Cruel Summer: Exercising in the Heat

Welcome to summer, y’all! As soon as this irregular northwestern gloom clears, we’ll soon all be sweltering together. While there’s reasonable dread about this time of year, when the air is redolent with honeysuckle and yesterday’s garbage, it can be a time of sweaty enjoyment.

As a personal trainer and the token jock at Freed Bodyworks, I observe the heat as a challenge, not a deterrent, to my hardy exercise habit. Our bodies are built to adjust to the heat, but that magical process takes roughly two weeks. To ease this harsh jump into the heat, I’ve typed up some tips to make your settling into summer a little more comfortable. My hope is to encourage you to enjoy safe, strenuous workouts in the great outdoors, and appreciate the light and warmth of the summer months. During this time, I entreat you to be attentive and patient with your body, and treat yourself as your own most important person.

 Preparing for the Heat:

  1. Start early. Once the temperature starts to creep above 82*F (27*C), and the sun gets higher in the sky, exercise becomes incrementally more challenging. While that adjustment to an earlier start can be … painful, it can be the best way to start fresh. For motivation, I enjoy getting my summer sweat on with the (actually-all-year) November Project, which kicks off its free and magical “hills for breakfast” workout at 6:30 a.m.

  2. Make it easier for your body to cool down swiftly. Wear light, breathable clothes, such that your hard-earned sweat can evaporate as quickly as possible. If your energy is going towards maintaining a regular body temperature, it will be considerably harder to kick out a third set of squats.

  3. Ensure your clothing is comfortable and not restrictive. Like many humans, I experience thigh chaffing in the summer. To make my runs less painful, I wear a light legging to keep my thighs from rubbing together.

  4. Protect yourself from the sun’s mighty rays: apply sunscreen (with an SPF over 15), and perhaps even consider donning a fetching baseball cap for coverage.

  5. Adjust your expectations. During your adjustment phase (ie. now), I’d suggest limiting the intensity of your outdoor workouts. Be prepared for it to take you longer to run a mile, for hills to be more arduous, and for sprints to be more challenging. You’re being a boss just by getting your sweat on — now’s not the time to set your PRs.


    Running with a fury for chips up 15th street for November Project!

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Journey complete! Map included!

Hallo, hallo! I can’t be more excited to have returned to DC, after my travels to Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. I return with a deeper understanding of Thai massage, greater self-reliance, and a solid stash of Tiger Balm. As astonishing as traveling was, it is simply marvelous to be back home, to my beloved Keep, my life partner, and my practice at Freed Bodyworks.

And I’ll be staying in my sweet home for the foreseeable future.

When asked about the last two months abroad, I struggle to organize my thoughts. In the last two months, I discovered within myself a thousand conflicting feelings: excitement, fear, delight, threadbareness, painful loneliness, resilience, vulnerability. I see my own foolishness, stupidity, privilege, and luck. As I type up my notes from the trip, I find a staggering cluster of mundane, non-visual musings and terrifically exciting instances. I recover mangled receipts to tape to my journal; I find kip and baht in stray pockets of my clothes. 

I saw and experienced truly incredible things while traveling in Asia, and I’d be delighted to share them.

However, I’ve heard (and can empathize) that hearing travel stories can be as wholly frustrating; worse than an endless shaggy dog story, or a sleepy, lengthy description of a non-sensical, vivid, intimate dream. It is highly likely at I am not Bill Bryson, and in that line of thinking (and for anyone who asked my itinerary for their own planning purposes), I present my map of my trip highlights. 

Said attached map is incomplete, avoiding least charming hostels and less enjoyable places. If you’d like to know more, I will be sharing my notes as I disentangle them.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 4.44.03 PM

“Interactive” itinerary map link!

In person, I am happy to describe slow boat rides, Thai massage training, street food, fantastic animals, dream-perfect beaches, amazing temples, homesickness, dreadful tourist traps, and my inability to cope with tropical heat and enlightening sunburns.

My photos are here (complete with a shocking number of #selfies, so captured to ensure to my parents that I was and am still alive):

But for now, know that I’m back and will be delighted to see you.

with care,

A triumphant return!

Dearest friends and clients,

The fall has begun, and with it, my return to Washington! I just returned this week from lovely Ann Arbor, Michigan, and have availability in my schedule. If you’d still like to get in soon, shoot me an email or check out the Freed online scheduler. I do receive cancellations, and I’d love to find a time to work with you. I’ll be available in DC until December, and then back in March, when I return from southeast Asia, equipped with improved Thai massage skills.

About two weeks ago, the Freed Team put up a great blog post on vulnerability that made me consider how vulnerable my clients are to me. More than ever, I value that trust that you show in me, both with your bodies and your lives. I definitely agree with Frances: “Being authentically myself is the best way I know best how to show, not tell someone, that I’m present and trustworthy.”

