5 Thoughts on Active Aging…

closeup of feet in athletic shoes

Did you see that news item on Facebook? Virginia Tech is going to house some students at a nearby Holiday Inn this fall, because they don’t have enough space in their dorms for everyone. When I was in college, um, (cough-ahem) just a few years ago, my school had to do the same thing. There were just too many in our freshman class.

We are the Baby Boom generation… we are many… and we want to stay happy & healthy as we get older!

Everybody talks about active aging, but not everybody knows what that’s supposed to look like. Some things, such as fine wine, get better & better with age! While the grocery store magazine rack offers all kinds of tips for looking 20 forever, is that really what all of us want?

Here are some thoughts about staying active, whether you’re a Baby Boomer or not.

Keep moving, in whatever ways work for you. Don’t limit yourself.

However you choose to stay active, make sure it’s something you enjoy. Being miserable while you move is not a great way to stay motivated!

If salsa dancing, kickboxing, or Zumba sounds like your style, don’t worry about the fact that the rest of your friends are more into yoga or golf. Don’t let assumptions about your age keep you away from the judo dojo, skating rink, or climbing wall.

The other part of “what works for you” is feasibility. Walking is something you can do right on your own street, or even at the local big-box store if the weather is uncooperative. No fancy equipment or gym membership necessary!

If you’re really into dance but your joints don’t appreciate the intensity, think about water aerobics or even a synchronized swimming group. Our local rec centers, the Y, or 24-hour gyms have lots of classes and options to choose from.

Not every health and wellness issue is about “just getting older.” Ask questions and get honest answers.

Sometimes, we just assume that physical issues are a normal part of getting older. But just because people say that, doesn’t necessarily make it so!

For years people have passed around myths like the idea that muscle loss is an inevitable part of aging. But people of all ages may be able to maintain or build strength & muscle. Flexibility & cardiovascular fitness don’t have to fall by the wayside either!

Of course, our bodies do change over time. This is where the asking-questions part comes in. So ask your doctor, personal trainer, massage therapist (hello there!), physical therapist, or whatever experts you have at hand, and get the answers & advice you need.

Don’t just ignore how you feel.

You know what that means for you. Those headaches that seem to be getting worse, the stress, the way you feel out of breath carrying groceries up the stairs.

If you see a physician, you might find that it’s actually something straightforward. Maybe all you need is a change of medication, better posture when lifting, or a massage.

Maybe it’s something a bit more involved, like a change in your activity level, eating habits, or other physical factors. But knowledge is power, and ignoring the issue just guarantees you don’t have the power to make those choices for yourself.

Health doesn’t just mean physical health, and “active” doesn’t just mean physically active.

So often we think about health and wellness as an issue of the body, and forget about the importance of mental health as well. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, depression affects 6.5 million Americans over the age of 65. This often goes undiagnosed for the same reason physical illnesses do: people assume that these feelings are a normal part of aging, and so they don’t seek help.

Being active in a variety of ways also helps fend off depression and anxiety. Strong friendships, regular touch, physical activity (yeah, that again), and working towards goals are all beneficial for maintaining mental health.

Some ways that you can keep active & engaged in your community: Volunteer for a cause that you care about. Take a class or workshop to learn a new skill. (Our public libraries have tons of free or low-cost classes! Check their websites to see their schedule.)

If you’re feeling depressed or down, take an active role in getting the right treatment; talk therapy, support groups, or medication can be a huge help.

From my own experiences with depression, I can tell you that you are not alone.

Being active and independent doesn’t mean that you never ask for assistance.

Everybody needs help. Kids need help. Parents need help. Athletes and firefighters and librarians and piano teachers all need help. It can be scary to feel vulnerable.

What kind of help would keep you feeling active and healthy: a walking buddy… a lift to the gym… an encouraging phone call once a week?

Maybe a professional could help. A personal trainer, counselor, or coach might be just what you need. And if you don’t feel like you click with the first one that you meet with, that’s OK. A different health professional might be a better match for your needs… keep looking.

Your community center, place of worship, library, gym, coffee shop, or other gathering-place might have resources for you to connect with like-minded people. That’s a way to take action and advocate for your own wellness, no matter what your age is!

Something in the (Spa) Water…

Water glass with fresh berries and mint

Some of my friends just don’t like drinking their H2O. Some people can only drink water if it is icy-cold… for others, it has to be cool but not room-temperature… and I’ve known quite a few people who say that they “just don’t like the taste” of water.

