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In this Post: Learn about fully clothed sports massage. The pros, the cons, and the supplies needed to help these athletes return quickly to peak performance.
Fully clothed sports massage is a little different ball of wax than your traditional Swedish massage. Aimed at helping athletes prevent and address injuries while accelerating recovery between workouts, this type of massage is not your typical, relaxation experience. It’s fast-paced, it involves a lot of stretching, and the obvious one, it’s clothed.
Some therapists become intimidated by the idea of working over clothing, but the truth is, we can give really effective work without ever touching the skin. Although to be fair, you still may actually come in contact with our bodies’ largest organ, skin.
Did you know that our skin is our largest organ? Pretty cool, huh!?! Our epidermis is the largest and fastest-growing organ in the body. Our bodies shed 30,000-40,000 old skin cells every day. Cray-cray! But, I digress.
Back to clothed sports massage.
Sports massage can be administered pre or post-performance. Today, our focus in on post-performance massage. Or massage after an athletic event.
My first experience with this type of work was when I was still in massage school. My class, along with other massage therapists from the area, were set up in the college gymnasium with rows and rows of massage tables. Athletes who ran the BOLDERBoulder, the 3rd largest running race in the United States, with approximately 50,000 annual participants, could come for a quick post-workout recovery.
To say there was a line in an understatement! We were packed. It was one person after another for hours. Our teachers supervised as we performed pin and stretch techniques, aggressive kneading, and some serious tapotement. There were ice buckets set up in the middle of the gym. Not for the athletes, but instead for the massage therapists to soak their arms between treatments.
We were working, and I mean hard!
It was an exhilarating experience to be surrounded by that many therapists and athletes, moving quickly, with a mission! The excitement was palpable. Very different from the Zen environment of the treatment rooms where we typically gave massage!
After this first experience, I got really excited about this type of massage. It was a fun change of pace, more casual and relaxed. I began seeking out opportunities to set up at these events.
Tips and Tricks for Fully Clothed Sports Massage
My typical experience with this type of massage involves setting up a booth with my massage table at the end of a race or event. Here athletes receive post-recovery massage.
These are usually quick 15-minute sessions that take a somewhat aggressive approach to whipping the body back into shape. Utilizing petrissage, stretches, and tapotement, the idea is to reduce swelling, increase range of motion, and decrease muscle spasms. Focusing on relevant muscles involved with the chosen activity, this type of massage helps decrease recovery time.
- Community – When you work these types of events, you feel like you are a part of something big. The excitement surrounding these occassions creates a buzz. You can feel the pulse in the air. It is quite different from our usual peaceful, QUIET massage environment.
- Variety – I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get a little, dare I say it, bored with my typical massage routine. And while I most certainly tailor each session to the individual needs of each of my clients, working in the vibrance of the post-event buzz creates a nice alternative at times! It’s a welcome change of pace.
- Create massage converts – You may have the pleasure of introducing “massage virgins” to massage. This type of massage is a lot less threatening than coming in for a table massage, where cloth removal is the standard. Through experiencing this type of less invasive massage, people who might otherwise steer clear of massage might become open to other forms of bodywork. It is an awesome experience to be the one who creates a massage convert! Check out: Asking A Massage Client To Undress for more on this.
- Exhilarating/Fun – I talked a bit about the buzz that is present at these events. It’s real guys. You are celebrating accomplishments and firsts right along with the athletes whom you are working.
- Learning – Often I will do these events with a team of therapists. Not only is this awesome fun, but it also allows me to watch how my colleagues work, and learn a thing or two from the masters at work.
- Gain clients – You have the potential to gain a long-standing client. Just yesterday, a client came into my practice whom I initially met ten years ago at a running series. After her initial contact with me, she has sent countless friends and family in for massage.
Tip: View each interaction as an interview. Act as though these athletes are interviewing you for the position of “their massage therapist.” Because, in essence, they are.
