If you have recently completed your sport massage qualification, caught the learning bug and established a small client base, you may now be wondering how you could diversify your skillset to extend the services you can provide for your clients.
In this article, we will explore the other career pathways and opportunities that are available to you beyond sports massage.
If you’ve already completed and passed your sports massage qualification then the great news for you is that much of the knowledge and understanding for your qualification is common and will not need to be repeated. You’ll, therefore, get a head start on other students on the course.
Units like anatomy, physiology, health and safety, and customer service are almost identical to the units in other exercise and fitness qualifications, so you won’t need to re-complete the foundational subjects again.
In practice, what this will mean is that if you have completed your sports massage course fairly recently (usually within 3 years) then you’ll be exempt from the assessments relating to those common units, providing of course that you can provide a valid awarding body certificate. Even if you aren’t exempt from the assessments (usually because the units aren’t exactly the same), you will be able to apply for recognition of prior learning (RPL), which will allow you to expedite the learning process and get you ready for assessment faster.
If you are considering completing additional training and qualifications, it might be a good idea to consider areas in which there is already a lot of synergy between what you have already learned from your sports massage training and what you are wanting to gain from your new training venture.
The main difference between the sports massage content and that taught in exercise and fitness qualifications like personal training or Pilates is the context in which the knowledge is applied. For example, with sports massage, you may use your knowledge about posture and movement to identify the appropriate soft tissue techniques you can use to release muscle tension and stretch specific areas of the body. However, with Pilates or personal training, for example, this knowledge may be used to design tailored exercise programmes that improve posture, balance and flexibility by strengthening weak muscles and lengthening short and tight muscles. You may also want to incorporate massage services into this approach also to provide a more holistic and integrated approach for your clients.
Personal training can be a great next step for sports massage therapists and it can open doors into many other avenues of work. For example, if you are working with clients who compete in specific sports (e.g. football, rugby, or cricket) or events (e.g. marathons, triathlons or Ironman), then developing knowledge and skills to enable you to plan, design and deliver bespoke training programmes for these specific clients will certainly set you apart from other personal trainers. With your existing sports massage skills, you will again be able to offer a more comprehensive service to these clients, meeting more of their needs.
If clients visit you with specific issues, like areas of tension and/or injuries, then you will be better able to support them by exploring their current training regime and making suitable recommendations for changes to the frequency, intensity, time or type of their current training.
If you have a keen interest in conditioning for sports, then maybe you will consider becoming a strength and conditioning coach. This is a common progression route for many qualified PTs, and the role does extend far beyond what a personal trainer would ordinarily do.
If you find yourself more interested in alignment and posture, then choosing Pilates as a progression route can be highly complementary to your sports massage practice.
The starting point for Pilates is normally matwork, where you learn a series of mat-based Pilates exercises, including how to modify and progress these, in-line with the principles and fundamentals of the Pilates methodology.
Once competence has been established on the mat, then it is also possible to develop further in this area by learning how to perform the exercises using Pilates-specific equipment, such as the reformer. Pilates equipment can add a completely different dimension to the experience of movement and can also add value to those working in a rehabilitation setting. Pilates equipment can be used to support or assist with movement, or to make the exercise more physically challenging. If you are interested in learning more about Pilates equipment, then a reformer Pilates course will be of interest.
If you have an interest in more spiritual and mindful practices, as lots of people are adopting nowadays for the purpose of managing stress, depression and helping them better cope with the pressures of modern living, then becoming a yoga teacher might be an avenue to explore.
The practice and philosophy of yoga, of which there are many layers and branches, originates from ancient India. Hatha yoga is the more physical style of practice that we are most familiar with in the West, and this derives from the teachings of a number of yoga gurus and the practices shared by the Swamis, who blended chanting and breathing within their practice.
There are a number of different yoga schools and types of practice so the learning potential in this area is immense and somewhat limitless! It is worth noting here that some of the concepts and constructs taught in a typical yoga course delve into areas that are of a more intangible and subtle nature, so you do need to approach the training with an open mind. It is however possible to stick to the physical aspects of yoga also if you prefer not to go quite so deep.
At a very basic level you will need to learn the various asanas (exercise postures) that guide the physical practice and you will also need to immerse yourself into the philosophy of yoga; this will inform class design and work with clients; perhaps breathwork and meditation, which can also be integrated with massage techniques.
If you enjoy the social side of the exercise and fitness industry and you like being around groups of people, then group exercise may be the route for you.
Group exercise is no longer confined to the dance studio and there are now a whole range of group exercise qualifications, including exercise to music, circuit training, group indoor cycling, water-based exercise, kettlebell training, suspension training and bootcamp instructor to name a few.
Learning how to deliver group exercise sessions will not only broaden your armoury of skills, it may also help you to broaden your sports massage client base as you will automatically have access to a much wider and more diverse audience. You can pitch and market your massage services to participants, who in-turn are much more likely to recommend you to their friends and family if you are credible and trustworthy. You cannot underestimate the power of a trusted recommendation when it is compounded by a number of loyal and happy customers. If 10 customers each tell two people, and those people each tell another one person about your amazing sports massage services, that’s 40 people that you would have been recommended to.
Special populations is a term that is often used to describe those groups of participants who need a little more than just a basic fitness programme. Maybe they are an older adult wanting to become more active, or a pregnant or new mother looking to stay fit. To work with these groups of clients you need specialist knowledge and additional special populations qualifications.
Exercise referral is another area in which people often opt to work with special populations. In this case, you’ll be working with clients who have specific medical conditions like arthritis, asthma, diabetes or obesity. If you are a sports massage therapist, it is likely that many clients will present with low back pain (and potentially other medical conditions), so gaining further knowledge and skills in this area can be an invaluable addition to support your client work.
There are so many different opportunities available to sports massage therapists as a career progression and as a further source of learning. The route that you decide to take will likely be informed by your own personal interests, the client base you would like to attract and work with, and finally, your ambition and determination!
Whatever route you do decide to take, the key is to choose a reputable training provider that is delivering regulated qualifications and/or endorsed training. Only when the training is accredited by a leading awarding organisation can you ensure that the training you receive will be widely recognised.
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