Friday, July 11, 2014

Stretching and Massage Class from Bodyworker Seminars
This week I took a live, hands-on continuing education class from Heath and Nicole Reed at Bodyworker Seminars. It was paid for by Massage Envy, for which I am grateful, and they even provided lunch. Because I took two days of classes from Bodyworker Seminars last year, I knew to expect a well thought out, well presented burst of therapeutic knowledge, based on the decades of combined experience and education from the teachers. The one thing I feel did not exactly meet my expectations, which is not necessarily a bad thing, was that the class spent much less time on stretching than I expected. We did hear a lecture about stretching and learned a few stretching techniques to apply to our clients, but we learned several more lotioned elbow techniques than stretches. I guess the "And Massage" portion was bigger than the "Stretching" part of the class title. After my decade of stretching clients daily, I was pleased to hear their fresh look at incorporating movement and stretching based on Thai massage, Yoga, and several other perspectives. From this class, I have several ways to refresh my daily practice, which is really the point of taking continuing education, right?

Some key things I learned:

Nicole Reed lead a warm up where we stretched ourselves, grounded ourselves, and tried to heighten our awareness of what it felt like to be inside our own bodies. During this time, she said,  "A small adjustment can create a big change." We were doing a straight leg stretch with one leg resting on the massage table while standing on the other leg. We held that hamstring stretch for several breaths and then she directed us to evert our foot on the stretching leg. This was a change of millimeters which created a dramatic change in the feel of the intent of the stretch. Likewise, she also told us to dorsi-flex the foot during another stretch to protect the knee. I can't wait to try that with clients who have sketchy knees and see how much of a difference it makes to their comfort level. 

Another eye opening concept was how much science is changing and adapting in stretching theories. There is a lot of new research and practice coming out in the last decade. It is an exciting time to be a myo-fascial therapist. For example, stretching actually strengthens soft tissue structures, it does not just relax them. When you stretch, the muscles have limited length, but fascia has far more adaptability. Most of a stretch actually addresses the fascia. The collagen, which is one part of the fascia, aligns to the line of force or tension and more collagen is built into the structure when regular, consistent stretching occurs in the same tissues.  

When we are injured, the body throws down a disorganized patch of fascia to temporarily protect and immobilize the area. After the injury is healed, stretching therapies can re-organize that patch into a stronger, more appropriate, more mobile design. Speaking of injury, there are 10 times more sensory neurons in fascia than muscle, which means 10 times more pain sensation comes from the fascia. Making a stretch feel nice to the client relies much more on fascial manipulation to create balance, than muscular focus. This is also why myo-fascial release is key to resolving chronic pain.

Heath and Nicole spent a long time explaining why sedentary lifestyles create immobility and long term musculoskeletal dysfunction. Aging is highly controllable by movement and expanding mental boundaries of what you believe your body is capable of. You have to practice not being fearful of breaking yourself with stretching. On the aging topic, they say you must "Prevent trouble before it arises." You should plan ahead for your old age physically just like you do financially. Genetics are not permanent because attitude, nutrition, movement and environment can change your gene expression. David Wolfe has been talking about "Epigenetics" lately too, which is the same concept. 

Another way of looking at the aging process is that your entire body, at the atomic level will be replaced in about 2 years time. We will have NONE of the atoms in our body 2 years from now, that we have today. If we get our atoms from breath, environment and food, we can see relatively quick results if we make positive choices today. (I'm kind of extrapolating from what Heath said about 2 years and new atoms, not directly quoting.)

The last thing I want to mention that I really loved about the class the other day was a quote they shared from Dr. Ida Rolf, "Movement is the physical acceptance of change." That's certainly something to meditate on!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Eat Move Sleep Book Review

I just read through an accessible, informative wellness book called Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes. The author, Tom Rath has a rare genetic condition that makes him incredibly susceptible to cancer. He has compiled a book full of his lifestyle choices that have helped him to beat the cancer progression clock. I like this book because most of the tips are easy to implement and have a sound scientific basis. 