All preferences aside, our bodies need to get hydration from somewhere. Although many animals (I’m looking at you, Dromedary) can go for a while without taking a drink, we humans aren’t prepared to store all the water we need.

H2O and You

You may have heard reminders about drinking water, during our current heat wave. You especially need to stay hydrated if you:

  • Work outside or spend time in the sun
  • Have a strenuous occupation
  • Have diabetes or heart disease
  • Are taking any kind of medications that cause frequent urination
  • Are frequently exercising
  • Perspire heavily

These are just some examples.

How to make hydration more appealing

Technology has made it easier to keep a cold drink chilled! Tervis cups (or similar brands) are a great invention. They come in many different sizes, you can get a cup sporting the logo of your favorite team, and although they’re not perfect, they do seem to keep a beverage cool longer than a regular cup.

Reusable water bottles (stainless steel or otherwise) are easy to find in stores nowadays. Part of their appeal is that they’re environmentally friendly, as compared to single-use plastic water bottles. And if you set a goal to drink a certain number of refills per day, that can help you to keep track of your own water intake.

[Reaching over, grabbing my Tervis cup, and telling myself to follow my own advice]… If you’re engaged in a task, such as writing a blog post, you could set a goal to take a drink of water after each paragraph  🙂

But here’s the fun part: Create your own Spa Water!

It’s not just limited to pitchers of cucumber H2O anymore. There are all different refreshing combinations that you can try. (Not to mention, many local fruits and berries are at their peak season right now!)

Check out these ideas from some fancy-schmancy spas across the country:

  • Watermelon, lightly-crushed blackberries, mint leaves, and halved strawberries
  • Lemon, lime, and orange
  • Lemon and cucumber
  • Cucumber, orange, and basil
  • Cucumber, lemon, and mint
  • Mint and lime (“spa mojito”)
  • Mint leaves, lemon slices, and green apples
  • Mandarin orange and blueberries
  • Strawberries, lime, and cucumber

…or create your own special blend of spa waters!

It’s a simple formula:

Choose your fruits and/or veggies, and grab a pitcher of water (tap? bottled? filtered? sparkling?)… Let the flavors infuse your water, pour over ice… and enjoy. Now that’s something in the water!

 

 

It all started when this happened…

Yeah, I was featured on a radio traffic report.

Sometimes a client will ask, as they are settling into their massage, “How did you decide to become a massage therapist?”

Actually, that’s an easy question to answer.

Well, you see. . . it all started on my way home from work (quite a few years ago). It was rush-hour, and suddenly a vehicle two cars ahead of me stopped abruptly. I tried to stop, but hit the car ahead of me (and he also hit the first car). My Chevy bounced back, just as a truck rear-ended me with such force that he pushed my vehicle into the car ahead again. Aaaaack! My poor Chevy sedan was the first casualty of that altercation.

A coworker told me later that the pile-up had made the radio traffic update. That’s not a good way to get yourself on the news.

…next, painkillers?

Anyway, after the accident, my chronic neck and shoulder pains began. I went to the doctor to make sure nothing was seriously wrong; he gave me some prescription muscle relaxers, but all I really wanted was for someone to get in there and work out my tense shoulder spasms!

I didn’t know any massage therapists at this point, so my solution was to seek out my friends who (a) possessed strong hands, and (b) had enough patience to deal with my frequent requests for help. Very quickly, I decided that some kneading for my upper trapezius trumped a Flexeril tablet every time! 🙂

Massage was a better painkiller for me

It was several years until I had the opportunity to go to massage school. But, during that time after my car accident, I gained a better appreciation for natural treatments. I knew I wanted to help other people feel better with massage therapy!

Sitting at the computer all day…

And here’s the other part of the story. In a previous career, I was a graphic artist (wedged into an office cubicle with a drawing board & a T-square). In the 80s and 90s, the tools of our trade transitioned to workstations with glowing computer monitors, mice, and non-ergonomic keyboards.

Then after 12 years of spending hours & hours each day typing and clicking and pasting,  I experienced chronic neck pain… tight shoulders… headaches… and occasional wrist soreness. Does that sound familiar?

Massage therapy can help!

Massages can definitely help you if you’re using a computer or tablet all day long. No two bodies are alike, and no two massage sessions will be alike. But there are some typical patterns computer-users often have with their necks and shoulders.

Tell me where the majority of your pain & stress lies, and we can spend some time focusing on that during your session. Let me know how I can help!

