Working Out or Working In

Recently I have had a number of  discussions with clients who needed to go off plan for a session or two due to various reasons. This led me to thinking about the difference between “working out” and “working in”.

Hard training sessions seem to ” take” more than they “give” at that time. That’s working out. While a session with just the right level of difficulty for that day seems to “give” back. Meaning you can feel more energised than when you started. That’s what I would call working in.  Don’t get me wrong hard sessions are needed when you have big goals but when it’s not there it’s just not there. 


We hear it all the time. “I feel far better now” or “that’s just what I needed”.

Sometimes we come into the training studio knowing full well that the usual energy and motivation just isn’t at the level it normally is. This could be from almost anything. Injury, poor sleep, bad mood, sickness, seasonal changes and various other stresses that life seems to find. Whatever the reason may be, trying to pile more onto your plate  by having a hard training session may not always be the right move. Just because a hard session was planned does not mean it is set in stone. There is no shame or harm in doing an “easier” session. Oftentimes it’s just what the body wants. 


Personal training should be exactly that. Personal. We understand regular people aren’t robots and have lives outside the gym. It’s highly likely you also aren’t a professional athlete being paid for your physical prowess. This means that there is far more room to be flexible with almost every part of the plan. Things like scaling down the resistance, easier movement progressions, focusing on a different fitness quality or throwing the plan out the window and going off script. 

Little if any progress will be lost by toning it down sometimes while other things are going on in life.

Just my 2 cents. 


A week in the life – a sports massage therapist at Ironman NZ

Once a year for 6 or 7 days I get to hang out in beautiful Taupo.

Before you start thinking about all the adventure seeking I must be doing, or the late afternoon lakeside wines I must be drinking, let me tell you now.  It is most definitely NOT a holiday, however it is fun, it is exciting, it is filled with laughter, and yes there are one or two glasses of wine consumed.


The week is known affectionately as Ironman Week.  On the first Saturday in March, Taupo hosts the NZ Ironman and for the last 14 years I have had the pleasure of being part of this amazing week.   If you think that the life of a sports massage therapist is hanging out with incredible athletes all day – well you would be right.  However as all my fellow colleagues can tell you, it is also a life that involves incredible hard work. You hardly ever get to see the games, races, and events that your clients participate in as you are either travelling, setting up, or prepping behind the scenes.


When I worked with one of our NPC rugby teams, I only ever got to watch the second half of every game.  When the team hit the field, I would take my opportunity to head back into the changing room and have my shower (I was the only female and depending on the stadium, I would usually have to duck into the ballboy (girl) changing area or borrow the refs showers.  Or I would ask the friendly security guy to not let anyone back into the main changing rooms while I showered – fingers-crossed no one got injured or concussed in those first few minutes and need to come back off the field. Needless to say I became a pro at showering & re-dressing fast.  Oh and also becoming aware of where the changing room t.v. cameras were situated.


Right back to Ironman week.  Ironman week begins a couple of days before you head to Taupo.  Making sure you have a weeks supply of linen, oil, waxes, etc etc.  Checking and rechecking that you have got everything that you may need.  Then packing it all so precisely, god forbid if you realise the night before that you have forgotten something! 14 years later I now do this with military precision.  


As soon as I arrive in Taupo it is pretty much hit the ground running.  A couple of my colleagues have usually arrived a day or two before-hand and the rest of us usually all arrive within an hour or two of each other.  The moment our car doors open to unpack it is go, go go until we repack our cars and leave.   Over the next few days we will get to experience all types of athletes and situations;  the athlete who is carrying little niggles and injuries and just needs some TLC to get them through the race.  The athlete who is OCD prepared and has already pre-booked the exact time and exact day (and sometimes the exact person) they want.

We will get the first timers who chat away nervously the whole session.  We see the old timers who are already talking about Ironman NZ 2020. We see the athlete who decided to do the race on a whim, usually those athletes seem to have a story that starts with “well one night me and a couple of mates were having a couple of drinks the next day I woke up with a massive hang over and an email saying Congratulations you have entered Ironman NZ…”  


Race Day

So to get things clear Ironman race day is such an awesome experience.  Seeing, hearing, and feeling everything about the day is indescribable.  However as you continue to read this, it is also going to sound like it is extremely exhausting, crazy busy and smelly!

Our day begins early 5.30am – 6am (although not as early as the competitors).  A bunch of us usually get up and head on down to watch the start. There is something magical about seeing Lake Taupo at dawn.  Throw in the quiet expectant calm that is created by the athletes and their families and the early morning vibe on the lakes edge is intoxicating.