If I could change one thing about the book, I would organize it a bit differently. Each chapter has one piece of each topic- Eating, Moving, and Sleeping. Sometimes they are related, other times, not so much. Each chapter is bite sized and useful, so it's not a big deal, but I was a little distracted by the organization. 

Here are some quotes from the book which give you an idea of the kinds of topics he covers. All of these claims are backed up with evidence and/or personal experience. 

"Sitting for many hours encourages fat cells to congregate near your rear."

"A mere 20 minutes of moderate activity could significantly improve your mood for the next 12 hours."

"When your body's motions are not aligned and balanced. Using one side of your body far more than the other, for example, can create uneven wear and serious back problems over time."

"One spinal surgeon put it, be careful to avoid bending, lifting, and twisting in particular. During these three motions, your spine is the most vulnerable to injury."

"Exposure to light in the hours before you go to sleep suppresses melatonin levels. Lower melatonin levels make it hard to fall asleep, decrease sleep quality, and could even increase the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. "

"Getting more protein from fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish will also increase your intake of omega-3's, which are deficient in most people's diets today."

"I keep pictures of my wife and kids directly above my desk and treadmill. This reminds me that my staying active matters as much for the people I care about as it does for myself."

"Use plates with a diameter closer to the length of your hand than to the length of your foot."

"The impact of plate color alone is quite dramatic. They found a clear contrast between food and plate keeps people from overeating."

"Sleep is a treasure, and it should be valued as one. Yet for many of us, sleep is the first thing we cast aside."

"If you structure your activity to end on a high note, you are more likely to do it again."

"Exercise creates an immediate benefit for your memory."

"Higher levels of physical activity are consistently related to greater brain volume."

"Vigorous workouts in the hours right before bed are likely to improve sleep significantly."

"People who were on teams with more social influence increased their odds of losing weight by 20 percent."

"Pick one food you eat even though you know you shouldn't. Give it a nickname that will make you think twice about eating it."

"People who eat breakfast are smarter and skinnier."

"Eating breakfast foods with a low glycemic index prevents spikes in blood sugar later in the day, which could make for better choices in the afternoon and evening."

"Data show that people who spend more than four hours a day watching video are more than twice as likely to have a major cardiac event that kills them..."

"Researchers found that for every extra hour of total commuting time per day, you would need a corresponding 40 percent increase in your salary to make the added car time worthwhile."

"People with severe sleep apnea had a 65 percent higher risk of developing cancer."

"During a 3 week disruption [of sleep patterns], the participants' glucose control went haywire...could easily set the stage for development of diabetes and obesity..."

This book contains a great deal of wisdom and I highly recommend it. I found personally that it gave me some fresh ideas and perspectives for tweaking the way I eat, move and sleep. Because I am such a nerd about these health fundamentals, I frequently re-evaluate how to optimize them for myself, and this book both reminded me of shortcomings and encouraged me to overcome them. 

Dr. Hyman Mind Body Green Interview

Here is an INTERVIEW with Functional Medicine Doctor Mark Hyman. In it he talks about food, nutrition, how to optimize your health by balance between food and movement, and some exciting changes in the healthcare system. 

Some key quotes:

"You cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet." Meaning that to compensate for poor dietary choices, you have to spend an impossible amount of time exercising. He uses the example of having to run a marathon everyday if you eat a Supersize McDonald's meal everyday. 

"The microbiome...and gene expression changes with every single bite you put in your body." It does not take weeks or months to give yourself positive wellness progress. He goes on to speak about quality of food being the key to the long term plan. 

"Sugar is a recreational drug." I compared sugar to over the counter pain relievers in a prior post and here he compares sugar to tequila. You would never pour a shot of tequila in your morning coffee, have a tequila filled candy bar in the mid afternoon and follow dinner every night with a bowl of tequila with chocolate sauce. The point is that sugar is way too prevalent and our bodies are functioning like we are walking around drunk all the time. 