Yet during sessions, I struggle to voice that authentic self, in a way that still allows me to connect fully, and do all the tasks we hope to accomplish in our short time together. In no way do I seek to vent to my clients, or allow my struggles to intrude on my workspace. But I want you to know that your vulnerability is heard and seen by me, and that I, in turn, wish you to know my own life and my misadventures.

So, my apologies if this post feels unduly personal in a self-obsessed snake person fashion — it’s my hope to show, in my clumsy fashion, what’s going on underneath.

So, how was Michigan, you ask?

To my great delight, Michigan is covered in lakes. Michigan seems like the northern mirror of Louisiana — there’s plentiful waterways and huge forests across the northern section of the state, even south of “God’s Country.” Given a swath of free time, I spent as much time in said forests, rivers and lakes as possible. I went kayaking *for the first time ever in my life* down the Huron River, singing all the songs from Pocahontas around each riverbend. I ran down every trail of the Nichols Arboretum, often visiting my friend Stevia in her caretaker’s cabin in the woods.

View of the Huron River from the Nichols Arboretum

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A Farewell to Arms

Beloved clients and friends,

As difficult as this is to say, beginning this fall, I will no longer be a permanent member of the staff at Freed Bodyworks. The District of Columbia and Freed Bodyworks will remain my home base for the next two years, but in that time, I will be traveling extensively. This isn’t a farewell, but it will be the first of many partings.

In my absence, I strongly suggest booking a session with one of my colleagues at Freed. For work most similar to mine, I recommend Sadiqua Iman, Emily Brown, and Rita Elsner. These fantastic people are incredibly capable, experienced massage therapists — each working in the field twice or three times as long as myself. I will add extra time to our next session to discuss which therapist would be the best match for you to ease this transition. Additionally, I’ll brief each therapist about the work we’ve been doing, such that they can pick up where we left off.

For the next two years, I plan to mature my skills as bodyworker and to expand the modalities that I can offer. I hope to also grow my “hands-off” skills in teaching, communication, and coaching. I will be traveling abroad — which I’ve never done as an adult — as well as spending quality time with my aging parents. While the original impetus for my travels is my partner’s resettling, I see this time as an opportunity for exploration and challenge. I’ll be spending the late fall on the west coast, the winter in southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia), and the summer in the pacific northwest, with regular visits to Ann Arbor, Michigan to see my partner. During my returns in the falls and springs, I will be offering sessions at Freed, and will be in contact with my availability.

I hope that in the months to come, we stay in touch. I’ll be posting about my travels here, sending letters, and putting sweet photos on my instagram (@keeparies).  Shoot me a note if you’d like email or postcards!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for the incredible support you’ve given me, and the trust you’ve placed in me. My work at Freed has been the most meaningful work in my life, and it has been an honor to do that work with you.

Books and Towels: Relief for Plantar Fasciitis?

Let’s talk about feet. Or, more precisely, heels.

In my client pool, I work with a group of former runners, most of whom were sidelined by a shared culprit: plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is a type of chronic pain, often starting with a stabbing pain at the heel with the first, barefoot step out of bed. PF can progress from a tightening of the plantar fascia, to irritation, scarring and degeneration of the collagen around the heel, and, at times, bone spurs. One of my clients described it as “the Devil’s brutal morning bite.”

As a massage therapist, I have no silver bullet for plantar fasciitis. Most of my PF-specific work focuses on releasing the posterior calf muscles: gastrocnemius, soleus, tibialis posterior. If that group, and the encasing fascia can relax, the calcaneal tendon will lengthen, and the plantar fascia won’t be pulled so damn tight. I also do work at the plantar fasciia, and the supporting musculature of the lower leg. There’s other factors to consider: gait, hip alignment, pronation, training volume, and muscular imbalances can contribute to developing plantar fasciitis. In the past, I’ve suggested that my clients stretch their calf by pulling their toes towards their shins or change their footwear. But things might be changing, with a single exercise, involving my most beloved objects– books and towels.

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The “Secret Weapon” Against Back Pain.

From NPR, on creating a “back resilience plan,” using activity, stress reduction, regular sleep:

I had to resort to my secret weapon: I showed her an 11-minute educational video created by Dr. Mike Evans of Toronto.

You may be familiar with Evans’ work, even if you’ve never heard of him. He’s the man behind the famous “23 1/2 Hours” whiteboard video that says the single-best move for health is being active for a half-hour or so a day. The video became a viral Internet sensation, racking up millions of page views, and even a shoutout on the hit TV show Orange Is the New Black.

… Evans points out that the most common mistake with low back pain is to stop being active. The other common problem is worrying that the pain will never get better.