After the swim start we wander over to T1 swim-bike transition.  I love watching this, you get to see up close and personal all the athletes coming through and it is a great chance to yell out a few words of encouragement to all those that you have worked on over the week.  It is also a teeny bit nail-biting for us this is because if we have worked on an athlete that is/was carrying a more serious injury we get a good look at how their body is moving. Hopefully it is looking relaxed and fluid – which means we have done our job!  In my 14 years I can happily say that everyone has looked good, and have given me the thumbs up as they jump on the bike to begin their 160km.


As you may know Ironman begins at 7am (6.45am for pro athletes) and ends at 12am yip thats 17 hours of competition.  But that 1 – 1.5 hours of race day is about all that we ever get to see.


From T1 we take our chance to go and grab a decent breakfast as that is going to be our one and only good meal of the day.  By 9am we are back in the main marquee setting up the Massage/Recovery/Meal area and over the course of the morning till early afternoon the rest of our crew have various duties.  We try to get an hour or two too ourselves and head outside and catch a bit of the race. If we are lucky and have timed it right we will get to see the pro athletes come through T2 and now that the Half Ironman is raced as well we get to see a bit more action as those competitors are on the course.  


From about 3pm we are back in the Marquee and this is where we stay until 1am.  The next 8-10 hours is an endless stream of bodies. And it is over these hours that we all discover that this is the most rewarding part of our jobs.  We are in a privileged position where we see the tears of joy,or achievement or accomplishment. We see the bruises, the blisters and the blood. We hear the stories, the whoops and the cheers.  We witness the hugs, the kisses and high fives.  It is always very humbling when those hugs, high fives and kisses are directed at you, along with a big thank you.  A thank you for helping an athlete get to the start line, a thank you for getting them through the race pain free, a thank you for giving them that chance to cross the finish line and receive their medal.


Once the last competitor crosses the finish line our job is not done.  Tidying and cleaning the recovery area needs to be done. If we are back home and in bed by 2am that’s a big win for us.  However we do not get the luxury of a sleep in.  Nope not a chance as we are all back down at the marquee to begin our last day by about 8am.


As our last day draws to an end, the precision packing of our cars turns more into a  ‘throw everything in and squash it down’ scenario. By this stage everything is covered in grass, wax, dirt, sweat and other such items.   Our goodbyes are said, our last glimpses of the gorgeous lake are taken in and off home we go.. . .see ya next year Taupo.

Are You in Safe Hands?

Would you go to a Doctor who was not qualified?  Would you choose to get your brand new house built by unregistered trades people?  Would you open your mouth to a dentist that has learnt from You Tube clips?


Well I do hope that you answered “no” to all three of those questions.


In NZ there is no regulation when it comes to massage therapy.  Basically that means that anyone can decide to operate and offer massage therapy without any form of qualification, or belonging to any professional body.  In other words, tonight you could decide to Google ‘How to massage’ watch a few video clips and then tomorrow open up a clinic of your own and advertise your new found service to the public, and absolutely no one will bat an eyelid.  Therefore it pays to do your homework before you put your precious body or that of a loved one, into the hands of a stranger.


However there are many professional and appropriately qualified massage therapists in NZ.  To make sure that you are always putting yourself into safe hands here are a few things that you can do;


  • Always choose a Massage New Zealand (MNZ) registered therapist.  MNZ is our professional organisation that is available for all massage therapists to be registered with.  Like other professional health organisations, there is strict criteria in order for your registration to be approved.  Such as a certain level of qualification from an approved NZQA education provider and a current first aid certificate. There is a thorough Recognized Prior Learning (RPL) protocol for internationally trained massage therapists.  And it is necessary for all registered therapists to meet a certain amount of continuing education hours every year to maintain registration. If your therapist is not registered, ask why not. It could be a red flag for not being appropriately qualified, or not meeting registration criteria.  Or perhaps even being banned.


  • Qualifications should be displayed.  It actually takes a bloody huge amount of time, effort & money to become a qualified massage therapist and most of us are damn proud to display the fact we have put our blood, sweat and tears into it.  Therefore all the massage therapists I know (which is a lot!) all proudly have our qualifications framed and displayed in our clinics/treatment rooms. If your therapist has nothing displayed and can not speak confidently about their education provider then chances are this is a big red flag for not being qualified.  Or not completing their qualification.


  • Annual Practising Certificate & Code of Ethics.  As part of MNZ registration all therapists should have their Annual Practising Certificate (APC) displayed.  This Certificate has the name of the therapist, the level of registration, the year of validity and membership number displayed.  Next to this should be the MNZ Code of Ethics. If neither of these are displayed, again ask your therapist why. If you are in doubt jump online to the MNZ website a list of all registered members are displayed.  A quick search will soon tell you whether they are a member or not.


