He is quiet and unassuming, but massage therapist Bob Collins attracts a lot of attention as he walks through a Holyoke Center administrative office. A chorus of unsolicited praise pours from offices: “He’s amazing.” “The best.” “One touch and I was hooked.”
Collins offers massages to the Harvard community four days a week through the Center for Wellness and Health Communication of University Health Services. Students, faculty, and administrators come to him in equal measure to treat specific injuries or to boost their overall health and relaxation.
From stressed-out students to knotted-up administrators, from weekend warriors to marathon runners and even a professional skateboarder, Collins has seen and touched it all. “The most unifying thing is their individuality, their uniqueness,” he says of his Harvard clients. “It’s what makes the job exciting.”
Collins, who has practiced for five years, came to massage therapy after holding a variety of jobs, including stonemason, truck driver, and short-order cook. “If you can do it with your hands, I’ve done it,” he says. Falling down a flight of stairs landed him on a massage therapist’s table and sparked a career change.
Collins credits his training, two years at the Muscular Therapy Institute in Cambridge, with providing him the solid technique that keeps him injury-free despite the physical nature of his work. “Doing the work is very much like a dance,” he says. “You’re using your body weight, you’re staying in motion throughout, you’re not standing still.”
Still, he puts himself on the table every other week, either swapping with colleagues or going “incognito” to a new massage therapist. “I like to borrow or just outright steal techniques of theirs,” he admits, although the signature touch he’s developed won’t change much.
Collins’ assessment of the Harvard body is generally positive. Repetitive stress injuries are the most common complaint, he says, calling the computer “one of the three things not designed for humans” (coach seats on airplanes and women’s shoes are the other offenders).
“People here are a lot more aware of their bodies” than the general public, he says. “My clients have always been very interested and involved in their recovery, which makes my work a whole lot easier. And a lot more fun.”
To schedule a full massage or a 10-minute chair massage (Wednesday, noon to 2 p.m.) at the Center for Wellness and Health Communication, call (617) 495-9629.
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