Evans, who is 50, teaches us that back pain is something we’re all vulnerable to and for which it makes sense to have a coping strategy ready.

Has Evans, who still plays hockey, ever had back pain? “I’m a member of the 90 percent club,” he affirmed, meaning that like the vast majority of us, he’s both had back pain and that it has improved on its own.

Fortunately for my patient, she wound up in the same club. At her next visit, she smiled and reminded me of the video’s punch line: “Movement is medicine.”

Read more here at NPR, and watch the awesome youtube video by Dr. Mike Evans! Movement is medicine!


The Dream Gig: Alvin Ailey at the Kennedy Center

This week, I lived the dream: I worked with Alvin Ailey. The Alvin Ailey Dance Company. At the Kennedy Center.

This is my wildest dream… happening.

Revelations Alvin Ailey

I saw the company perform when I was eight years old, and, to date, was one of the most inspiring shows of my life. I never truly understood – or valued – dance before that moment. I left that performance with a sense of possibility and inspiration– that humans could move in a way that was beautiful, powerful, elegant, and effortless. While it took years for me to personally “find dance”, that moment in the audience was profoundly transformative for me.

And for me, that was the bulk of why I was so damn happy to land this gig. To support artists and dancers, to be a small part of that process, has always been thrilling to me. And to be able to give so much of my time and energy to such a source of inspiration to me, was just… magical.

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Best Spa in DC!

In a rather wonderful turn of events, Freed Bodyworks got a nod from DCist as one of the best spas in DCCheck it out– we’re one of seven listed:

FREED BODYWORKS: This Southeast spot is not a spa. But we’ll include it on this list because they offer, hands down, the best massages in D.C. The staff is not only great at what they do, they listen and care about the person on the table. If you’re looking for a healing massage but don’t require a fluffy robe or champagne, this is the spot for you.


Freed Bodyworks is located at 1426 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

I feel so fancy. Also, “hands down”? Well played, DCist.

Success Dance!

Success Dance!

Becoming Visible: photos of non-airbrushed massage

Confession: I don’t like photos of myself.

I love photography as a medium, but I feel… uncomfortable… when I see myself on a screen or in a flat image. My face looks strange to me, and I struggle to recognize myself in photos. I’ve strenuously avoided taking professional headshots for previous careers. While I’m friends with very gifted photographers, I’ve always felt trepidation about volunteering my own image for most projects.

I’m trying to get over it.

In part, because of this issue of visibility. At Freed Bodyworks, we work to counter the standard image of massage — both in who clients are, and who practitioners are. We have non-normative bodies, and we work on non-conforming people. Many of my clients are larger than I (and I’m no tiny thing), and many are stronger. We want our space to showcase that our tables are welcoming of people of all shapes and sizes. While many studios and spas are permissive and allow all people to receive care, there’s not a specific invitation. And that, in my eyes, is a rejection.

So when were looking for “massage images” for building our website, we came out empty-handed and frustrated. Nothing looked like us, or heck, looked real.

Go ahead. Google massage. Here’s my image search results:

Massage Image Search

Massage Image Search

I’m seeing:

– slender white women

– detached hands

– flowers.

That’s not me. Those aren’t most of my clients.

I’m not seeing POCs, I’m not seeing larger bodied people, I’m not seeing men, I’m not seeing queer people. I’m not seeing tattoos, chest hair, veins, bruises, birthmarks, freckles, and wrinkles.

Honestly, I’m not seeing all the things that read as ‘human’ to me.

I’m not seeing pregnancy, or the markers of age, or people in transition. I’m not seeing Capitol Hill and Washington DC and the larger DMV.

 I’m seeing the absence of myself, and all of the work I do, and most of the clients I see. I’m seeing us airbrushed away.

That’s not cool.

So, courtesy of Devon Rowland, awesome photographer who you should check out, we did a photoshoot, Frances and their client; myself and my client that day, the excellent Ignacio Rivera, filmmaker, activist, performer, and artist. I’m happy to let you see where (and how) I work.

Here’s some of the shots (the rest are here): Continue reading

Lindy Focus Party / Massage Time!

There are some events that you spend most of the year excited for. For some of us, it’s Christmas, or New Years, or Halloween, or a birthday, or that first warm day of spring.

And for me, it’s Lindy Focus.

Lindy Focus - credit Jerry Almonte

Lindy Focus – credit Jerry Almonte

Lindy Focus is the best of times, and the better than best of times. And in my crazy way, I decided to combine my two loves — massage and dance — and do them every day, to their fullest extent. My beautiful, lovely, perfect friend Bee drove my massage table down early, and I’m bringing all the things I need to have the sessions I like to share with my clients.

Click here for sign up logistics — ie. (date, time, length of session)! Continue reading