On April 18, a Las Vegas, Nevada, massage therapist, David J. Otto, L.M.T., B.C.T.M.B., will run in the Boston Marathon to help raise money for the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF), an organization that funds formal research into the effects and benefits of massage therapy.
Otto, 46, has volunteered for the MTF for several years, and also serves as a volunteer for the American Massage Therapy Association. He graduated from the Utah College of Massage Therapy in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2001, and runs a private massage practice, Hands In Motion.
In this exclusive interview with MASSAGE Magazine, Otto discusses his passion for massage therapy, his training regimen leading up to the marathon in April—and why massage therapy research is such an important cause to support. (Editor’s note: An abbreviated version of this interview appears in the “Best Practices” section of the February 2016 print edition of MASSAGE Magazine.)
When and how did you decide massage therapy was the right career for you?
A: I had my first professional massage at Disney World in 1998. After mastering most of the middle-management positions in employment until that time, I felt like massage therapy was a field that would take time and caring in order to master: a professionally satisfying attempt to better myself as well as help others.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a massage therapist?
A: Holding the trust of a client has to be the most rewarding aspect; all that other stuff—technique, customer service, business sense—can be learned. Achieving an implicit connection and confidence with a client is the most difficult life skill to master. When—with and without touching a client—I demonstrate I can assist, in a positive way, [a client’s] body’s perception of space and time, as to navigate more fluidly and with less pain, that is an aspect I consider very rewarding.
How did your participation in the 2016 Boston Marathon come about?
A: I have been volunteering for the Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF) since just before they started participating in the John Hancock Non-Profit Marathon program in 2013 and have kept up with its progress; 2016 is the first time I applied to participate. I am so passionate about the role of research in the massage therapy profession. The MTF supports the profession through education of its professionals and the public, and I found myself being drawn into a vehicle for that education, helping a lot of other professionals who feel the same passion to move massage therapy forward.
The MTF’s programs, like community service grants, are an important part of building bridges of understanding and efficacy for massage therapy between professionals and massage clients. Being accepted as a runner on Team MTF is a dream. I can more effectively combine my passion for promoting research and moving massage therapy forward with the publicity that fundraising for the MTF brings to the table. I am raising the floor in a positive way and working toward a goal I know I can achieve—and that is pretty exciting to me!
What is your marathon training regimen like?
A: My training regimen is like any other 18-week marathon training program, but I have an advantage [in that] I have officially run two other marathons in recent years. My disadvantage is that the races have not been outside Las Vegas. I run, primarily, on city streets: flat, fast, hard, and, if not in the very early hours of the day, congested with smog and traffic. I look forward to getting some more suburban tracks in during my three-days-a-week training schedule.
My long runs are typically on a Sunday or Monday, run after the two preceding, lower-mileage runs—by four weeks out from Patriots’ Day [April 18], I should be running 30 to 35 miles per week. I will be adding some cross-training days of yoga, calisthenics and weight-bearing exercises. [I’m modifying] my diet [to lose weight]. I am also using kinesiology taping for a weak left ankle. I swear by it.
Recovery is a very important aspect of training. Massage therapy and sleep help me the most. Regular massage no more than 24 hours after a long run is my goal, and a minimum of seven hours per night of sleep. Increasing the amount of massage, sleep, mileage, cross-training and dieting all take time—so planning the time to do all these things was my first step. Getting into a rhythm was my second. Keeping the rhythm is the challenge now.
In your experience, how does massage therapy integrate into and benefit a marathon training regimen?
A: After a long run of 20 miles or more and receiving a 60-minute Swedish massage session, I have had less pain, sooner. When a runner trains hard, a plateau of performance success can preclude pain as mileage progressively gets higher. To me, that means I’m performing better.
Normally, it takes a day or so to recover from pain and range-of-motion restrictions from a long run. When I get massage after a long run, I can feel my pain-recovery time cut into less than a day, meaning the next day bears no aches. I think any person can integrate that success, using massage therapy, into whatever level of training [that person’s] long run coincides [with].
Why is massage research such an important cause, and what types of massage research studies would you like to see more of in the future?