"The higher fat vegan diet people lost more weight... and had better metabolic profiles..." We can't be afraid of fat, but the quality of fat is what has been throwing off our understanding of how it works in the body. Plant based fats, like nuts and seeds, avocados, and coconuts are extremely helpful to boosting health. Conversely, canola oil, which we generally buy when it is already rancid, is horrible for your health. 

What does the good doctor eat? "I eat mostly plant foods." His example goes from 75-90% veggie. He says his favorite fat is actually lamb fat. He indulges with dark chocolate covered almonds.

Dr. Hyman also mentions the Glycemic Index and how powerful it is to controlling hunger and hormonal reactions. 


The last big point of interest for me in this interview was how Dr. Hyman helped develop the Daniel Plan with Dr. Daniel Amen the "Brain Doctor." He asks what would we serve to Jesus Christ is he came to dinner. Would we serve God-made food or Man-made food? Good question. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Stress Relief through Bicycling

 Cypress Point Park Trail from
As I have stated before, I am not a cyclist. I am not competitive and I don't wear funny colored tight pants. I am, however, an avid bicyclist who rides a beach cruiser wearing cargo shorts and whatever shoes I can keep wearing when I get off the bike and walk around in public. I use my bike for stress relief and to promote peace of mind, which I feel is the opposite of competition. Today, for example, I rode 7.5 miles in about 45 minutes on flat trails to and around Cypress Point Park in Tampa, FL.'s View of the Trail
My head has been buzzing with new stresses. Primarily, Mrs. Tom Heals is expecting our first baby and secondarily, I had a job interview last week for a massage therapy teaching position at a school which is within biking distance for me. 
 Yesterday I received an amazing two hour massage from Stephanie Kojima, LMT. She is a co-worker who I greatly respect - dare I say, the best therapist I've ever met? She patiently listened to me ramble and rant and gave some supportive advice. She reminded me that I can only control a very limited number of things in my life and that's all I can do- live in the present, be grateful, and make good decisions with those few things. One of the few things I can control is what I put into my body. After dropping the wifey off at work this morning, I stopped at my local produce stand and picked up a golden mango, a papaya, some bananas and a watermelon.

A quick tangent...

Dan "The Life Regenerator" McDonald gives a lot of good info in this video about seeds. He says they have infinite, exponential energetic potential. That lead me to meditate on "Having the faith of a mustard seed" and the consequent exponential faith that can easily move mountains. Dan also has stated several times that you must eat fruit with seeds, guys, so that you will have seeds in you. In other words, if you eat fruit that can't reproduce, you can't either. Papaya and Watermelon are PACKED with seeds and I'm having a baby...just sayin'.  

Ok, back on track...

After my fruity breakfast, I took a ride out to the park and feasted on some salty oxygen coming from the bay- one of my favorite, Zen inducing experiences. One of my overall bicycling goals for the year was to ride 1000 miles. Another is to ride over the Courtney Campbell bridge and back in one trip. Both are very attainable and are more to encourage me to go out and find my happy, Zen place, than to reach any specific physiological health standard. 

My little piece of Zen, this morning

I can also control my breathing and sunlight exposure, which go hand in hand when beach cruising on a sunny summer morning. While I'm not super sporty about my biking, I do use a few sport-like tools. One new piece of gear to me is a Mission cooling towel. You get it wet, wring it out, pull it in a snappy motion a few times and it chills down about 10 degrees cooler than air temperature. I love it because it fits under my helmet, covers my ears, keeps my noggin cool, keeps sweat out of my eyes, and keeps my earbuds securely in place. 

