A Q&A with Massage Therapist/Trainer Sara Holden

By Shelby and Sara 

Bringing Sara Holden to Spears Strong was a natural fit. Not only is she talented and smart and well versed in the ADAPT Training philosophy that powers Spears Strong, she's also genuine, funny and an all around great girl. 

Many of our Spears Strongers already know Sara, who comes to classes daily and nearly all of our Spears Strong adventures. But we want you to learn more about Sara, her passion for massage, the outdoors and new physical challenges. 

Sara brings a new side to Spears Strong, one that is more therapeutic and focused on healing, touch and relaxation. I posed some questions to Sara so you can get to know her a little better. We’ll start with the fun and personal stuff and then get into the nitty gritty about training and massage and how they work together under Spears Strong to get you functioning properly and feeling great. 

What is your passion? 

In studying Fitness and Nutrition and Massage Therapy, I’ve become fascinated by the human body and am passionate about learning everything I can about it. It is truly amazing and we have only scratched the surface in our understanding of how it works. While I will never fail to be amazed by all aspects of human physiology, I have become more and more passionate about fascia over the last few years and am excited to continue learning about it as more research is done. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

Eat. Everything. 

Sara and her fiancee Andy Stevens

Sara and her fiancee Andy Stevens

Outside of the kitchen, my life is consumed by wedding planning. When I’m procrastinating wedding planning I’m daydreaming about doing more hiking, backpacking, trail running and gardening, along with various other outdoor activities that I don’t do much currently, like rock climbing, rafting/kayaking and maybe even cycling.

Once or twice a week I’ll have a Netflix marathon, usually while doing ADAPT supplements, folding laundry or cooking. My shows at the moment are X-Files and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I like ‘em cheesy. 

If you encountered an animal in the wilderness, what would it be and why? 

If I take this question literally then my answer is a chipmunk, because they’re everywhere in this area. 

If you’re asking me what I think I would encounter were I to go on a spirit walk in the wilderness, then I don’t know, because if I go into my spirit walk with preconceived notions about what will happen on my spirit walk, that defeats the purpose of the spirit walk. 

If you’re asking me what dangerous animal I would prefer to encounter in the wilderness, probably a cougar. “Encounter” suggests that I see it, which means it’s not stalking me, which means I could probably startle it and scare it away by offering to take it for a swim. If not a cougar, probably a wolf, because wolves are my favorite and it would also probably just run away from me. I hope. 

What's your favorite movement?

I love them all, because I feel best when I’ve moving. But if I have to pick then I’d say inchworms, which I know will come as a shock to anyone who has worked with me one-on-one (sarcasm). But they work so much, with one movement! 

What's a physical goal you want to conquer?

Eventually, all of them. My ultimate fitness vision/goal has always involved having total control over my body and no limits on movement. But, it’s one step at a time. So, first pull-ups and unsupported handstands, then muscle ups into a handstand on the bar. 

Also, just generally becoming a stronger and faster runner. There are so many trails to explore and often we’re limited by time and distance. The stronger and faster I can run, the more trails I can explore in less time. (ALL DAY)

Now about training and massage… 

Photo by Serra Raquel 

Photo by Serra Raquel 

What is the ADAPT Training philosophy all about? 

ADAPT training is a way of approaching fitness and movement. It’s a set of basic principles that encourage you to consider the functionality and purpose of every movement within a workout and how those movements are contributing to optimal muscular function and efficiency. The three main principles are that the body has a blueprint, is an adaptive organism and is stimulus dependent. This means that your body will adapt to it’s environment, reacting to whatever stimuli are applied to it. Our blueprint dictates that we are designed for movement, so when the only stimulus applied to our body is sitting at a desk, followed by sitting in a chair, followed by sitting down to dinner in front of the tv, we conform to that position and develop chronic pain and injuries. 

