With spring in the air, many people are dusting off their joggers, pulling out their workout gear and heading off to their favourite gym, swimming pool, boot camp or sport. For others, fitness is a permanent pursuit, taking up a regular slot in their diaries throughout the year. Either way, these fitness-focused individuals may become regular clients of your massage therapy business. This post explores how you can cater for them and best understand their needs.
Who is a fitness enthusiast?
For the sake of convenience, let’s classify the “fitness enthusiast” as someone that does more than just walk the dog or go for a weekly bike ride. These people are involved in more regular and intensive physical activity and may also be described as athletes in their particular field. It could be anything from regular gym classes, marathon running, yoga, Pilates, competitive sports, dancing or triathlons – to name but a few. They engage in relatively strenuous physical activity several times a week, often presenting to the massage therapist with particular areas of imbalance or tightness, juxtaposed by areas of weakness.
The fitness enthusiast or athlete can benefit greatly from regular massage sessions – both to lower the risk of injury and to enhance performance when leading up to competition.
Assessing the needs of the fitness enthusiast
In order to best provide assistance to the fitness enthusiast you will need to gain a good understanding of the requirements and challenges of the sport or fitness activities that they are involved in. This will enable you to educate yourself about the typical muscle recruitment patterns presented with each activity. First of all, find out the basics:
- What type of physical activity are they engaging in?
- Are they training for a particular event or goal?
- How often do they work out?
- Is it just the one type of exercise they do, or do they balance it with other activities, e.g. if they are a competitive tennis player, do they also include weekly Pilates or yoga classes?
- Do they regularly see a physiotherapist or osteopath?
- Do they have any injuries or problem areas?
- Do they have a history of particular injuries or muscle imbalances?
- Have they recently changed their exercise routine?
Once you have a greater understanding of their activities and objectives, you can tailor your massage sessions to ensure maximum benefit.
If the exerciser has areas of pain or stiffness, educating them about their anatomy, along with working on these particular areas, will help them further understand their bodies and minimise the risk of future issues. You can also help your client with suggestions to help self-manage any pain and stiffness, by offering appropriate stretches or muscle release techniques that they can do at home.
If you can see obvious muscle imbalances occurring, you can explain to them why this is happening and offer suggestions for exercises that will help “spread the load” and provide more support by engaging the appropriate synergistic muscles.
It’s to be expected that for those engaging in a significant amount of repeated activity, there will be some muscle groups that will take more strain. Essentially, this is where massage therapists can best provide relief by elongating the muscles, improving blood flow, reducing soreness and swelling and helping to ward off injury.
Know when to refer your client on to appropriate health practitioners
It is wise to keep on hand a referral base of experienced and local health professionals that you can draw upon. If you feel that your client has a serious injury that requires further professional investigation, don’t hesitate to suggest that they visit another professional in your referral list. Along with a good GP, it’s a good idea to store the names and numbers of a handful of experienced physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, occupational therapists, podiatrists and osteopaths.
Make an effort to be aware of routines, timetables and events
When working with a fitness enthusiast, try to gain an awareness of their training routines, timetables and upcoming events. This will assist you in identifying the specific stages of the training or competition cycle such as when your client is “tapering”, when they are doing specific muscle training or when they are actually competing. Each cycle will bring on a unique set of physical responses in the body, so it pays to be as informed as you can and adjust your massage treatment accordingly.
If you’re working with elite or professional athletes, you’ll have to factor in time to communicate with their team of ‘carers’ or therapists. Any member of their therapy ‘team’ may want to speak to you personally about how you approach the client – sometimes even before each session. The upside is that these types of clients are usually great to work with as they are highly motivated and dedicated and will really appreciate your work.
With competitive athletes, know the dates of important events so you can cater to the needs leading up to the big day. Sometimes it will be necessary to schedule more sessions, only to taper them out after the event.
By extending yourself for these “fitsters”, it’s likely that your efforts will be well appreciated. Word will spread of your professionalism, expertise and commitment. Before you know it, referrals will come in meaning that you will have a number of fit and dedicated clients who are a joy to treat!
For more great advice on sports massage see our blog post: Sports recovery and injury prevention – the importance of remedial massage.
Sage Institute of Massage – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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