One of my best friends refers to Sunblock on me as "Freckle Repellent." Since I'm such a pale, freckly Floridian, I have always struggled with sun exposure. Since reading the Vitamin D Cure by James Dowd, I realize that Vitamin D can epigenetically turn off cancerous processes in the body. Obviously, sunburn is bad for me, but so are the chemicals in sunblock. I am learning to get the right amount of sun and the right amount of alkalization in my bloodstream to keep cancer away without harsh chemicals smeared on  my skin. Cloth barriers also help somewhat. I prefer cowboy style, lightweight, long sleeve shirts for my bike rides. Again, I like to feel like I can walk into a store without looking like the King of Spandexia.  I also ride at night when I feel too medium rare.

My goals here are similar to my mileage and route goals- I want more Vitamin D, more fresh air, and more Zen. I don't know how to quantify that exactly.


Monday, June 23, 2014

Innovative Massage Therapy

I had a longtime client ask me tonight about how I approach the body. He was curious to know if most of the techniques I do were specifically taught to me, or if I made up stuff as I go, to accommodate each client. It was a two hour massage, so we had plenty of time to talk. It took about 45 minutes for me to answer the question, because we are both music nerds who came up with several musical analogies to discuss the concept.

Guitar players, for example, are usually memorable when they do something innovative. Jimi Hendrix played with his teeth. Jimmy Page played with a violin bow. Slash bends strings all over the fret board. BB King uses his smooth trademark vibrato to sell every single lick.

These innovative guitar players have far surpassed typical routines and formulas to truly become artists. To reach this level in the massage therapy field, a therapist must be creative and brave enough to push some limits. Like music, which nobody will pay for if it doesn't sound good, massage can't push so far outside of the norm that people are scared or uncomfortable trying it. Back to BB King, his style is probably more accessible to more customers than Jimmy Page's bow solo here. 

You have to push boundaries but not too far. There are rules to follow in music that act as the framework for creativity, to make pleasing melodies instead of just making noise. The same is true for massage rules- fascia responds well to heat, grinding an elbow into shallow muscle attachments is painful, pay attention to and work with the client's breathing pattern, go slow to relax and fast to invigorate muscles...the list could go on. 

Not to disparage John Denver, who is a very talented guy, but his guitar playing is the opposite of innovative. He strums with one hand and holds steady chords with the other. Compared to Eddie Van Halen, John Denver is barely doing anything with his guitar. 

So what's the difference between my massage and a more conventional massage routine? First, I try to see the body as the 3 dimensional structure that it is. Eddie Van Halen clearly uses every inch of his guitar and comes at it from every possible direction. He also uses a diverse set of skills, string tapping, for example, that allows him to get something done more efficiently than the average player can. I find that every CEU I take and every massage I receive gives me more unique tools in my technique toolbox. I need to mix and match everything I've learned from neuro-muscular, myo-fascial, shiatsu, stretching, sports massage, craniosacral, orthopedic rehab, and anything else I can get my hands on, to fine tune the perfect treatment for the specific client in front of me.  

The answer to the question then, is that I have to draw from many techniques I have been taught first, and then, thanks to more than a decade of hands on experience, apply creativity to the basic techniques, to get the most possible therapeutic value out of them. 

Just to drive this analogy into the ground, here is a clip from the movie August Rush, in which a musical prodigy plays a guitar in a completely unique way. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Defining Deep Tissue Massage

I've been defining massage modalities lately for our new front desk staff to better match the client to an appropriately trained therapist. If you call up the clinic and ask to schedule a massage, one of the first questions will be, "Do you want Relaxation or Deep Tissue?" Another way to ask the same thing would be, "Do you have a problem that needs to be fixed?" Once we find out that you are in problem-solving mode, a bunch of other questions should follow, but usually don't. What results is two lists of indistinguishable, interchangeable therapists- those who do "Deep Tissue" and those who don't. 