  • Scope of Practice.  One of the neat things about studying massage therapy is the discovery of how many tools you can have in your toolbelt when it comes to offering Massage to your clients.  You find out what you enjoy offering the most and develop a skill set unique to this. All professional massage therapists will always stay within their scope of practice and quite happily refer you on to another colleague or health professional if they can not offer you the best health advice possible.  Therefore if you have disclosed a health issue to your therapist that is not within their scope of practice (such as oncology massage), and they continue to try to treat you without being appropriately skilled then please definitely red flag this.


  • Nelly No Mates.  As a health & wellness provider your massage therapist will have friends.  What I mean by this, is they will have other massage colleagues that they regularly touch base with, at conferences, at workshops etc.  They will have Physio’s, Osteopaths, Naturopaths etc that they refer clients on to or share clients with. In other words they will have a network.  Even those who live in isolated areas, there will always be a network. So if your therapist doesn’t have a network. This could be a big red flag for trying to stay under the radar because they need too.     


  • Body Geeks.  I am pretty sure that all my lovely colleagues will agree with me on this one, when I lovingly call us all body geeks.  The thing with the human body is that it is so damn interesting. Throw in all the unique aspects of a person’s history, background, biomechanics and holey moley you can get a group of massage therapists talking for hours.  I am not kidding about this at all #getbetterworkstories. We actually all love continuing education and seeking more knowledge. If your therapist is not in this category, it doesn’t mean they are unqualified or unregistered.  But you could probably be getting a much better service from someone else.


Hopefully you will never ever need to, but if you feel like you are in an unsafe situation.  Please speak up. Ask your therapist to stop. If you need, tell someone about your experience.  Contact Massage New Zealand, the Health & Disability Commission or the NZ Police.



Just Start at the Start

Whatever your starting point, it’s okay.

On the training floor our goal is to help our clients feel and move better.  This can happen through losing some fat, becoming more body aware, gaining some mobility, increasing strength or using exercise as a stress outlet.

Each person is unique and not just in a “special snowflake” kind of way, but as in each of you comes from different backgrounds and injury history.  From bionic knees, fused backs to missing organs and rare disease.  Each one of you has a vastly different history and that’s just the physical side.  Let’s not forget that everybody has differing goals, lifestyles, exercise preferences and dislikes.  This leaves a lot of room for individuality.

Too often we hear from people that they need to get fitter or be a bit slimmer before coming in to see us.  I usually liken this to making sure your car is in good shape before going to the mechanic.  The point of this short post is to say that know matter what your starting point is it will undoubtedly be different from the next person.  That is okay. 

Don’t compare yourself to how other people are doing.  The most discouraging thing you can do to yourself is think “I can’t do it, so I wont bother doing anything.”  There is always something we can do.


We get a lot of joy helping people make progress with their physical body and the list of benefits that come from physical movement is ever growing so forget the reasons why you can’t and focus on what you can.

Boost your Immune System

Did you know that massage can boost your immune system?  

As the cooler weather approaches and our seasons change, now is the ideal time to start to think about boosting your immune system and beating those winter blues.


  • Boost Your Immune System.  

As we all know Winter usually means cold & flu season has arrived too.  However massage can help your body fight off these lurgies by boosting your immune system.  Regular massage increases the lymph flow around the body, our lymph is our immune system which is loaded with lots of white blood cells. These then go and fight infections around the body. **


  • Improve Circulation

Are your hands and feet always cold? Do you notice this get worse as the weather gets colder? Do those aches and pains become more noticeable in the colder weather? Massage can help by encouraging our circulatory system to increase blood flow.  This assists in keeping our body warm (yay to no more cold feet in bed!) and also increases the flow of oxygen around the body.


  • Bye bye to Dry Skin

The colder, drier air during the colder winter months makes the water in your skin evaporate quicker, and therefore makes your skin drier.  Add to that heat pumps on full blast in the office and being couped up inside all day – eeek talk about dry skin overload! The various oils in the waxes and balms being massaged into the skin as well as improved circulation mentioned above, will keep your skin in tip top winter shape.


  • Banish Winter Blues

How often do we get the chance to take time out for ourselves nowadays?  An hour of either relaxing or chatting away whilst getting a massage is the perfect way to get some self-love time in.  Massage encourages positive changes in the endocrine system which is the system that creates our hormones.. Such as decreasing cortisol levels (stress related hormone) & increasing oxytocin levels (happy hormone).  Which then leads to the release of serotonin and endorphins, thus relieving stress and enhancing your mood. Oooooh bye, bye winter blues!


** If you actually have a cold or flu, or currently feel under the weather, then massage treatment is NOT appropriate.  The body needs to conserve its energy for fighting off the bugs currently in your system.  Encouraging circulation during this time is just way too much for the body to handle. Plus keep your bugs to yourself at home.  We don’t want to catch whatever it is that you may have!