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I happened across this meme in my news feed, and as someone who sees the sun rising as I'm working out in the morning, I had to laugh. But, at the same time, it got me thinking, ya know - it's kinda true. I previously spoke of how to get, and stay, motivated to get your body moving, and I'm gonna piggyback onto that with, what I think, is the best time of day to break a sweat. And, why, do I, as a massage therapist, keep talking about exercise? Because, keeping your muscles moving is an important ingredient to optimal muscle health. Exercise, stretching, massage, nutrition, etc.. It's a whole recipe.

So, I've tried different times of day to get my workout in, and first thing in the morning is by far my F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E. Yes, it's that dramatic. Despite the fact that I love literally everything about working out, if I have all day to think about it, I can come up with a million reasons to put it off and knock out a few other things on my to-do list instead. For whatever reason, until I am actually exercising, I do not feel like exercising. From what I gather, a lot of other people feel that way, too. That's where the whole "willpower" thing comes in, no?

This is one of the reasons an early AM workout works so well. It eliminates *some* of the need for the willpower (or maybe just redirects it to the whole getting to bed early bit). I roll out of bed, put on my workout clothes (unless I'm already wearing them, because sometimes I do that, too!), grab my gym bag and drive over there. I get everything ready the night before so I have to do as little thinking as possible when I get up, and I'm barely conscious throughout the process. It's a lot like when I went skydiving. As we climbed higher and higher in altitude in that little plane, and I knew the only way I was exiting was to jump, I kept my mind as blank as possible so as to not think about what I was about to do, so I wouldn't find myself holding onto the plane doorway like a cat in a bathtub. No thinking until I'm already there! Once I've stepped into the gym, it's like jumping off the plane. No turning back now. Just gotta go along for the ride, and have a hell of a lot of fun in the process. If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong!

I know not everyone's magical hour is going to be first thing in the morning, but find that sweet spot that makes it as effortless as possible, and you will keep it up!

Got questions or need advice? You've got me all to yourself for a whole hour (or however long you book) every time you come in for a massage. ;)

From the studio of
Neelou Saleh
Licensed Massage Therapist
Licensed Massage Therapist Instructor
Kingwood, TX
www.spiritoflotus.com
 
 
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For years I struggled finding a way to stay consistently active. I tried different activities at different times - softball, basketball, yoga, running, dancing, home workouts, gym workouts, martial arts, etc.. I would stick with it for awhile, then sooner or later would lose motivation, interest, ability to maintain the schedule,
insert stock excuse to not keep working out here...and would take six months or a year to find something else to try. Once I got into my thirties, the lack of consistent activity started to catch up with me, and I soon found myself with debilitating back pain.

Muscles were made to move. The amount of time that many of us spend not moving in today's society - sitting at a desk, sitting in the car, sitting in front of the TV - does a huge disservice to the health of our muscles, and most people end up paying dearly for that, sooner or later. Massage is a wonderful way to help take care of ourselves, but regardless of whether or not you get massages, if you are not getting up and moving, you are missing out on the number one most beneficial way to keep your muscles in the healthiest condition possible.

Everyone has a different level of comfort and ability, but most people can find a way to get moving that will work for them. There are a number of excuses we can easily fall back on to not exercise - the most common being "I just don't have the time." I am here to tell you, as a mother of two kiddos running a household and a business on my own, if I can find the time, so can you. I promise. I did eventually find the workout method and routine that I was able to stick with in the form of Crossfit. At 6 o'clock in the morning. And I have NEVER been a morning person. Sometimes it takes a significant lifestyle change, and you just do it.

It's been three years now, and I'm still at it. Sometimes there are disruptions. I had to take a few months off last year due to health issues, but as soon as I was physically able, I was back in the gym (even able to participate in our in-box competition, as seen in the photo above).
Earlier this year, my kids' school schedule was making it difficult to get to a Crossfit class, so I went running a few times a week to stay active and dropped into classes when I could. This past summer I didn't work out much due to traveling (but I was hiking on my travels), but now I'm back on my normal schedule. Sometimes life temporarily pauses my workout routine, but I squeeze in what I can and I jump right back in the moment the disruption passes, so that working out becomes the norm and not working out is only a minor blip. That is something I previously was never able to do, and I realized the reasons for the prolonged inactivity were lack of true interest in my latest chosen activity, trying to do something that wasn't practical for my life, and just not making workout out a big enough priority. Having finally overcome all the many obstacles that can make it difficult to stay active with regularity, here are my tips to get up and get moving, and sticking with it!

