What you can learn from athletes about massage

What are the qualities of a really good massage therapist?

Relationships: The best massage therapists build relationships of mutual respect and trust between themselves and their clients. It’s this partnership that creates the best environment for relaxation and healing.

Excellent Boundaries: Knowing what you will not do is just as important (and sometimes more important!) than knowing what you’re doing. Having the self-discipline to say no to a job, a client, or an unethical situation can help maintain a strong practice and an impeccable reputation.

Physical skills: There’s simply no substitute for the hours of study and practice that go into developing excellent hands-on ability. Every new technique must be learned from scratch, and a humble massage therapist knows there’s no end to this process of lifelong improvement. Massage therapy is inherently physical; there is no bodywork without the body.

Passion and Drive: All the skills in the world will not help you if you do not have the drive needed to get out there, find clients, and push yourself to new heights. Frankly, without passion, it’s likely you won’t study enough to do well in massage school, much less build yourself a successful practice.

Teresa Matthews knows these four components well. She’s learned their importance as a massage therapist and as a personal trainer. But more unusually, she’s also come to appreciate them as an athlete herself. Although athletes may not always use the same terminology, their work shares many commonalities with our own.

Here’s Teresa Matthews in her own words:

“I enjoy playing sports because of the sportsmanship, discipline, physical conditioning, and the competitive drive. I find that these values of being an athlete tend to blend into other areas of my life.

Sportsmanship refers to virtues such as fairness, self-control, courage, and persistence, and has been associated with interpersonal concepts of treating others and being treated fairly, maintaining self-control in dealing with others, and respect for both authority and opponents. Sportsmanship is also looked at as being the way one reacts to a sport/game.

Discipline is the assertion of willpower over more base desires, and is usually understood to be synonymous with self control.

Physical conditioning is a combination of preparing the body to be able to endure the sport. Physical exercise is any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness.

I began with Yeshá Tae Kwon Do in the summer of 2011. I found awesome sportsmanship! Everyone, no matter which belt level or age, they wanted to help out a classmate in need. In Tae Kwon Do, discipline is mandatory. The physical discipline is when we are in a stance for a long time and it is making our muscles burn, we must have the discipline and focus to hold that position. It might be a little weird, but I like that “burn”! Being involved with Yeshá Tae Kwon Do, I get to do the stretching and strengthening exercises the body needs. 

Now for that competitive piece: Competition is not new to me. I have competed on State, National and World levels previously. As a 50 year old woman, I have challenged myself to compete on the  National Tae Kwon Do circuit this year!  Being the oldest on the team does not slow me down. 

All of the above is not just for the couple of times a week in class. Being able to continue sportsmanship, discipline and physical and spiritual conditioning to my everyday life is extremely fulfilling.”