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Olympic Dreams Aren’t Just For The Athletes - Introducing Tony Poland, CMT (he/him)

Tell us about the work you currently do

Sports, recovery, and rehabilitation bodywork. Most of my bodywork is based on resolution of myofascial trigger points through neuromuscular techniques and stretching. I also teach every client how to continue to resolve their tension issues by instructing them to practice self-maintenance through exercise and stretching in appropriate patterns, and guiding them through open-ended questions to discover what movements or postures are creating their tension pattern.


Describe your journey to becoming a bodyworker. When did it begin, and why did you choose bodywork?

My father and I both have minor scoliosis. I grew up walking on my dad’s back, and when I was strong enough, he started having me attempt to massage his back. Later I worked in a teppanyaki style restaurant where one of the waitresses and I would exchange seated massages with each other after work. She would work on my shoulders or back and show me “how” and I attempted to reciprocate with her guidance.

With this experience I joined massage exchanges over the years and learned a few other techniques. After some years in the film industry, often doing a bit of massage on friends on set here and there, many of my work friends advised me to go to massage school and get out of the film industry. I had been experiencing a hefty portion of burnout in the film industry, but I took my time exploring the various local massage schools. Several friends suggested I go to IPSB, and I attended an open house. I loved the concepts they espoused but needed to do my homework first. I attended open houses at various schools in SoCal for four months before concluding that IPSB was the place for me. I fell in love in my very first class but was inspired even more when I took Sports Massage.


Why (and when) did you choose to attend IPSB?

I started Foundations in April of 1999. Helen Green, my Foundations instructor suggested I attend Deep Tissue at Emperor’s College under Stephanie Sette right after graduation. I was too drawn to sinking into the muscles for the little education I had, and she didn’t want me to hurt myself. After the Deep Tissue classes at Emperor’s I went back to IPSB to continue my education.


While taking classes at IPSB I spent a good deal of time as a teaching assistant because it gave me a chance to explore the material on a deeper level. In 2003 when I finally finished my  program, I was invited to attend the teacher training program.

Also in 2003 I attended my first AIDS/LifeCycle Ride on the Sports Medicine Team. There I fell in love with the multidisciplinary treatment model where I could learn from and work with medical practitioners from various fields, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, athletic trainers, and chiropractors, as well as students in several of those fields. In 2010 the USA National Volleyball Teams moved from Colorado Springs, CO to Anaheim, CA. The medical director asked a friend, whom I had volunteered with on AIDS/LifelCycle, who he could ask to assemble a volunteer massage team to work on the National Team athletes. She suggested he call me. At the time I had been teaching the Sports Massage program at IPSB for a couple of years, so I put together a team of former students and we volunteered all summer that first year. The next year they started paying a small hourly rate and I continued working with USAV until 2023.

During that time, I was invited to work with the Teams through the 2012 London Olympics. While in London I met the medical director for US Olympic Committee, Bill Morleau, DC.

Bill called me in 2015 and invited me to participate on the USOC’s Recovery Team in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics. We had three or four massage therapists for approximately 500 Team USA athletes in Rio. We worked from 8 AM to 11 PM, seven days a week for five weeks doing 30 minute, back to back sessions. We each had one day off to attend an event or two. I had the opportunity to watch the open water swim and the rhythmic gymnastics while there.

The USAV Beach National Teams asked me to participate with them during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (in 2021) where our Women’s Team of April Ross and Alex Klineman won their Gold Medals. I was also helping the USAV Indoor Teams as an overflow therapist to support a number of their athletes. When the Men’s Indoor Team went home, I was asked to stay and continue supporting the USAV Women’s Indoor Team through their gold medal match. Ultimately, I had the opportunity to work with several of the Indoor Women, assisting in their rehabilitation to keep them on the court through their Gold Medal win against Brazil. Those two Gold Medal Ceremonies are a couple of the best days of my life.

Early in my career I worked far too deep and dished out an excessive amount of pain because fast results are the expectation in sports, and the sessions are often short. However, I soon learned there are neuromuscular modalities that will resolve myofascial trigger points without having to work so hard or aggressively. I’ve continued my pursuit of any promising modality or evaluation technique that could make my bodywork more efficient and less painful, while seeking out every resource I could find for efficient, repeatable stretches that anyone can learn. Consequently, I specialize in speedy recovery and teaching self-stretches my athletes value. My key techniques are deep tissue with a focus on rotational pin-and-stretch, Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM), cupping, and a technique I’ve created by combining various concepts I call Compressed Contraction Technique (CCT).


What advice would you give someone pursuing bodywork or considering school at IPSB?

As for advice, any of my students can tell you I push them to be creative, while also valuing their wellbeing by closely monitoring their body mechanics. If you listen to your body, you can easily realize when your body mechanics are less than efficient and correct your form. Keep your hands strong and stretch on a regular basis.


You can learn more about Tony Poland, CMT and their work on Instagram @tonysbodywork (website/social/links)





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