To make things clearer for everyone, I like to explain it by sub-dividing "Deep Tissue" into 3 categories: Aggressive, Conservative, and Moderate.
Aggressive Deep Tissue Massage would be for mostly healthy people who are large, bulky, dense, muscular, and/or have a high pain tolerance. Aggressive pressure is appropriate because they don't have contra-indications or injuries. Of course, female clients get this too, but my examples are primarily superhero types- those who feel no pain. Even a "Relaxing" massage on these dudes would be a LOT of work. These folks can be recognized by the frequent use of phrases like, "You can go deeper" and "You can't hurt me."
Conservative Deep Tissue Massage is the opposite. It takes plenty of know how, but does not require brute strength. I call it "Profound Tissue Massage," patent pending,  because it deeply affects the tissues, but it's not necessarily deep pressure that gets the job done. Conservative massage would be in cases of injury or when there's a complicated combination of issues going on. BB King is a great example here because he had repetitive stress from guitar playing (several hours a day for 70+ years), was diabetic, in his 90's, and his posture for playing the guitar put everything out of balance. It takes a knowledgeable, intuitive, thoughtful therapist with advanced training, to help solve those combined issues. Patients like him might have contra-indications for massage in some areas and be fine to receive massage in others. 

Lastly, I have Moderate Deep Tissue Massage. As you can guess, that's everyone in between Aggressive and Conservative. It takes some strength and some know-how. Most massage clients coming in monthly or more on their Wellness Plan would fit into this category. They have problems to solve, but they are typical issues that don't require as much muscle power or brain power from the therapist.  These are your folks who slept wrong and have a kink in the neck or they took a long car trip and have shoulder tension and low back pain. Hopefully, we can give them significant relief in one or two sessions and can also provide them with some relaxation at the same time. 

After distinguishing which level of "Deep Tissue Massage" is needed, the challenge is to find the LMT with appropriate training and experience. Nobody really cares what fancy name brand techniques I do- they just know that I get the results they need. That's the important part. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Is Sports Massage Different than Deep Tissue Massage?

Yesterday I had a couples massage on a regular client. Afterward, when washing up, the other therapist said that I had done one of the best "Sports Massages" she had ever seen.That compliment was funny to me, because I was doing much more rehab/injury type work than sports work. The client had been working with a Chiropractor daily for a week to resolve some severe lumbar pain and spasm.I was thinking way more about that situation, than preparing him to get back to training for the half marathon he has coming up, because his sedentary desk job was exacerbating the issue just as much as running would have.

I mention this, because I feel like there's a lot of confusion about "Sports Massage" and what that label means. To me, it is applying Myofascial and/or Neuromuscular and/or Structural/Postural and/or Flexibility and/or Flushing Swedish techniques to a specific soft tissue imbalance in a person who is doing something athletic. I also use this very same definition for "Deep Tissue Massage" except that the client may not be using his body for a specifically athletic venture. Sitting at a computer several hours a day isn't "Athletic," but it is using the body repetitively. Which is the unifying theme- Repetition.

There's not a list of secret "Sports" techniques that only apply to athletes. I'm going to do whatever kind of massage the client needs for the specific problem area. Problem areas usually come from some kind of repetition mixed with imbalance. When the body is not used to a movement and is then forced to repeat the movement, you create strain. After strain comes compensation by creating more imbalance. I'm going to look at any client who comes to me from that perspective; to unravel the compensation, imbalance and overuse to restore the optimal movement in the body. If you want to call that "Sports Massage," I'm happy to take the compliment. If you want to call that "Deep Tissue Massage," we are starting to speak the same language.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

In the year 2000, I was 20 years old. Somehow, I fooled a local police department into believing I was a competent enough human to be responsible for answering 911 calls and for dispatching grown men with guns to locations all over the city. I did that job for 3 years, primarily on the overnight shift, which meant I typically arrived home after 10-12 hour shifts around 7:30am. Thanks to shift differentials, overtime, and low overhead (living with my parents), I made lots of money, fast. What does a 20 year old boy pretending to be a grownup buy with extra money? Toys.

