From 1-7 of September, I spent a memorable time massaging cyclists who were taking on a grueling week of cycling the competition, the Haute Route, in the Pyrénées mountains of southwest France. I had the opportunity to massage at this event after learning passive stretching techniques and sports massage techniques at Azur Massage in Annecy over the summer. I already had a good background in Swedish massage which enabled me to go on to study techniques for sports enthusiasts. As a massage therapist in Chamonix, France, the majority of tourists coming to visit Chamonix, are skiing, hiking, climbing, or running, as are the locals. I thought it was high time to learn the techniques to meet the demand of this sportive crowd.
I knew only my massage teacher, and I had briefly met a fellow colleague at one of my trainings before heading off on the Haute Route adventure. After travelling across France from Lyon to the border between France and Spain, myself and 14 other massage therapists from Azur Massage and the Centre IFJS, and 1 osteopathe settled down for our first night to get some sleep before the big event to follow.
Each day began by driving to the next stage of the Haute Route, setting up all the tables and other equipment in order to welcome the cyclists as they arrived. Thankfully the organization of the Haute Route had a few people to organize the time tables for massages throughout the day as the cyclists filtered in.
On my first day I was the first person to start massaging and one of the last to finish. I put all my effort into relieving the cyclists, who had pushed themselves to their limit, through various massage and recuperation techniques. By the end of the day, I was tired and ready for a good meal and lots of sleep. This was not always easily done, the food wasn’t the best and there was often little organization when it came to who was sleeping where, what room, where to eat and so on, which made for part of the adventure.
It was an amazing experience meeting amateur cyclists from all over the world. Since I was the only native English speaking massage therapist and the only American, it was easy for me to communicate with everyone. Also, since I am living in Chamonix, France, a popular mountain destination, that was always a good topic of conversation. Overall most of the cyclists were happy to just lay on the table while I went to work releasing tension in the muscles, reducing their stress, and getting their bodies ready for the next day’s ride.
As amateur cyclists, they do not typically have a team of massage therapists ready to massage them, unlike the pros, except on this particular event, the Haute Route.
As the week went on, with the instruction from my massage teacher and other colleagues, I improved my techniques, changed what I did from one day to the next, and learned to adapt my massage and stretching techniques to each cyclists’ needs. I now feel confident about what I have to offer my clients when they come to me. I continue each year to learn new massage techniques and to improve upon what I already know.
I look forward to massaging again on the Haute Route next year!