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!

 

 

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 Should I Expect When I Come In for a Massage?

Exterior of building where Quiet Strength Massage Therapy is found.

Sometimes when I meet somebody and tell them I’m a massage therapist, they tell me they have been meaning to get a massage.

They mention tension in their shoulders, or they feel stressed out because of their job, or they have pain in their back that never seems to go away. Oftentimes, they had a massage before… but it’s been a long time ago.

Or they tell me that their overbooked schedule makes it difficult to fit some self-care into their calendar. And many people that I’ve talked to, are just nervous about coming in for a massage, because they aren’t sure what it is like. And they’re not sure whether or not a massage will help them. Or whether they’ll like it.

Don’t hesitate to ask me any questions that you have about massage therapy, or if you’re wondering whether bodywork can help you.

Over the years, I’ve worked with lots of clients who never had a massage before…and the vast majority really feel better after they try it!

Because I’m a small business with just one client at a time, I can offer you a relaxing atmosphere that won’t feel like “rush ’em in, & rush ’em out.”

Red alarm clock with grass backgroundFor your first appointment, try to arrive 10 minutes before your scheduled time. That gives you time to sit down, relax, and fill out a form (your contact information, some questions about your medical history, and what you want me to help you with).

My intake form is pretty thorough, but that’s important… so that I can adapt your massage to any medical issues that you might have (past or present).

It’s in your best interests to let me know your health history. I’m not just being nosy, but I want to work in a manner that is safe & beneficial for every client.

Overall, therapeutic massage is safe, but there are lots of health conditions that affect the way that I should work. So yeah, I ask questions, but it’s in your best interests.

As we go over your information questionnaire, please tell me if there are areas that you would like me to focus more time on during your massage.

Most of the time, when clients are new to massage therapy, I’d suggest working on all these areas: your scalp, face, neck, shoulders, arms, legs, feet, and back. But if there is something you want me to leave out, that is completely your decision. Some people are too ticklish to enjoy work on their feet, for example. No problem. Let me know and I will respect your preference. It’s YOUR massage!

Of course, when a client comes in with a particular problem that they want me to spend all or most of their massage time on, that’s fine too.

After we have talked about your goals and preferences, I will show you the massage room and step out so you can get ready.

My table is comfortable and has some thick padding on it with an adjustable warmer to help you relax. It’s up to you whether you remove clothing… most people do, because it makes it easier to work on your muscles. But again, this is your choice.

You then will get under the sheet & blanket and I will knock on the door to see if you are ready before I come back in the room. (Note: Draping with the sheet, blanket, &/or towels, is required for all massages at all times. I am a professional Massage Therapist licensed with the Virginia Board of Nursing, & that is the law.)

Usually I use organic or pesticide-free jojoba for massages. Jojoba is a non-allergenic ester that is close to your skin’s natural oils. If you want aromatherapy oils added, the oils I use are organic. But I won’t use scented oils without permission. I know that many people are sensitive to perfumes & scents! Nope, no “surprise” odors used on your skin that you were not expecting!

I have a towel warmer in the massage room, and normally incorporate some nice cozy towels during a session. But if you are sensitive to heat, just let me know.

If you have booked an hour massage with me, normally that means you get an hour of actual massage time on the table. As an independent business owner, I’m adamant that an hour massage should be an hour massage. (Many of the massage franchises or spas give you a “50-minute hour” and then rush you out the door. Not here.)

One of the most important things I can say about your massage is this: Please speak up and let me know at the time, if there is anything I can change in order to make you more comfortable.

If there is too much pressure, or if there isn’t enough pressure; if you’d like different music; if you’d like another blanket, etc. Please tell me right away, so that your session is what you wanted.

Normally, I do not talk very much during your massage, except to check in with you and get feedback. I don’t want clients to feel like they need to carry on a conversation. It’s your time to relax and enjoy. If you would like to talk, of course you can. But don’t feel like you have to.

When your session is over, I’ll leave the room. I don’t want clients to feel rushed after their massage! Please let me know how you feel and if you have any questions. Sometimes it helps clients to drink some water and stretch a bit after their session.

I want to help you meet your goals for getting massage therapy, whether you mostly want to relax & destress, or you have particular “issues with your tissues.” So please keep me informed about how I can help your massage be what you want it to be!

Celebrate Easy Random Acts of Kindness

Tealights burning in Himalayan Salt candleholders

International Random Acts of Kindness Week was founded by a nonprofit organization in Denver. Their website is packed with great ideas on how to celebrate, and I especially love the approach of committing a random act of kindness for three different people:

• Someone you don’t know

• Someone you know

• Yourself

Someone you don’t know

This is pretty simple and can quickly become a habit. (That’s a good thing!)

Smile. When you’re in a depressingly long line at the bank, watching a parent deal with their toddler’s public meltdown, or sitting next to another car in traffic. A kind grin goes a long way when you’re feeling a bit hopeless about the daily hassles in life.

When I was going through chemotherapy, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. But I decided that I would do my best to smile at the other patients in the treatment room. It wasn’t easy to act positive, but I hope I helped someone along the way.

Someone you know

Take a moment to think about who in your life may be a little touch-deficient. Maybe you know someone who is recently widowed, a single parent with older children, or a new empty-nester. Maybe even a young teenager in an especially introverted stage of awkwardness.

Make it a point to touch someone. It could be a warm hand shake, high-five, or great hug, whatever is appropriate for that person and situation. Touch is shown to make us happier and healthier, and it benefits both you and the receiver!

Yourself

People depend on you, so it’s important to take care of yourself. If you’ve only got a few minutes, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths. Or put on some of your favorite music and chill. Or put on some of your other favorite music and dance like nobody’s watching 🙂

If you can set aside some more time, get a massage, go for a walk by yourself to recharge, or window shop at your favorite mall.

Kindness doesn’t have to cost you anything, and it doesn’t need to be a grand gesture. A little goes a long way!