One of my earliest purchases was a mountain bike. I was in school at UCF for Psychology, aiming at being some kind of law enforcement officer. The bike was to help me keep fit enough to get through the academy, once I got there. I had a mountain bike all through middle and high school, which got plenty of use, but I wanted something newer and shinier. Not knowing anything about bikes, I went to Toys R Us and bought a decent bike, thankfully, based more on cosmetic criteria than function. One plan was to ride on Cocoa Beach, the closest beach to my job, to catch the sunrises over the water. Little did I know, that riding in soft sand on a mountain bike is very tiring, very fast. That didn't stop me from enjoying the bike and sunrises on sidewalks close to the beach, however.

A Pacific Quasar, to be exact.
My parents were building a new house, one of the first to be completed in that development, about a year into my ownership of the Toys R Us mountain bike. I moved into nocturnal Floridian mountain bike heaven. There were paved streets and street lights surrounding acres and acres of cleared lots. There were piles of rocks, gravel, dirt hills, trees, and some dirt paths where the roads weren't completed yet. The few completed houses were inhabited by retired golfers and the like, so I had the streets to myself, undisturbed for hours of my over-nights off, since I was quiet and didn't vandalize anything but myself.

That year of hard, late night riding is really where the love affair with bikes started. At the age of 22, I paused UCF and started massage school part time in addition to my 50+ hour weeks at the police department. My free nights started drifting away from the bike and towards study and extra-curricular practical massage credit events. Once I met my future wife in massage school and had a license, life quickly accelerated into a move to Tallahassee after the wedding. We moved my bike with us, because I had such sentimental attachment to it. Knowing now what I know about bikes, I should have chucked it in a Goodwill bin, but instead I kept trying to repair and tweak a lost cause. I literally had ridden it into the ground, back on the empty lots in Viera.

I was in hilly Tallahassee for 5 years with a non-functional bike, getting fat at a desk job, and having no fun anytime I tried to go for a ride. Then we moved to Tampa, again with the bikes (the Wifey had one almost as sad as mine), and then to Land o Lakes, where they sat in yet another garage being rusty and treacherous. Finally, we sold them at a garage sale before moving back to Tampa a few months ago. Talk about liberation!

Because of ridiculous auto insurance rates in Tampa and because Wifey works from home, we decided to become a 1 car family. We started shopping for a bicycle for her to get around the neighborhood, if she needed something while I was at work. Then, while talking to her mother about the situation, we discover that Mom wanted to buy us BOTH bikes for Christmas. My wife's preference was to get the most simple, single gear bike possible, a beach cruiser. My preference was to get the most complicated thing possible- more gears, more gadgets, a hybrid road bike.

Lance Armstrong
This is the part where I say explicitly that my Wife was RIGHT and I was WRONG. We ended up with matching, super cute beach cruisers which I love. Simple is better. We live in an apartment and I don't want to keep up with a bunch of tools and crap to constantly adjust and maintain a complicated bike. We live in Florida, which is flat everywhere we would possible go on our bikes. When we rack them on the car and drive to the beach, they are totally usable at the beach. The point is, I made a fundamental shift in how I saw myself. I am a "Bicyclist" and not a "Cyclist." This is a hobby, a leisure activity, not a sport. I'm not racing anybody, I don't take PED's and I don't wear spandex or special shoes.

I am also a grownup now. I am not a college student or a punk teenager trying to keep the dream alive by applying a skater mentality to dirt biking in suburbia. I now have a bike and an attitude which match my life. My default attitude is laid back, relaxed, at peace- taking life as it comes at me. I want a bike that reflects that, not a tool to aggressively attack the road with "hammering." A big part of my love of biking is that I find peace in that activity, which is the antithesis of competition. That's not to say I don't have personal goals, which I'll get to in another post soon, but that I want to use a bicycle as a tool to enjoy my environment, to find relaxation and stress relief, and to stay fit.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review: Stress Pandemic

The latest book in my recommended reading list is Paul Huljich's Stress Pandemic: 9 Natural steps to Survive, Master Stress, and Live Well. It is a good overview, greatest-hits-of-health kind of book that is probably going to cover a lot of things you already know, but it's worth the refresher.

