Fitness guru preaches personal responsibility, ‘intentional touch’ in fighting health enemy No. 1
One might not expect Rod Page to be the sensitive type. The ex-Marine is a hulking piece of muscle who gives extra-firm handshakes, rides a Harley-Davidson and sports a rad mustache. But the 51-year-old also leads yoga classes, exudes kindness and talks passionately about the role of “intentional touch” therapy in preventative health.
“In the end of your fingers, you have the capacity to change someone’s health just by giving them a shoulder or neck massage,” he said. “No therapist is born with special skills; it’s about having an empathetic disposition and a genuine concern for who you’re working with.”
During a recent interview, Page discussed his career as a fitness coach in Redding, Willows and Chico, which, by his own estimate, includes 25,000 hours of personal training and countless chair- and full-body massages. Over his 20 years in the field, he’s come to realize that, all along, he’s been “treating the symptoms of a bigger disease”—stress.
Page describes stress as “the culprit behind pretty much every modern ailment,” but his definition is broad.
“You run too far for what your conditioning level is, you’ve stressed your body,” he said. “You lift more than you’re capable of, you’ll have a week of soreness. You eat a poor diet, that’s a form of stress on your body.”
Page’s philosophy on stress relief is both multifaceted—it relates to diet, exercise and body work—and basic. The first and most important step, he says, is holding yourself accountable for the state of your health.
“I’ve heard every excuse known to man,” Page said. “Why they can’t exercise, why they can’t eat right. Until you accept the responsibility for where you’re at, you can’t move forward.”
Page was “corn-fed and barn-raised” in Elk City, Okla. At 12 years old, he was already preparing for high school baseball and football by doing chin-ups in the rafters of the family barn.
He made both teams when he was of age, and, through football, was introduced to a structured weight-training regimen for the first time. After graduating high school in 1981, he joined the Marine Corps, and roughly three months of boot camp further engrained exercise as a habit.
However, an accident on a rainy day in 1986 while he was stationed in Yuma, Ariz., would forever complicate his active lifestyle. While working on the wing of an F-4 Phantom fighter jet, Page slipped, hit the wing flaps, and landed heavily on the tarmac; equipment resting on the wing then fell and crushed his neck and left shoulder.
“My buddy says, ‘Dude, don’t lift your head—your collarbone is about to poke out of your skin,’” he recalled.
The fracture was so severe it nearly punctured his carotid artery, but the medical attention he received “was a joke,” he said. ‘They put a sling around my arm, and sent me home with Advil.” It was an excruciating week before he saw a doctor at Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego and had the bone reset.
After leaving the Marines in 1988, Page moved to Redding and started a gym. He helped design a wellness plan for city employees and oversaw the development of a stress-busters class at Shasta College. At his gym, he did everything from personal training to leading yoga classes.
For years, he maintained a personal regimen of running and calisthenics, but knew something was wrong when he lifted heavy weight. “I didn’t understand why I wasn’t getting stronger, even though I pulled and pulled,” he said.
It wasn’t until 2001, when he underwent an MRI, that he discovered the full extent of his injuries: Not only had he suffered permanent nerve damage in his shoulder, but the impact had broken two cervical vertebrae at the bottom of his neck, and his shoulder blade had been fractured from one end to the other. Both injuries had healed on their own.
Once he knew what his limitations were—some motions still pop his shoulder out of its socket—he crafted a resistance-training routine he follows to this day.
Page moved to Chico this spring and has since been providing personal training and body work by appointment. He’ll lead a stress-busters class for partners on Nov. 2, and the main component will be touch.
“It takes two,” he said. “That’s where intentional touch comes in—how to clear the mind to give a massage, and also prepare to receive one. In five minutes, you’ve totally changed their day.”
While learning those techniques takes specific instruction, Page also will provide general tips like taking a moment to practice breathing exercises and breaking up your work day by taking a walk.
He’ll also discuss exercise, emphasizing body-weight movements that don’t require equipment or a gym membership. Regarding diet, he offers a simple rule of thumb based on the dictionary definition of food: “Any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.”
“People like to label ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food,” he said. “The reality is, one is food, and one is not food, because it’s not nutritious.” Maintaining a proper diet, then, becomes a matter of consuming what is nourishing and laying off empty calories.
The goal is to make those practices habitual. By taking a proactive approach, Page says, encountering a stressful situation won’t raise your blood pressure as much.
Given his personal struggles with injury, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t think much of excuses.
“Folks are ready to make a change, but they may not be ready to listen to my message, because I tell them, ‘You can’t continue to blame fast food, your spouse, your genetics, your job, your boss.’ At some point, you have to say, ‘I am completely responsible for the state of my health, and I need to take positive steps to make a difference.’”