1. Keep an open mind
I always thought I should be the kind of person that loves yoga. It fits with my interests and personality, so I tried making yoga my main thing, again and again. But, I could never stick with it for more than a few months at a time. It turns out that, though I enjoy yoga, it's not really my "thing". I discovered by starting Crossfit classes that weightlifting is my thing. Weightlifting is something I always thought seemed kinda boring, but oddly enough, it turned out to be what I love and look forward to getting myself to the gym for. I enjoy the other types of exercises we do in Crossfit for the sake of a well-rounded workout, but the weightlifting aspect is by far my true love. I also thought I preferred working out solo, but low and behold, I love the social aspect of Crossfit, and it's another reason I find it easier to drag myself to the box before the sun is up. So, I didn't know what I liked nearly as much as I thought I did, and I never would have known without trying something that seemed an unlikely match for me. If you haven't found your perfect match - keep looking! It might be what you least expect. People are not very good at predicting what they will and won't like without trying it. When you truly enjoy an activity, it doesn't feel like you are having to "force" yourself to exercise just to begrudgingly be healthy.

2. Make it a priority
This is the most important piece of advice. If your physical activity is low on the priority list, anything and everything else that comes up in life will get in the way of it. You put it off one day for this, another day for that, and before you know it, you haven't exercised in six months, and your strength and stamina you worked so hard for has ridden off into the sunset, on the back of your motivation. Like I said, I had to change my entire routine to make working out work for me. Making sure I get to bed early enough to get up early enough to get that workout in means structure and meticulous time management, two things I always rebelled against, as well as early to bed and early to rise, which goes against my very nature. But, workouts



 
 
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Myth - "Massage releases trapped toxins in the body, and drinking lots of water will help to flush them out."

There are a number of pervading myths floating around in the massage world, and over and above all others is this one right here. The above statement is actually a two-for, as far as myths go, but because they are so often cited together I want to address both parts here. Though massage has many wonderful benefits for health and well-being, detoxing is not one of them, so let's clear the air.
A highly beneficial natural treatment like massage does not need false advertising mucking up it's reputation, after all.

Unfortunately, the myth of toxins being released by massage therapy is still taught in some schools, and therefore continues to be repeated by therapists old and new. Despite the fact that it has been debunked, it continues to persist, for a few reasons that I can tell - for one, not all massage therapists or instructors keep up with the latest research; two, it sounds good in a world where clever (but inaccurate) marketing has popularized the idea of "detoxing"; and three, clients often feel "massage drunk" after a session, and it sounds like a good explanation for that phenomenon.

Research has not found any evidence to show this supposed increase in "toxins" circulating through the body after a massage, trying to find the exit now that they have finally been let loose. Probably because our muscles don't store them up to begin with. Fat cells can hold onto certain types of toxic substances (more specifically, persistent organic pollutants, or, POPs), and heavy metals can build up in your bones, but



 
 
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Most of us don't spend nearly enough time taking care of ourselves. Self care is all about keeping yourself healthy and sane. It can be anything that contributes to your well-being and helps you avoid health issues, unhappiness, stress (#1 killer!), and all the other unpleasantness everyday life can bring. Take time every day, week, hour, whatever works for you, to do something for you.

Here is a list of ten ways to help keep you being your best self:

1. Go to bed an hour early.
Too many people are not getting enough sleep. A whopping 40% of Americans report getting fewer than seven hours of sleep per night. There is not much that is more important for our health and well-being than getting enough sleep, so do yourself a favor and get to bed early.

2. Spend twenty minutes de-cluttering.
Clutter in the house causes clutter in the mind. It's hard to think clearly when you are surrounded by mess, so spend a twenty minute focus session getting rid of that pesky pile of clutter that always builds up.

3. Soak in a hot Epsom salt bath.
Epsom salts help to relieve muscle tension and the hot tub of water will melt your stresses from the day away. Throw in some lavender essential oil if you like and play some relaxing music. Dump about two pounds of the Epsom salts into the tub and give yourself a good twenty minute soak. You are worth it.