 

Gift-giving & a Massage Newbie (part 1)

gift box with blue ribbon

Letters, we get letters… (well, these days it’s mostly text messages and emails, y’know.)

Here’s one of the questions clients frequently ask about purchasing someone a gift certificate:

“How do I know what kind of massage would be good for my dad? He’s always telling me that his back hurts, and he gets migraine headaches, but he’s never gotten a massage before.

I keep telling him that he needs to come in and see you, and his birthday is next week. So what kind of gift certificate would be best to get for him?”

Of course, everyone’s needs are different, but here are some suggestions I would make for a client who hasn’t experienced a massage yet…

Start with a Swedish massage.

Swedish is intended to be relaxing, to help you deal with stress and (for newbies) will be a good introduction to receiving massage therapy.

In most cases, I would lean toward booking a 60-minute session, rather than 30 minutes. The reason I say that is because 30 minutes can go by pretty quickly when you’re on the table!

If you’re new to receiving massage therapy, 60 minutes can give you a more complete picture. It’s a good way to find out what areas of your body you might want to receive some focus on, during your next massage appointment.

Anyone who comes in to my massage office, will feel like they can relax and take their time. Since I’m a one-person, independent business, nobody will feel as if they are rushed-in and rushed-out. I want to give all my clients personalized attention and listen to their needs.

Create your own “Spa Package” or “Local Adventure”

Massage gift certificates are great for any & all holidays, special occasions, and milestones. And they’re also special when you combine a massage gift certificate with something else to create your own unique “package.”

How about a massage session and a themed gift basket from one of our local gourmet food shops?

Or, a massage session that includes a unique aromatherapy blend, along with flowers, chocolates, maybe a gift card for a favorite restaurant…

Or, pair a massage gift with a visit to one of our local attractions. Have you ever gone indoor skydiving down at the beach? (I got to do that last year… it’s a lot of fun…)

Or what about climbing or ziplining on the ropes course down by the aquarium. Or for the runner in your family, what about a massage gift certificate combined with an entry to their next race?

I hope these ideas help you out with your gift-giving.

Of course, you can choose a gift certificate for any of the massage services that I offer. Or you can just purchase a gift for any specific dollar amount instead, and let the recipient decide what they want.

My gift certificates say “best used by…(a date a few months in the future)” just to encourage the giftee to come in and use them.

Did you know that you can purchase gift certificates online, 24-7? Yep, it’s true! Check out my instant gift certificates on this page.

Caring for the Skin You’re in: Sun Safety

Woman on beach with sunglasses

Massage therapists see a lot of skin. All colors, all textures. Freckles, scars, stretch marks, moles. Skin with lots of hair & skin with none. Skin doesn’t surprise us…

…except when it does. That brown spot on your shoulder blade? It wasn’t quite that big when you came in a month ago. And it looks less like an oval and a little more like a blob. Maybe you should have that checked out?

What happens when you get a sunburn?

You’re exposed to the sun and then your skin turns red and itchy, right? Well, yes. But there’s more to it…

When you step out into the sunlight (or drive in the daytime, or sit near a window)… you’re bombarded by UV radiation. This radiation causes mismatches in the curlicue of your DNA in the nucleus of your skin cells, which is dangerous and could eventually lead to cancer.

Your skin jumps into protective action redistributing melanin (the pigment that causes suntans, and which helps to protect your DNA from further damage).

If you stay in the sun (especially if you’re fair skinned and don’t have much melanin to go around), you start to see an inflammatory response. It’s the same kind of inflammation that you see when you sprain your ankle, only spread out across your damaged skin.

Your blood vessels dilate to get more nutrients and infection-fighting cells to your skin, making it red and warm to the touch. Itching and pain result, a warning signal from your body that something’s wrong. You may feel thirsty and tired as your body works to repair itself.

If the burn is severe, you may see blisters. With one of my most serious sunburns, my feet swelled so much that I could only wear flipflops for 2 weeks.

Eventually, even if you didn’t have any blisters, you will get flaking and peeling of the top layer of your skin. Interestingly enough, these skin cells weren’t killed by UV radiation. When skin cells recognize that their DNA has been severely damaged, they deliberately die off rather than risk becoming cancerous. This planned cell death is called apoptosis, and it’s the reason you see massive numbers of skin cells coming loose at once.

How can you protect your skin?

The short answer: Stay away from UV radiation. This means tanning beds as well as sunlight.