Spoiler Alert! None of the "9 Natural Steps" in this "Lifestyle Solution" is Massage Therapy. That being said, there is plenty of good stress management information here. What are the 9 steps?

1. Take Charge
2. Kick Your Bad Habits
3. Learn to Say No
4. Affirmations
5. Exercise
6. Nutrition
7. Sleep
8. The Power of Awareness
9. Don't Give Up

How do I apply these 9 steps to my life?

1. I take charge by researching methods to improve myself by reading books (like this one), watching documentaries (usually about health and nutrition), blogging about how I apply the stuff I learn (like I'm doing now), and I make a clear plan of attack utilizing moderate, attainable goals.

2. Everyone has bad habits. Mine include but are not limited to: staying up late, Chinese buffets, and being a workaholic.Some have easy solutions, like going to bed earlier and avoiding Chinese buffets. The workaholism, however, takes some more planning to better prioritize my time. The trick is to be aware of the bad habits and make positive strides in the right direction, once you recognize your less desirable trends.

3. Saying "No" is hard for me, see the aforementioned workaholism, because I usually have a multitude of good options of things to do with my time and energy. I'm always needing to say no to stuff I actually want to do. Also, because I am constantly cranking the gears in my introverted head, I have many ideas and projects in development, which are hard to put aside. Prioritizing is big on this one too.

4. I have to admit, I have a huge ego. I rarely need affirmations, from myself or others, to boost my mood or self esteem. I don't spend much time looking in the mirror talking myself up, but I don't want to discount that as a good practice for many people for stress reduction, to gain perspective about their self image.

5. Personally, my favorite exercise is bike riding. I am a "bicyclist" and not a "cyclist" for many reasons, but the stress related to being a "cyclist" is the primary one. More on that dynamic in a later post. Since we moved into an apartment, I walk our tall leggy greyhound mix dog 3 times a day for about a half mile each walk. This relieves my stress immensely, because it gets me going first thing in the morning and helps me decompress from work as I look at the stars and breath in fresh air at the end of the day.  Since we moved, we are also much closer to several gorgeous beaches. Some within biking distance. If you're stressed while walking on the beach, you have bigger problems than this massage therapist can fix.

Watching the sunset this evening, from my bike seat.

6. There was a lot of good nutrition info in the book. I love my veggie juice, Nutribullet smoothies, and mono-meals. The juice and smoothies help me boost my intake of healthful foods in a quick and easy way. One food mono-meals, like eating a bunch of bananas for dinner at work, keeps things simple. It takes about 30 seconds to prep my lunch before I leave the house. It's super easy for my body to burn the food when it's one ingredient, and I don't have to leave work, wait in a line at a restaurant, and rush back in time to eat it.

7. Like I said above, my natural tendency is to stay up late and sleep less than I should. Lately, I've been listening to brain wave based, sleep enhancing music which is supposed to enhance the quality of the sleep. I am also striving towards consistency in terms of sleeping the same 8 hours every night, at the same room temperature, and with a sleeping mask.

8. Awareness, in my opinion, should be #1 on this list. Knowing what is stressing you is the first step to "Master Stress" so you can "Live Well." Either way, journaling (blogging in my case) to document what's going on in your life is a good way to be aware. Reading books like this one is also a good start to identify major, common stressors.

