Melissa Verplank is back with some advice on how to make time for your own wellness. Groomers are occupational athletes — take care of yourself and invest in your well-being!
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And I can’t tell you how true that phrase is. Stop and think about it. And from a grooming standpoint, Dr. Matt, who’s my chiropractor, he told me years ago, Melissa, you are an occupational athlete. That’s what you do. I’ve been in your salons, I’ve seen what students do, I’ve seen what your professionals do, and you guys, you’re getting a workout every single day that you stand at that grooming table. You’re bending, you’re twisting, you’re lifting. So true. And so what are some things that you can do today? If I were to go back and talk to myself 30 years ago, what would I be saying to myself? And it’s not that I would listen necessarily, but I just want to kind of plant a seed. If you’re younger and you’re invincible, like I was when I was in my twenties, you might just want to think twice about certain things that you’re doing.
And the first thing I would say is know your limitations. Know your limitations from a physical standpoint. How much can you lift comfortably? How much can you pull and how much can you physically deal with? Know what those limitations are. And again, like I said, when we’re in our twenties, we’re invincible. When we’re in our thirties, we’re starting to go, hmm, I’m not so sure about that. When we’re in our forties it starts to catch up with us. By the time we’re in our 50s and our 60s, oh yeah, we’re starting to pay for it. Just think about longterm, what you’re doing today and how it’s going to affect you. For me, my biggest thing is I probably shouldn’t have been out lifting my own weight. I was really proud of the fact I was strong enough that I could do that. Today, I’d be like … Either I’d be … I was running mobile at the time, so I really, I didn’t have a whole lot of help, but I would either ask owners to help or if I was in a salon situation, I’d be asking for team lifts.
I wouldn’t be so proud of the fact that I could out lift my own weight in a dog to get it up under the grooming table or into a tub. The other thing is know your limitations with the personality types that you can deal with, whether it be dogs or whether it be cats. Some people really gravitate to the challenging pets. Other people don’t, but know what your limitations are, because our hands are our livelihood and if you are uncomfortable working with a challenging pet, they sense that. They can read that energy and they’re going to be even more naughty for you.
And yet other people can go in and they have just got that calm, cool demeanor and it just settles that pet right down and they can work with really challenging pets and do it safely. And so again, just know what your limitations are and don’t push beyond what you’re comfortable with. The other thing I would say is invest in yourself from an equipment standpoint. If you have the ability to make sure that you are working with tables that go up and down, whether they’re hydraulic or electric. If you have choices of bathing stations so that you’re not having to bend over as much, depending on again what size of a dog you’re dealing with or a cat that you’re dealing with. Cats are pretty much all one size fits all kind of thing, but dogs, oh my goodness, you’re running the gamut from the little tiny three pounders all the way up to 150 to even 200 pounds.
I still remember trying to get a Bullmastiff into the tub by myself and that was a tough feat. Luckily the dog was relatively well trained and he would get into the tub by himself, but you still had to help and he was a big dog. I mean, when I put a four foot kennel lead on him, I had less than a foot left. That’s how big his neck was. Different pieces of equipment allow you to handle those variances, whether you’re dealing with a teeny tiny Yorkie or that big Mastiff, your equipment is going to allow you to deal with it the most ergonomically way possible so that you’re not putting undue strain on your back. And again, lift with your knees, not so much with your back. That was another thing I was really guilty of.
I would just bend over and pick a dog up. I wouldn’t bother lifting with my knees. Well, I’ll tell you, years and years of doing that and I now have a fair amount of lower back discomfort unless I’m really careful about what I’m doing. Think about the equipment, think about sheers. Being able to have a really nice pair of shears allows you to minimize how many scissor strokes you’re going to have to take, or flip over to those guard combs. Oh my goodness, they make it so much easier to get the more elaborate type trims done on a dog without nearly the amount of work. Or a really powerful, high velocity dryer. Your dryers will, the high velocity dryers will not only dry a coat, but they will also de-shed and de-matte a coat as well.