The longer answer: Unless you plan to become a vampire, you will probably be exposed to sunlight at least some of the time. The trick is to reduce that exposure to a safe level by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using sunscreen.

How much sun is safe?

This depends on two main variables: the UV Index and your skin type.

UV Index

The UV Index is a measure of the level of UV radiation in your location at any given point in time. It’s something you can easily look up on your computer or phone before heading out the door. Some weather apps have a UV Index layer on the radar. In general, global UV Index recommendations look something like this:

  • 1-2: Low. Enjoy being outside!
  • 3-7: Medium. Seek shade at midday, put on a shirt and hat, wear sunscreen. Did you know, the amount of sunscreen you need is approximately the size of a shot glass full. Don’t forget your ears or the back of your neck.
  • 8+: High. Stay indoors at midday, seek shade as much as possible, sunscreen is an absolute must. Look for a sunscreen that says Broad Spectrum, SPF 30+.

Skin type

With the exception of people with albinism, everyone has some melanin in their skin. Those with more of the protective pigmentation are less susceptible to DNA damage in their skin cells from UV radiation than those with less.

  • Type I: Very pale, burns quickly, never tans
  • Type II: Pale, burns easily, rarely tans
  • Type III: Burns moderately, tans over time to light brown
  • Type IV: Burns minimally, tans to medium brown
  • Type V: Rarely burns, tans to dark brown.
  • Type VI: Never burns, rarely tans, deeply pigmented skin.

What about vitamin D?

Yup, you need vitamin D in your body to stay healthy. And yes, your skin manufactures vitamin D in response to UV radiation. So shouldn’t you go without sun protection sometimes for the nutritional benefits?…Dermatologists don’t recommend that route…

Luckily, there are a number of sources of vitamin D that don’t also cause skin cancer. Fish, mushrooms, eggs, & fortified dairy products are all excellent sources. Or there are vitamin D supplements. My doctor has me taking a prescription-strength Vitamin D3.

Caring about your skin isn’t about vanity.

It’s your body’s largest organ, and I want my clients to stay healthy! #naturalskinrocks

Massage therapists love skin. We work with it on a daily basis and appreciate all it does to keep your insides in, and your outsides out. Your skin keeps you cool, tells you what’s around you, prevents infections & repairs itself at a remarkable rate. So take care of it!

And maybe bring it in for a massage.

(One of) my Favorite Things…

SunGuard adds UPF30 into your clothing.

Did you know that you can add sun protection to clothing that you already own?

SunGuard is a laundry additive from the company who gave us access to fabulous tie-dyed Tshirts (RIT, that is). It washes UPF 30* sun protection into your load of laundry (as long as the fabric is cotton or mostly cotton blend).

It’s pretty easy to use: as your washer is filling with hot water, add a packet of SunGuard to the water. Then add your clothes, make sure they soak for 15 minutes, and then proceed with the wash cycle as usual. (I have to “stop” my washer for the 15 minutes, but that’s no problem; it’s just my quirky machine.)

According to the product info, the sun protection will last through 20 launderings. I wondered about skin sensitivity or irritations from using it; however, from personal experience I haven’t had any problems (and my skin is super-sensitive to chemicals).

Although I haven’t found it in local stores, SunGuard is available to order on Amazon. Consider trying it if you’d like to add sun protection to your clothes!

 

*UPF in clothing, is similar to SPF in sunscreens. As a comparison, a common white Tshirt has a UPF of about 5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if…

photo of fresh whole coffee beans

What if we got massages as often as we drank coffee?

What kind of health benefits would that give us? (Raise your hand if you would like to volunteer for a scientific study involving daily massages. Me! Me!)

There is a tradition that entertainer Bob Hope, who lived to be 100, got a massage every day… and that it contributed to his longevity. I don’t know if this is true, but it surely could be one reason that he enjoyed such a long life and career.

According to this Healthline article published in 2018, an 8-ounce daily cup of coffee contains vitamins B2, B5, B1, & B3; folate, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus… plus significant antioxidants. Among other potential “perks” (pun intended, of course.)

Although most of us wouldn’t be able to get a massage every day, I’d like to suggest that you’ll see lots of advantages if you make massage therapy a regular habit!