Even if you go for a run five times a week, that’s 45-90 minutes of movement a day, versus the 12+ hours of non or minimal movement for the rest of the day. Workouts designed with the ADAPT principles are intended to provide a variety of stimuli to challenge your body in every direction of movement, so that you can move through your life without hesitation, the way you did when you were a kid. 

Why is this kind of training the best? 

This kind of training is incredibly adaptable (no pun intended). While it’s common for ADAPT workouts to be primarily bodyweight workouts, you can create a weight lifting workout that is an “ADAPT workout”. A workout being an “ADAPT workout” just means that the trainer that designed it applied the specific principles, and questioned the purpose behind every movement and the placement of that movement within the workout. They considered all the directions and the relative demand of each of those directions and how effective that movement would be for the individual or group that workout was designed for. If your trainer is an ADAPT certified trainer, you can be sure they took a careful, specific and scientific approach to the workout you’re doing. They also designed it to account for the ways we “cheat”, or compensate. 

Workouts are easily modified so that you can build the strength to maintain proper form and fill the holes in your strength, instead of doing whatever it takes to make that movement look like the guy next to you. This kind of training allows you to improve your performance without creating new injuries, or even while recovering from an old injury. This kind of training allows you to do things you never imagined you’d be able to do, which is what makes it so addicting. 

Explain the types of massage you offer and the importance of each to keeping the body functioning properly and feeling good. 

Swedish - Swedish Massage, the most commonly known form of massage,  is often referred to as a relaxation massage. It’s perfect for recovery after a week of tough workouts, or for letting go and re-centering after a stressful day or week at work. It is great for hydrating the tissue, helping muscles to relax and let go. It’s also great for getting the blood flowing. 

Deep Tissue - When people think of deep tissue, they often think of strong pressure, pain, and leaving the session feeling pulverized. While deep pressure and even a little pain can be productive at times, deep tissue massage actually refers to a way of approaching an area of the body. Typically this is applied when the therapist finds a spot of localized tension. They will slow down and sink into the tissue to work more deeply and employ techniques intended to release adhesions and restrictions (what we usually think of as a “knot”). These techniques are used to free up stuck tissues that are contributing to compensatory patterns in our movement. While deep tissue work can be intense and require some strong pressure, sometimes a more subtle approach can be more effective. 

Deep tissue techniques are great for targeting a specific issue, muscular realignment, helping to improve range of motion, and pain relief. 

Myofascial Release -  Myofascial Release is a fairly general term that refers to techniques meant to increase or retrain the movement of fascia. Fascia is a tissue that creates a web throughout our body that helps our muscles and organs slide past each other, and helps transmit force and create movement. 

When fascia is healthy it moves and stretches freely. When it is “unhealthy”, due to injury or repetitive stress, it becomes stuck, restricted and “sticky.” Fascia is the reason that your old shoulder injury is affecting the opposite hip and knee, or that a tight upper back and plantar fasciitis often go hand in hand. Myofascial release can be very superficial work or very deep work, depending on the goal and area being massaged. Fascial release and deep tissue massage often go hand in hand. 

It is rare for a massage to be comprised of just one of these techniques. Most likely you will experience all of them at some point in your massage, depending on the goal and what you respond well to. Other techniques I may employ include gentle exercises intended to activate or facilitate release in certain muscles, and passive or assisted stretching. 

How do massage and training with Spears Strong work together? 

The idea behind massage is usually to realign muscles to help create optimal movement. The same can be said for training with Spears Strong. Whether you’re trying to relieve pain, increase range of motion, or keep your body well maintained to keep driving toward your next goal, massage and training both have ways of doing that. The effects each method have will compound on each other. Sticking to a Spears Strong training plan and receiving regular massage may help you see results faster. 

Massage might be able to give you a desired result faster than a workout can, but the effects won’t last unless you continue to provide a stimulus that can have the same effect. That’s where Spears Strong workouts and homework come into play. Massage can help your homework and workouts be more effective, and homework and workouts will help your massages be more effective.