9. Don't give up. That one is hard to put a tangible description on. I guess I do it by using a results based approach. When I want to give up on something, I re-examine the results I want and what I'm doing wrong. If I don't know what's wrong with my routine/methods/practices, I hit the books and search the internet for better info. If I can find people who are getting the results I want, I am encouraged that it is possible to achieve, if I can learn how they did it.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Science of Scary Sugars
This morning I blended up a beet, banana, ginger smoothie and was surprised at the burst of sweetness. At first, I wondered if I should have used fewer bananas. Then I remembered an episode of How It's Made that I saw that explained the lengthy process of processing sugar cane into refined white sugar. Since there is such confusion in the media about carbs, sugar, and artificial sweetness in relation to maintaining a healthy nutritional profile in your diet, I wanted to share the video.
Just because it came from a plant does NOT mean that refined white sugar is a natural food that humans can consume in nature. There's a guy in the video about 45 seconds in, who nibbles on the end of a piece of sugar cane. He could do that all day and probably be just fine. Whole plant based foods have a multitude of nutrients and compounds mixed with water and fiber in a wondrously complex package of healthfulness. Refined white sugar, on the other hand, is like a pharmaceutical grade narcotic. It is one specific, highly addictive compound, potent enough with one single serving packet, to affect the entire body for several hours.

Artificial sweeteners are like competing pharmaceutical companies, trying to duplicate the effects of a successful drug, with different chemistry, to avoid patent violations. Refined white sugar is at least a well tested substance in a worldwide, long term market, if I have to find one thing nice to say about it.

 If we consider refined white sugar to be an over the counter drug, like acetaminophen, you would never mix a couple teaspoons of Tylenol into your coffee in the morning followed by a donut with a few more teaspoons of fried Tylenol inside. You wouldn't follow that by several more teaspoons of generic acetaminophen with lunch in a diet soft drink. The moral of the story? Eat sweet whole foods, like bananas, to get your fix and avoid eating foods loaded with refined sugar or powdered chemicals that never had anything to do with a plant at all.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Deep Tissue Massage That Feels Good

A couple days ago, I picked up my client's chart to ready myself before she arrived, because she was new to me. I noticed that she had come in the day before and cut off the appointment early. That's a big red flag, so I asked my manager if there was a story. The client cut off the appointment because the first therapist was not giving her the type of massage she wanted.

I have worked with that therapist and received several massages from him over 3 and a half years. I respect his work and am very well acquainted with his style, so I planned to do the opposite style. The client asked for a Deep Tissue massage for headaches and shoulder tension. My typical MO for those issues is to start with Myofascial release with some cervical stretching, focusing on slow, deep, dry drags. Thankfully, the client in question was running late, so I got a chance to confer with my colleague prior to meeting her. He told me that he had done slow, deep, drags on the back and shoulders and that instead, she wanted something that "Felt more like a massage."

Once I had the chance to interview the client and get to work, I adopted a smooth, flowing, heavy handed Swedish style technique with plenty of thumbs. I tried not to dwell in any one place with sustained pressure, but kept moving with a moderate pressure over larger areas. The ironic thing is that I was doing an impression of the first therapist's usual technique, which the client loved, and he had done MY usual thing, which she hated.
The interesting part of this is the balance between "Deep Tissue" and what should "Feel like a massage." A musical analogy would be the bands Motorhead vs. Led Zeppelin. Both would be considered hard, powerful, and musically complex. They are on the heavier end of the rock spectrum. Motorhead is musical, but it doesn't feel good, because it's dark, brooding, and unrelenting. Led Zeppelin, on the other hand, is for dancing, partying and releasing stress. If you are looking for heavy music (Deep Tissue) they are certainly both qualified to fill the need. My client wanted something she could dance to. She wanted something she could crank up in the car and sing along to that would leave her feeling good, not something that would leave her with a headache.

I bet Lemmy never thought he'd be in a massage therapy blog!
It is important to remember that what the client asks for is just as important as what I think she needs. I got lucky this time, thanks to good communication with my co-worker, my management, and the client herself. She left happy and I was reminded to be flexible with my technique. I guess the most important thing is that she left the second day with relief from her tension and stress.