As a massage therapist, you help clients relax, unwind and rejuvenate—but with the irregular hours, long days and physically demanding nature of your work, it can be challenging to make time for healthy eating and exercise. You may find yourself skipping the gym in favor of your couch after a long day, or snacking on junk food between appointments.
Although it’s easy to let bad habits creep in, it is possible to live healthfully when you live the often-hectic lifestyle of a professional massage therapist. After all, you have to be at the top of your game, physically and mentally, to do your best work. Here are three ways to make the unique demands of your career work for you—instead of against you—as you try to maintain healthy eating and exercise habits.
1. Let your brand motivate you.
Massage therapy is often considered to be part of, or at least linked to, the health and fitness industry. Like it or not, being perceived as unhealthy yourself can be detrimental to your brand as a massage therapist. While there are many other good reasons to maintain your health—lower insurance and health care costs, longer lifespan, and increased quality of life among them—being mindful of your health’s impact on your brand and career can be a powerful motivator.
2. Make food simple.
Fluctuating appointment times and clients’ differing needs often mean you have to eat what you can, when you can—but by planning most of your meals and snacks ahead of time, you can keep yourself on track even when your day doesn’t go as planned. We tend to make unhealthy choices when we don’t plan ahead, so create a few go-to meal and snack options:
- Pack portable, healthy snacks to eat during breaks.
- Bring packed meals from home when possible. Include high-protein foods such as grilled tilapia, salmon or baked chicken that will give you a slow burn of energy over several hours. Build a short list of your favorite choices and keep those ingredients on hand at all times.
- Research the menus of nearby restaurants to identify the healthiest options, both for at-work meals and take-out dinners for late nights. Keep in mind that salads might not always be the best choices: A recent article in The Atlantic featured several restaurant salads that have more saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories than a McDonald’s Big Mac, according to nutrition analysis conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
3. Use your downtime for miniworkouts.
It’s a myth that you have to spend an hour or so at the gym to see results. With elastic exercise bands, 5- or 10-pound dumbbells, and a basic knowledge of strength-building and high intensity interval training workouts, you can make a surprising amount of progress in the 15 or 20 minutes you may have between appointments. In high-intensity interval training, you alternate intensive exercise sessions with less intensive ones; for example, you might sprint for 30 seconds, then walk for 30 to 60 seconds. Your goal is to increase your heart rate to approximately 80 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate during the intense phase, then bring it back down during your rest phase to 60 to 65 percent. That time interval will vary with each individual.
Don’t worry too much that these exercise sessions will leave you feeling exhausted for your next appointment—you’ll likely feel more relaxed and energized after a very short workout than you will if you spend your break scrolling through Facebook posts.
If you slip, keep going
Inevitably, there will be days when you indulge in unhealthy cravings or can’t summon the will to work out. Don’t give up because of a slip-up. We’ve all been there. You still have full control of your future, so direct your mental energy to the healthy eating and exercise choices you can make today instead of dwelling on yesterday’s mistakes.
Knowledge and preparation are two of your most powerful tools. The keys to maintaining a healthy lifestyle are educating yourself and planning ahead, so you can make smart choices no matter how hectic your day-to-day schedule gets.
Warren Honeycutt (warrenhoneycutt.com) is the author of Get Lean for Life: 7 Keys to Lasting Weight Loss. A two-time Mr. Tennessee and six-time Mr. America finalist, Honeycutt is co-founder of Get Lean, a comprehensive weight loss and fitness program. His expertise has been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC and livestrong.com, among other places.