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Metal fabricator finds a new career in therapeutic massage

Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 7:34 am

Going from metal fabricator, to massage therapist at the age of 44 seems like a radical change, but for Michael Montgomery it was what he was looking for.

Montgomery had been working in the housing industry, installing heating and cooling systems in new housing developments. When the economy dropped and the housing industry tanked Montgomery was finding it difficult to make a living so he decided to go back to school. Keeping an open mind, he looked at where there would be job growth over the next few years and discovered massage therapy is expected to grow by 112 percent over the next decade. He enrolled at Ivy Tech's Fort Wayne campus, and now two and a half years later he is getting ready to take his board certification exam and graduate from the program.

There were a lot of jokes from his friends about his career choice, but he had a few friends who realized he was serious and encouraged him.

“It takes a lot of guts to do a 180-degree turnaround and reinvent yourself at 44 years old,” Montgomery said one of his friends told him.

One of the worst joksters was a friend whose wife had suffered whiplash in a car accident. Once Montgomery was working on his massage hours toward graduation he worked on her. Within several sessions she began to feel a difference, and Montgomery's friend was no longer teasing him about his switch in careers.

Now with graduation just around the corner Montgomery said he is planning on doing sports medicine-related massage and personal training, which he is already certified in.

A father of three, his wife, Maria, is an R.N. at Lutheran Hospital, and Montgomery said she took the change in his career in stride. She was a graduate of the University of Saint Francis, and was impressed by coursework Montgomery went through in his training. Anatomy, physiology and pathology were all courses he had to pass as he worked his way toward his degree.

Montgomery said he has learned a lot about himself on the way to his new career. He has come to realize by changing his eating, exercising more and slowing down with yoga that he can lower his blood pressure. His father died at 52, and Montgomery is hopeful that by taking a more holistic approach to his own lifestyle it will help him live longer.

It takes 100 hours of hands-on massage experience and 600 hours of classroom work to become a therapeutic massage therapist at Ivy Tech. Once Montgomery has passed his state board certification he is hopeful he can either work for a physical therapist or build his own clientele through the gym where he works out. The benefits of massage for athletes are great, Montgomery said. One of his clients, a runner, came to him with a very stiff upper back and lower body. After working with her for several months, she was able to run the Chicago Marathon and had a personal best on her time.

“It's the adventure of life; when I'm on my deathbed I want to look back and say 'now that was a ride',” Montgomery said.