t eat meat, cheese or bread, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke and I don’t believe in extramarital affairs—so they kicked me out of France!” he said with a laugh. “That’s the joke I crack, because people wonder, ‘What’s a crazy French guy doing in the White House [Athletic Center] fixing people there?’”
Chevalier’s path to the epicenter of U.S. politics was a circuitous one.
He holds a Ph.D. in international development, from the Sorbonne University in Paris. He moved to Zimbabwe to work for three years, but felt disillusioned in his career. He and a colleague decided to create their own business, and she lived in Washington DC—so it made sense for him to move there.
He was already a reiki master teacher and wanted to practice that craft, but to do so, had to become trained in either ministry or massage.
“I decided to learn the physical body, and took the massage course,” Chevalier recalled.
He enrolled in the Virginia Learning Institute, in Falls Church, graduating in 2000. (The school is no longer in business.)
The next year, he landed the job at the White House Athletic Center, which is a short, 0.4-mile walk from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Chevalier is adamant about the health benefits of massage, and is clear that what he offers at the gym is more of a medical service than just relaxation massage—although he acknowledges the relaxing betterment achieved by any therapeutic touch.
A New Administration
After 16 years massaging White House staffers, Chevalier was finally invited into the White House last December, where he provided seated massage-and-MPS sessions in the East Wing at a holiday reception.
Chevalier works as a contractor, and so his employment at the White House Athletic Center is not dependent on any particular White House administration. To date, he has massaged staffers for George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He is now a U.S. citizen, and come Jan. 20, barring any unforeseen circumstances, he will massage Donald J. Trump’s staff members.
But for Chevalier, the massage session isn’t about politics—it’s about relieving, pain, anxiety and tension, just as any massage therapist would strive to do.
About the Author:
Karen Menehan is MASSAGE Magazine’s editor in chief. Her articles include “Body Image: Massage Creates Healthy Self-Connection,” “Massage Therapist Appointed to NCCIH Advisory Council” and “Marijuana & Massage: Are CBD Pain-Relief Products Caught Up in New DEA Rule?”