To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Stretch Yourself with Pilates,” by Nora St. John, in the June 2011 issue. Article summary: Pilates is a system of specific exercises combined with breathing patterns. At its most basic, Pilates exercises develop a strong core, or center of the body.

by Carole Freeman, L.M.T.

The first thing people often ask when they find out you are a massage therapist is, “Don’t your hands hurt?” Most therapists know at least one other person who had to leave their massage career because of the toll it took on his body.

While a single massage is not as physically demanding as some other professions, hours of standing over a table working on clients can take it’s toll on hands, shoulders, upper body and back. If you love massage, then you probably want to continue doing what you love for years to come.

Your career will never be stronger than you are.

Being strong is not just a matter of having big biceps. Muscle strength is only one part what fitness really means. The American College of Sports Medicine sites the five aspects of fitness as: cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility and body fat percentage.

A well-rounded fitness program that includes each of these aspects of fitness will benefit massage therapists. Cardiovascular training builds endurance and stamina with as little as 30 minutes of moderate activity three to five days a week. Muscles and joints become sore when they are too weak to do the job you are asking them to.

A moderate regime of strength training for 30 minutes, two to three days a week will better equip your body to work without pain or discomfort. Beginning an exercise program should be easy. It can be as simple as doing 15 to 20 repetitions of your 10 favorite exercises.

When strength training is coupled with a healthy stretching technique, such as Active Isolated Stretching, there is direct improvement in the strength and function of muscles, joints and surrounding tissue.

The same strength and stretching combination improves recovery from overuse injuries because of improved joint lubrication and tissue oxygenation. The increased blood perfusion brings more nutrients to the area and improved lymph flow clears away toxins.

The biggest benefit of any exercise program is the improvement people have with their activities of daily living. Everything in life gets easier, from breathing, to playing with kids and walking the dog. Even your massage career will benefit.

Think of what you would do with a more energy, increased strength and less pain. It’s no wonder attitude and feelings of happiness improve too.

Become stronger and build a stronger career.

Carole Freeman, L.M.T., teaches a monthly course, Fitness and Strength Training for Massage Therapists. Freeman’s college training in exercise and fitness combined with her career in massage therapy has been the basis for this class. For more information, visit www.FaST4MT.com.

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