4. Keep yourself hydrated.
About 43% of U.S. adults drink less than four cups of water a day. If you fall into that category, you are suffering from chronic dehydration. The symptoms can include bad breath, dry skin, muscle cramps, cravings for sweets, fatigue, etc.. Every single process in your body down the the cellular level requires water to operate properly, and your body is composed of approximately 60% water, so consuming enough water is extremely important. Some ways to make it easier to stay hydrated are to keep a water bottle handy throughout the day, eat lots of fruits and veggies, sip more during meals, and try a variety of (caffeine-free) teas.

5. Go outside.
It is easy to end up cooped up indoors all day. Make a point to take a walk outside for half an hour and soak up some sun. Studies have shown that being outside benefits the brain and makes us feel more alive and less stressed.

6. Pay it forward.
Helping others is an amazing way to help ourselves in a way that connects us to the greater good of all that is around us. Volunteer, do someone you know a personal favor, or commit a random act of kindness when


 
 
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Today I want to talk about something important. I see this far too often, though it is very preventable. Sports injuries. In particular, sports injuries that occur because of overly tight muscles that are continually neglected, until it is too late.

I can only assume that many people do this simply because they don't realize the impending danger, so let's change that and look at why this happens.

Why is a tight muscle so susceptible to injury during sports activities or a workout? Look at it this way: if a muscle is tight, it is basically stuck in a contracted state, even when you aren't using it. Whether it is 20% contracted or 40% contracted, even when you are not actively engaging the muscle, that muscle is holding onto a pattern that it has gotten locked into, and you are not getting the full use of it.

For one, a muscle like this is weaker than usual. If your muscle is already 20% contracted at all times, you are only getting to use 80% of its strength. A tight muscle is also a starving muscle. It is not getting the



 
 
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"Impermanence is the nature of the human condition."

There is a Zen notion I am rather fond of called wabi sabi. It can be described as a fleeting, imperfect, accidental beauty - unpretentious, simple, and intimate.

It is the weathering of a statue, the nicks of time on furniture, the scarring of old bronze, the crawling of moss on stone, and even the natural aging process of a human being.

It is that last bit, that applies so directly to the experience of being human, that I want to focus on today. Wabi sabi embraces the natural process of growth, decay, and death. It is about accepting the impermanence of everything in life, including life itself.

It may be silly, but when it comes to everyday life, remembering the beauty of wabi sabi can do wonders for relieving stress or disappointment. When your favorite shoes start showing signs of wear and don't look quite so pretty anymore. When you lose an earring. When you look in the mirror on the morning of your 30th birthday and see the first signs of crows feet around your eyes (funny how it seems to work that way, right?). You can fully mourn the loss of what was, while knowing ultimately that it doesn't matter in the big picture, and that nothing is meant to be forever. You can live your human experience to the fullest while knowing that your suffering is not because of impermanence, but because of your reaction to impermanence.

To forget the truth of impermanence is to forget the truth of life. Life is about embracing each moment as it happens, and being able to see the beauty in each of those fleeting, beautiful, perfectly imperfect moments as they are gifted to you.

From the studio of
Neelou Saleh
Licensed Massage Therapist
Kingwood, TX
www.spiritoflotus.com

 
 
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At the beginning of every year many people create a list of goals for the year we call "resolutions." So many start off eating healthy, hitting the gym, putting themselves on a budget, etc.. But, we all know how well that goes. Most don't last more than three months, IF they make it that far. New Year's Resolutions are by and large, a huge failure. So, why do we keep making them, only to end up frustrated? Hmm, I don't know. Maybe we don't know what else to try for self and life improvement?

I have found over the past few years there is a much better way. Every year, I skip the resolutions and instead focus on a theme for the next year. There is something about having a theme that keeps me focused and continuing to take action throughout the year that fits within that theme, and at the end of the year I can look back and see how much I was able to accomplish.

What exactly do I mean by theme? Well, I look at what it is I want to improve in my life and choose a theme accordingly. I like to keep it broad enough to not be too strict about specifically what I am to be doing, but narrow enough to give me a sense of direction and focus.