  • When you come in for a massage more often, it’s easier to stay flexible and loose. Think of massage as maintenance for your muscles.
  • When you keep massage on your regular schedule, you’ll gain emotional benefits. Self-care. You’re worth it.
  • When a massage appointment stays on your radar, you might see a reduction in your stress level. Or maybe fewer tension headaches.
  • When you come in for massages that focus on a specific issue (neck pain, back pain, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, nausea…), it’s easier to see progress and reduction of your symptoms, when you come in on a regular interval.

Graphic: What if we made massage as essential as coffeeWhat do you think? What kind of schedule would work for you, in order to see more consistent benefits from your massages?

 

Should I talk during my massage?

Client is face up and therapist is using stones on their left leg.

Good question!

And the answer is… there’s no right or wrong answer!

Sure, if you’d like to talk during your massage… go right ahead. The important thing to remember is that this treatment is all about you relaxing & enjoying the experience.

Many therapists discourage talking in hopes that you will relax, let your mind float free, and enter a state of massage bliss. I have an introverted nature, and I want to offer that as an advantage if you prefer quiet during your massage.

However, I’m not going to pressure you to stop talking, if that’s what helps YOU to relax and settle into your massage session.

There are times when you need to speak up. If anything about your massage is making you uncomfortable, please let me know immediately.

  • If you get too warm or too cold, let me know… I have a fan, extra blankets, and a cozy table warmer that can all be adjusted.
  • If the lighting is too bright or too dim, let me know… the wall sconce is on a dimmer switch.
  • If you were expecting a different pressure, let me know so we can address that right away.

And if you have any questions… feel free to ask anytime during your massage! I want your session to be the most helpful and beneficial and awesome that it can be for you.

Massage Myth-Busters…

client having massage on their mid-back.

Myth: You can’t get a massage if you weigh too little, or too much.

There are so many variations of this misconception. And the myths sound like they were made up by the MeanGirls.

  • “Skinny people don’t have enough “meat on their bones” to get a massage, they’ll just bruise.”
  • “Overweight people can’t get a real massage because there’s too much tissue between their skin and their muscles.”
  • “People without perfect bodies shouldn’t show their skin to anyone.” Umm, Nobody has a perfect body…
  • And so on. Yada, Yada. 

Big people like massage. Small people like massage. In-between people like massage. And we massage therapists love providing massage to all kinds of people. It’s a perfect combination!

Are there different techniques better suited to bodies with specific needs? Of course. Is weight or size a prohibitive factor? Nope. Not by a long shot. The folks who make these kinds of comments and judgments, are either misinformed or just being mean.

I don’t judge my clients’ weight, or whether or not you are working on losing or gaining pounds. My table is called an Earthlite Ellora, and it is sturdy enough for the vast majority of people. (It’s rated for 600 lbs.) And it has an electric lift, by the way… which means that the table height adjusts. It’s a nice feature, because it makes the table easily accessible for any client!

So this myth is definitely history. I’m not critical of my clients’ weight… I just care about helping you feel better.

Ideas for Better Sleep!

photo of woman stretching with sunrise

Sometimes getting a full night’s sleep seems impossible to achieve. No matter the cause — stress? pain? your work schedule? or some other reason — if you are not receiving regular quality sleep, it can lead to other health problems. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says, “Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions – such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression – which threaten our nation’s health.”

Sleep Awareness Week (March 10-16, 2019) gives us an opportunity to leave insufficient sleep behind and get back to the quality sleep that is so vital to our health and wellness.

And here are a few ways you can start getting on track to better sleep habits.

Say adios to technology… well before bedtime.

Smartphones follow us everywhere these days. Consider moving your phone charger and making your nightstand a no-phone zone. Nix the TV, tablet, laptop and whatever electronic device has found its way into your resting space. Break the screen-time habit and allow yourself to relax on a deep level.  

Establish a routine that is calming and relaxing.

Humans are habitual creatures. How you wrap up your day can greatly impact the quality of sleep you receive. Finish the day with a warm bath, a cup of herbal tea, cool the temperature in your room, and shut off the lights. Establishing a routine can put you into the mindset, “it’s time for sleep.”

Massage. Massage. Massage.

There, I said it. Massage can be VERY helpful when it comes to improving your sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have found massage to be beneficial for stress, as well as:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Paresthesias and nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ)

Massage can not only increase relaxation and lower your fatigue, but it can reduce pain and improve your quality of sleep. Which can also help restore your sleep pattern.

Our need for sleep has dramatically increased with the infiltration of technology and the busier our schedules get. Massage is a great way to fulfill that need & be on your way to a better night’s rest.