If you’ve got a really high powered one, you’ve just minimize the amount of brushing that you’re going to have to do. Invest in the equipment that’s going to make your job easier. And number three, support a healthy lifestyle. And there’s going to be a couple of different areas that you really need to think about. I learned again early on that I love food, and it shows. It lands on most of my hips, but I also learned that food is not only your fuel, but it can also be your medicine. And as I was dealing with some of my ailments, and again, back when I was in my twenties, I was invincible. Didn’t need health insurance. Didn’t have it. And I was diagnosed early on with rheumatoid arthritis, which that was hogwash way back then. And I’ve learned, I don’t have rheumatoid arthritis, but what I am prone to is any type of tendinitis, and it’s going to flare up all over, whether it be in my elbow, in my hands, in my feet. It’s a problem.
And so I have had to learn to eat a very anti-inflammatory type diet. And the second that I start to eat foods that trigger that inflammation, I start having a lot of problems and pain. Right now, I am on a keto type diet, which is very, very low carbs. And not only did I want to try it to help reduce weight, but it also almost instantly reduced the pain and discomfort that I had with inflammation. But it had been a journey. I didn’t just like one day flip a switch and go, oh, I’m going to keep my carbs at under 20. I’ve been on a journey for a long time and it took a long time to build up to this, to the point that I went, I could do this. I can eat this way and be happy about it. And that’s where I’m at right now.
But again, it took a long time, and I started playing with this way back in my late twenties and early thirties and so that’s when I really realized that food is not only fuel, but it can also be used as medicine. And then the other thing is get exercise. Now I know as we’re standing at the grooming table, we’re exercising every single day, but you know what? It’s not balanced exercise. Everything that we do is in front of us. And so we’re reaching, we’re pulling, we’re lifting and everything is reaching forward. And a lot of times you’re looking down, so your eye level is looking down. It’s not looking straight forward and it’s not looking up. It’s looking down. And so that ends up putting some problems with your neck. It can … And then all of the reaching forward will have some issues with your shoulders.
It could also have problems with your elbows and with your wrists. A lot of folks have found that if they work with a physical therapist and they figure out exercises and stretches that they can do to counter balance the overuse of the forward motion that we have and really strengthen their back and their shoulders utilizing different moving methods, has made a huge impact on their comfort level when they are standing at the grooming table. And then, it goes without saying get enough rest, get enough sleep, and I know I get it. When you’re running and gunning, it’s darn hard sometimes to get enough rest, to get enough sleep, but it is so critical to your overall wellness so that you can perform at peak levels. And then do yourself some personal maintenance. And today, chiropractic care, massage therapy, I do kinetic massage therapy, which has really helped tremendously and has freed up muscles.
I just get really knotted and really tight. And by going in and having this type of massage therapy done, I can keep myself limber, I can keep myself moving and being active. And life isn’t very fun if you are just totally sedentary. I mean, most of us that are in the grooming world, we’re relatively active folks and we like to do things and there’s nothing worse than getting sidelined, because you just can’t move. And so being able to work with personal maintenance, whether it be going and working out on a regular basis, doing yoga, I don’t care what it is, but take time for that personal maintenance to keep yourself in peak condition. And if you’re not in peak condition, the personal maintenance will allow you to just to keep moving and help slow down the aging effects, because again, when you’re in your 20s and your 30s, you are going.
But once you hit your 40s, your 50s and then you get into your 60s, you’ve got to be really conscious about what you’re doing, and a lot of times your formal lifestyle is going to affect your later years. Again, like I said, if I were to talk to myself, and go back to when I was in my 20s, I would really have some pretty harsh words to tell myself. Take care of yourself. Take a look at … If you’ve got issues today, take a look at what those root causes are. And there is so much that you can do from a holistic level that don’t require medication, that doesn’t require surgery to fix those problems. And medicine is great and for many, in many situations, the medicine that we take is lifesaving.
But for those things that are more just a bandaid, I would much rather get to the root cause and find a solution to it and fix it at the root cause than constantly reaching for a bottle of pain reliever just to get through the day. Figure out what the root cause is and figure out a way to heal yourself, and take the time, invest in yourself. Take the time to learn the different things that you can do to help yourself so that you are not forced to take time to deal with an illness. Be proactive and take care of yourself now so that when you get into your later years, you can really enjoy them.