10 Tips for Professional Longevity

Stay Fit to Work for Years to Come

By Christy Cael

People often ask how I have maintained my career as a bodyworker for as long as I have. There is no single, simple answer to that question. Over the years, I have struggled to balance the competing demands of my clients, my business needs, and my personal needs. I have learned some lessons the hard way, and others by emulating amazing role models and mentors. An ongoing part of my practice is to evaluate what has and has not worked over time, so I can implement changes to help me achieve my long-term professional and personal goals.
Early in my career, I was extremely flexible with my schedule: working weekends, seeing clients at all times of the day, and squeezing in last-minute appointments. It was not uncommon for me to see six clients a day, day after day, in the first year. My practice grew, but I was tired, constantly battling overuse injuries, and my personal life was limited by an unpredictable and hectic work schedule.
It didn’t take long to realize this model wasn’t sustainable. I began taking classes to diversify the techniques I offered and gradually transitioned to a more condensed work schedule. I began allotting 30 minutes between appointments rather than 15, easing the transition between sessions. My practice thrived as I set better boundaries and became more present, attentive, and physically fit. Making these small changes transformed me into a calmer, more grounded, and more diverse practitioner. After more than a decade in full-time practice, both my body and my business are thriving and I am grateful to see that continuing well into the future.
The following are some practical tips for having a happy, healthy, and very long career.

1. Get and stay physically fit. Bodywork is demanding and too often we must cut our careers short because of physical overuse and injury. Give your body the care and maintenance it needs to keep it healthy and running strong.

2. Identify a reasonable workload that honors your optimal physical and emotional performance. Defining a “reasonable workload” will vary depending on the bodyworker, the type of work, and even the time of year. Evaluate what works best for you and stick to it.

3. Take a day off in the middle of your work week. Doing bodywork several days in a row can deplete your physical, emotional, and energetic resources. Breaking up your week allows you to replenish more frequently and minimize fatigue.

4. Consider vacations a mandatory part of your life. Taking time off can be difficult, but you will avoid burnout and set a positive example for your clients.

5. Monitor the yearly ebb and flow of clients. My practice is busiest in April, May, September, and November. I strive to be in top form during those times so I can make hay while the sun is shining. January and July are typically slow and a great time for me to take those mandatory (and enjoyable) vacations.

6. Live within your means. Financial stress can motivate us to make short-term decisions that may end our careers. Poor financial management leads to crisis scheduling and stressed-out practitioners.

7. Set boundaries and maintain them. Starting and stopping sessions on time, honoring your cancellation policy, and taking regular time off makes a happy, healthy practitioner.

8. Seek out new methods and modalities. If you find yourself feeling bored or unengaged in your work, try something new. Many of us are required to take continuing education as part of licensing or certification. Why not try something entirely different?

9. Receive regular bodywork yourself. I like to support fellow practitioners, receive the benefits of the work, and honestly answer, “Yes, I do” when my clients ask if I get regular massages. It also reminds me how great my job is and I often learn a few things that I can apply to my own work.

10. Remember to be grateful. I tell people that I have the best job in the world. My clients are usually very happy to see me. I feel my work improves the quality of their lives, and I am reimbursed well for that work. When I remember all of that, it is easy to go to the office and take care of business.

Christy Cael is a licensed massage therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist. Her private practice focuses on injury treatment, biomechanical analysis, craniosacral therapy, and massage for clients with neurological issues. She is the author of Functional Anatomy: Musculoskeletal Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Palpation for Manual Therapists (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009). Contact her at functionalbook@hotmail.com.

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