A: Research is requisite and critical for a profession to grow—and to survive. Research is a place to go for evidence. Reliable methods and people producing repeatable results are a cornerstone for massage therapy to be seen as a viable, integrative method of healing. Thousands of years’ worth of writings have beheld the positive effects and impacts of massage and bodywork. The MTF seeks to raise the proficiency of the massage therapy professional and also the public to understand what massage is from a scientific standpoint. Established research in the massage field empowers clients with a choice of treatment for their ailment, to more easily or quickly return to good health and improve quality of life. Massage therapy research instills consumer confidence and lays a road of facts that contributes to the evidence-based outcomes clinical use demands.
I would like to see more research in the area of how [massage] addresses conditions of anxiety, agitated behavior and depression found in many forms of dementia.
How do you teach clients about the health benefits of massage?
A: Many of the perceptions I was taught have changed over the 15 years I [have been] in practice. I regularly expose myself to scientific sources of information about massage therapy. I use the MTF’s International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork online. It is a free resource to which I can refer clients and other massage professionals.
I am interested in the outcomes of research [studies], what they suggest, what they prove and how they might be applied to a client. I often send specific studies to clients based on their interest at the time. Most of my clients are devout recipients, and any information they can get their eyes on helps educate them as we move toward determining from session to session what might work for them. Regular massage is an underlying structure of returning to good health, continuing to attend their needs for staying flexible, out of pain and more ambulatory is part of clients’ kinesthetic learning. When studies reveal that, over time, repeated application in a specific way may help with certain health conditions, I believe it is my responsibility as a professional to communicate those studies to my clients.
How do you define business success, and what do you credit for your business success?
A: For me, business success is being able to sleep at night knowing I can assist people in receiving and seeing the value of massage, and establishing my trade as economically viable—[meaning] I can pay my bills. I credit my business success to persistence. Enthusiasm is a close second, colored with optimism. Graciousness is the overriding sentiment for any of my business activity. I learn so much more from being thankful for each and every client interaction that it drives me to seek more, better and fuller resolve for my next challenge, the client’s next session.
I believe I got my work ethic from my parents. In a dual-income household, it was hard to get out of chores, and the idea that all of us work together made it easy for me to translate teamwork into successful business relationships with clients.
What do you do for self-care and in your free time, to stay healthy and energized?
A: I have been accused of [being] and have always labeled myself as a workaholic. When I do have a few minutes, I like to get a massage, go to the movie theater—my first IMAX-3D movie was Star Wars: The Force Awakens; totally worth waiting for—run, or drive to a nearby natural setting and hike around a bit. Living in the city to be social with friends and having the ability to visit lush, remote, natural settings relatively close by is an ideal lifestyle for me.
In five years, where do you see yourself and your career?
A: I see myself working exclusively with my business partner at Anatriptic Arts to manage contracts with several Las Vegas-area hospital departments to provide massage therapy services by independently contracted and specialty-driven licensed massage therapists. Oncology and orthopedic massage therapy is integrated with the team of health care providers that serve patients [who] spend time on the hospitals’ campuses, for recovery and pain management purposes. I also see myself on vacation at Jackie’s on the Reef [in Negril, Jamaica].
What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career in massage that you wish someone had given you?
A: Never underestimate the value of the touch therapy you provide. Maintaining honesty, compassion and awareness is integral to the unspoken relationship you foster with another human being through patient vigilance and positive outcomes.
How can readers support your fundraising efforts?
A: I would like to thank Massage Warehouse for being my 2016 Team MTF—Running for Research corporate partner. Massage Warehouse has always supported the MTF, and I am honored to be in partnership with them during this FUNdraising event.
I would also like to thank the MTF for continuing to raise the floor for beneficiaries of its programs and participate in the John Hancock Non-Profit Marathon Program. I would like to thank the MTF donors that have supported massage therapy research over the past 25 years, this coming year, and during the 2016 Team MTF fundraising efforts as they prepare for the Boston Marathon. Please help the MTF continue its progressive and strong contributions to the massage therapy field, its clients and patients, and integrative efforts in health care.
Visit my Team MTF webpage at crowdrise.com/massagetherapyboston2016/fundraiser/davidotto or get involved and donate directly to the Massage Therapy Foundation at massagetherapyfoundation.org/get-involved. Thank you!