- Smells – Athletes are sometimes kind of stinky after they have finished a race or event. I like to bring essential oils to put under my nose in case someone’s odor is really offensive.
- Out of Towners – Often folks will have traveled to participate in the event. Therefore they aren’t likely to become regular clients, which is always a goal when I do these types of events, to gain a few loyal and regular clients.
- Attitude – While sometimes, these athletes are gracious and utterly grateful for the work you are providing. At times, they have an attitude that suggested that they deserve the massage because of the hard work they did to complete the event. They accomplished something, so of course they should receive a massage!
- Tips – Often, athletes may not have their wallets on them after just completing an event. If you are charging for your service, this presents a problem because you may not have many takers on your massage table. If you are donating your time and just hoping for a few tips, this is also a factor. No wallet = No tips. Sorry…
- Lack of Participation – If you are an athlete, you can’t participate in the event. Sometimes it is hard to sit on the sidelines when you are used to being the one participating in this type of event.
- Time-consuming – It is time-consuming to set up, tear down, and hang out for the hours necessary to perform this type of work.
- Hard Work – It takes a lot of stamina and energy to work on athletes all day, not to mention lugging your equipment to and from the location.
Supplies Needed for Fully Clothed Sports Massage
- Table – You are going to want a light-weight table like this Earthlite table which only weighs 29 pounds.
- Lotion – Although you may not use much lotion at an event such as this, it is nice to have just in case! My personal favorite for this type of event is Sacred Earth Cream.
- HAND SANITIZER!!! – And lots of it! I prefer a little bit more natural hand sanitizing option like the one below that utilizes essential oils in it’s cleaning properties.
- Spray cleaner – I love Thieves Household Cleaner. They sell it as a concentrate that you can dilute for your cleaning purposes.
- Paper towels – There is a lot of cleaning going on at these events! Think sweat and lots of it!
- Trash Can – To collect all those paper towels, you don’t want your booth looking sloppy!
- Towels – And lots of them. I usually use a fresh towel for each client. Instead of putting sheets on the table, I put a fresh towel down before each athlete. This helps absorb some of their sweat.
- Tent – (optional, but nice for shade!) My grandmother bought me my tent as a graduation present from massage school. Thanks Gammy!
- Promotional material – Don’t forget to bring your business and rack cards, and any other pertinent business material you can think of!
- Sign up sheet. Include a spot for people to include their email address; this way, you can reach out to them after the event.
Tip: Fill in the first slot with a fictious person. This serves two purposes. 1) It shows people what information you want to receive from them. Typically if the first person doesn’t include their contact info, all the rest will follow, and vice versa. 2) It helps people feel less timid about being the first person on your massage table.
- Your schedule. The real power in this type of event is the contacts you make. You have the potential to covert an athlete into a regular massage client. Make sure to have your schedule ready so that you can easily set up an appointment at your office for a later date.
- Sunscreen – Even if you are under a tent, sunscreen is always a smart idea when you are spending extended periods outside. Of course, I’m always a little more into the natural sunscreens.
- Essential oil. This one is more for you as the therapist than anything else. When you get that particularly smelly client, put a dab of your favorite oil under your nose, and voila the BO is no longer a distraction.
- And lots of water.
Working at these type of events is rewarding, they create great marketing opportunities, and help push you outside your comfort zone. Check out what events are going on in your area to get plugged into this fast-paced, stimulating work.
- Boulder College of Massage Therapy Graduate
- Nationally Certified through NCBTMB
- Colorado Licensed Massage Therapist
- Certified CranialSacral Level 1 through Upledger
- Certified Herbal Therapist through Nutrition Therapy Institute
- Certified Fujian Massage through Barefoot Masters
- Fort Lewis College - Majored in Art, Minored in Business Administration
- 6 Year Winner of Best Massage Therapist for "Best of The Boat" Competition
- Massage Business Owner Since 2008