Themes have been words such as Expansion or Growth, Self Care, Free Time, Create, Health, Independence, etc.. It is best to choose one word (or two if necessary, i.e. "Free Time") with an overarching theme for what area of yourself or your life you want to improve. You can create a plan for yourself within that theme to break down the steps of how you will make it happen if you like.

The reason I find themes to be so effective is that, throughout the year, if I find myself getting off track, I 


 
 
Do you find it difficult to communicate to your therapist just what it is you want from your session? Or, do you feel like you are communicating, and yet you still aren't getting what you were seeking? It seems there are a lot of people out there complaining that they have often left a massage therapy session a bit disappointed. Usually this is because either the pressure they received was too much or too little, or the therapist did not spend enough time working on the achey areas, or because the therapist was too chatty and they just wanted to relax. I'm not big on lengthy intros, so let's get the to the meat of the article - tips on how to get the massage you really want.

The best time to specify most of your requests is before the session, during intake. A caring therapist will spend a few minutes finding out just what the client has come in for, but this is also the time for the client to speak up.

1. Do you find the therapist doesn't seem to spend enough time on the area that was your main complaint? If, for example, you have a stiff neck, don't be shy in specifying you want at least ten minutes on just your neck, for example. That way if the therapist tends to only usually spend five minutes, they will know you really want more and need that from your session that day. I wouldn't recommend trying to allot specific time frames for multiple areas, because that can be tedious and your therapist will be too busy clock watching to be able to focus on you, but if you have a special concern that you know you prefer a certain amount of time on, say it! When a client has multiple areas of concern, the therapist may not realize one is 

 
 
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Aaahh, stretching. There are many reasons we think we need to stretch (unfortunately most of them are wrong, but I'll address that in future posts), and there are a few very therapeutic uses for stretching. One thing stretching is definitely good for is feeling good, but it also helps to loosen up tight muscles and keep them from giving you trouble.

Unfortunately, some of the muscles that could seriously benefit from stretching just can't be stretched. The reason being simply the way we are built doesn't allow for us to contort ourselves in such a way that will apply tensile pressure to some key muscles.

A quick breakdown of some of these muscles and why it would be awesome if we could actually stretch them:

Supraspinatus and Subscapularis (2 of the 4 rotator cuff muscles) - These muscles that are part of the rotator cuff group are often the cause of pain in the shoulder, but unfortunately they can't be stretched effectively. The supraspinatus lifts the arm to the side, so moving your arm in the other direction far enough to stretch is impossible, since your torso is kinda in the way. The subscapularis is attached to the underside of the scapula, sandwiched between the shoulder blade and ribs. No matter how you try to twist your shoulder, the trigger points in the portion of the muscle attached to your scapula will not stretch out. Bummer.

Quadriceps - This one is probably surprising, since we often see athletes pulling their foot back against their backsides to stretch the quads. However, though it feels like you are stretching them, it is only one of those muscles - the rectus femoris - that is stretching. The other three (vastus lateralis, vastus medius, and vastus intermedius) are not being pulled enough to stretch them. Mostly these three muscles don't cause issues, but sometimes the vastus lateralis can be a bit of a troublemaker.

Pec Minor - Or, more properly, pectoralis minor. This muscle can be a major player in serious problems such as thoracic outlet syndrome, and is often the main culprit in pain between the shoulder blades. When 


 
 
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It's best to save the massage for after your workout. Your muscles need about 24 hours after receiving a massage to recover before doing any vigorous exercise, such as running or weight training. If you push your muscles to work too soon, it can actually increase soreness and decrease the effectiveness of the soft tissue work done during your massage therapy session.

You can certainly partake in light exercises, such as walking or gentle swimming, within the 24 hour post massage period. Be sure to stay hydrated, and spend some time stretching and soaking in a hot Epsom salt bath after your massage to get the maximum benefit from it. You want your body to have time to recover and adjust to the new subtle movement patterns before your get back to your normal workout routine. If you are going to be participating in an athletic competition, you want to get a massage about 48-72 hours beforehand.

A massage after a workout, however, is very beneficial. According to a study published in the "Journal of Athletic Training", massage received about three hours after a strenuous strength training workout actually reduced the occurrence of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) by about 30%.


From the studio of
Neelou Saleh
Licensed Massage Therapist
Kingwood, TX
www.spiritoflotus.com