1. Tell us a bit more about you and your practice as it is today? i.e. are you a solo practitioner or a business owner? If solo, what kind of an establishment do you work for, how large is it, what is the clientele like, what is the specialty offered? If it is a business that you own, kindly include the same time of relevant information that will give the reader a good idea about your establishment/practice. Please also include where you live and work?
“Don’t just stretch, retrain your mind.” That’s been my philosophy for all my pilates clients. I own a boutique pilates studio, www.lifelongpilates.com in Colleyville, TX. When I opened my practice 15 years ago, I was the first one in the area.
Most people had never heard of pilates at that time. Now, it’s a household word. Now, people specifically look for pilates in this area, and that’s how they find me. When I first started, I used to go out and teach introductory mat classes in dance studios, karate studios, yoga studios, even gyms.
In my studio, we offer reformer classes, wunda chair classes, stability ball and roller classes, and barrel classes. New clients are required to go through the fundamentals of pilates before joining a class. I always explain it’s more about retraining the mind to make the correct moves with the correct posture that is of the utmost importance.
Efficient movement with the least amount of effort is what we’re after. In so doing, the body learns to relax muscles that often carry our stress, like neck, back and shoulders. And a person has more energy at the end of the day because he’s learned a relaxed, efficient posture.
Of course, we work muscles and core strength as well, but not at the expense of proper posture.
2. Tell us why you chose to go into massage and at what point in your life did you decide to do so? What were you doing at the time? Where did you first hear about the massage career? What factors influenced your decision? What were you looking to get out of this decision?
When I first heard about pilates, I was living in Colorado at the time, teaching spinning classes at the United States Air Force Academy and doing personal training. That was back when the philosophy was, “no pain, no gain.” My workouts were definitely designed so I experienced some pain. And not just muscle pain. I was spending a lot more time at the chiropractor than I wanted. I even learned I had scoliosis.
This pilates exercise was focused on balance and alignment and the least amount of effort. It was called “functional” exercise.
That made more sense to me. I felt like I was beating my body up with my workouts, and my scoliosis was getting worse.
I remember trying my first pilates workout on the reformer. The instructor kept cueing me to relax my shoulders, lengthen my spine, breathe into my back and keep my abdominals engaged. What?? How can I do all that at the same time? I was awful! As soon as I relaxed my shoulders, my spine would sag. As soon as I sat up straight, my shoulders came up to my ears! I found it one of the most challenging things I had ever done! Not because my muscles were exhausted. Because my mind was overwhelmed. I finally understood what mind/body exercise meant.
3. What were some of your questions and concerns before further pursuing your massage therapy goals? Talk about concerns with school and the profession itself.
When I decided to pursue my goal of becoming a pilates instructor, I felt intimidated coming from a personal trainer background, when all the other candidates had been former dancers. However, I had experienced the benefits and knew this form of exercise needed to be more mainstream. So I was determined to do my part.
4. What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?
I’m a master pilates instructor, with 2 full certifications. One is from Physicalmind Institute based in NY. The other is the international Stott Pilates based in Toronto, Canada. The top 3 factors contributing to my success are:
- Keep your eye on the goal of achieving your certification.
- Practice, practice, practice!
- Celebrate your achievements!
5. What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career? Why?
I love that my specialty is in the health field. The health field is the fastest growing segment for careers now. Simply because, people are concerned about their health. And having a health oriented career means there will always be opportunities to earn an income.
6. What do you not like about what you do? Why?
The only thing I don’t like is desk work and managing a business. I like working with people.
7. If there were three things you could change about your work or the industry as a whole what would they be? Why would you change them? What would you change them to?
8. How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?
At the age of 60, I just posted a picture of myself on instagram doing a handstand on the Cadillac. I don’t put a timeline on how long I will be doing something. As long as I’m enjoying myself, I will do it indefinitely. I see myself adding other pursuits and getting more into speaking and writing. However, pilates will always be an important part of my life.
9. Do you currently have another job or business whether full time or part time? Tell us a bit more about it and how you are able to juggle that with your massage career?
Yes, I’m also known as ‘The Energy Dresser.” I have a heart centered image consulting business, www.energydressing.com. I have found it compliments pilates beautifully. Both help people feel better about themselves as well as look younger and thinner. Both are anti-aging. And both help people live happier lives. I also love having the variety. One day I’m teaching pilates. Another day, I’m giving a makeover or doing a closet audit, or perhaps teaching an image seminar.
I know of some pilates instructors who got burned out because that was all they did. I’m naturally a teacher, and enjoy teaching whatever is my passion. I also teach classes on pure therapeutic grade essential oils and their health benefits. I’m a certified Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach, and adding essential oils to my business has made it even more profitable.
10. What are some mistakes you made in your career pursuit that you’d like to warn other students about so they can learn from your experience and avoid it?
When you embark on a new career in the health field, you really do need to commit 110%. In the beginning, I thought I could still teach spinning classes and offer personal training, while embarking on a totally new path. But the philosophies didn’t match.
I was concerned about still having an income, so tried to play both fields. It doesn’t work too well. It’s best to give the new career your all. By releasing the old, there’s room for the new business to succeed in even greater ways than you had imagined!
11. What would you advice someone who is looking at massage therapy schools? What do you recommend they look for and how? How do you recommend they determine whether the school is the right one for them?
Do your due diligence and really research the different schools. Don’t base it on cost. Base it on how thorough the curriculum. A school that offers a course in injuries and special populations would be high on my priority list.
People seek massage for pain relief. Knowing about certain sports injuries, or how to help those with fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis will set you apart from the average and have you highly sought after.
12. What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?
People take out loans all the time for their education. Or you may find someone who will foot part of the bill if you offer free massages to them during your training. If you really want to do it, there’s always a way.
13. What are your three biggest points of advice for an aspiring massage therapist today? What should they do/not do? What should they think about and consider?
You’ll be spending long hours in school, learning and practicing. Take care of yourself by practicing some stress reduction techniques such as qigong, yoga or pilates. Take some time on the weekends to spend with your family or significant other.
Taking a break and having fun will re-energize you for the week ahead. Finally, go easy on yourself. You don’t have to be perfect. Just do the best you can, and you’ll be fine.
14. Any open thoughts / comments – anything else that you’d like to share about yourself, the massage industry, profession, future, etc? If nothing, make one prediction for the future of massage?
If I can change careers mid-stream after age 40, from broadcast journalism, to being a mom, and finally making the switch to the health and fitness industry, you can become a massage therapist if you have the desire.
Massage therapy is ever evolving. Some are even incorporating Bowen work to help alleviate pain. Be open to new possibilities. School is just the beginning. Never stop learning.
15. What is your passion outside of massage? What are your hobbies and interests which you pursue when you are not working? Tell us why you enjoy what you enjoy.
My work is my passion, and I’m so thankful I have a job where I can be physical. Office work is not for me. I also enjoy hiking , barefoot walking at the beach, playing with my grandson, developing new recipes using essential oils, traveling to Europe.
Right now I’m learning to speak Italian before we make a trip to Italy next year. I want to visit the non-touristy areas and get to know the people. Life is a grand adventure! Just decide what you want to do, and go for it!
Kay Smith is a Master Pilates Instructor certified by Stott International and Physicalmind Institute. You can reach her on her website here and on her Facebook page.
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