Meet Christy Mader

We sat down with Christy Mader a little while ago to chat about sports, massage therapy, the World Ultimate Frisbee Championship in London and …

We sat down with Christy Mader a little while ago to chat about sports, massage therapy, the World Ultimate Frisbee Championship in London and climbing. She’s a mom.


How many kids do you have?

I have two boys, five and seven and a half.

We know you’re an athlete. Are they athletes?

Yes, kind of, in different ways. They enjoy biking, tennis, climbing, swimming, soccer, and basketball. Right now, it’s not really about them competing. It’s more about activity and developing the skill base.

What are their names?

Finn and Kai. Finn is short for Finlay. Finlay means fair warrior in Scottish. It’s a family name from my husband’s side. Kai is “keeper of the keys,” or “keeper of the earth.” His full name is Katsumi Kai which is my husband’s grandfather’s name. It’s Japanese and means I will overcome myself.

You’re from Wisconsin, right?

I was born in Florida on an Air Force base. My Dad was an air traffic controller. But I was only there a year. I grew up in Minnesota. I went to High School in St. Paul, Minnesota and went to University in Wisconsin. In High School, I did more individual sports and less team sports. Track, swimming and such. In University, I swam for a year and then got into team sports. Ultimately, I switched to ultimate frisbee! Looking at lines at the bottom of the pool is not always the most fun. [laughs]

Where did you arrive in Canada?

I was a massage therapist in Manitoba. And now here.

Did you see Ghostbusters?

No. I don’t watch many movies. I don’t watch TV. I’m not super into pop culture. [laughs] Even music. I like music. I’m not opposed to music. [laughs] Camping is a big deal to my family and my summer time. Recently we went to the caves at Horne Lake, up Island near Qualicum beach. I climb at the cliffs there regularly.

Where else do you climb?

These days, mostly Horne Lake, and Stelly’s gym! I’ve climbed in Squamish, California, Texas, Colorado, and Utah. I have cut back on the long road trips since having kids and stick closer to home now.  I have done different types of climbing over the years. Sport climbing has a team aspect. You need a belayer to keep you safe. But you’re on the wall by yourself. Bouldering is more collaborative and social. With sport climbing you have bolts and quick draws. But with trad climbing, aka traditional climbing, you’re placing your own protection. I’ve been climbing since the late ‘90s when I was travelling in New Zealand. I was there for New Years in 2000, which was amazing! It’s been a love affair ever since.

Love affair?

[laughs] Here’s a funny story. When my husband proposed to me I said I have one condition. I get to go on climbing trips. You can come with me or stay home, but I’m going.

And he agreed, obviously.

Yes. But he doesn’t totally share the love. He climbed a bit while we were dating.

Does he play Ultimate?

My husband is a great Ultimate player. The last time Danny played in the Worlds was in 2010, in Prague.

Ultimate is gender inclusive, right?

Yes, I was playing on a mixed team but there’s also a men’s team and a women’s team. I was just in London playing with Team Canada. I’ve played with some of the people on the team before. There’s also a moderately sized community of players here on the island.  Mike Grant is currently living on the Island, and he’s a legend. He was arguably the best player in the world in 2004.  I’m no Mike Grant [laughs] but I’m a solid utility player, and I can play every position. But for this tournament I was usually handling or cutting on defence. Oh yeah, by the way, we got third in London. [smiles]

Christy Mader dives to make the play at the World Championships in Ultimate in London, 2016

Have you been following American politics?

Oh dear. My family is from the midwest. They watch Fox News. I don’t. I’m voting in the US election, in Minnesota. Let’s leave it at that.

How do you navigate the body sensitivities and boundaries you encounter in massage therapy?

Well, what’s interesting is that, in general, athletes are less sensitive. They’re more comfortable with different treatment techniques. For athletes, they’re just thinking, “make me better – do what you have to do, so I can perform.”

With the general public I have to be a little more sensitive and aware of individual comfort levels with their own body. I ask a lot of questions, like, “Are you okay with this plan?” “Are you okay with this technique or pressure?” People are giving me a lot of trust to touch them and even just to be so close to them for a prolonged time. If a massage is say, 30 minutes, that’s about 29 minutes longer of prolonged physical contact with a relative stranger than most people are used to. So it’s normal and common but I have to stay attentive and inquiring with people.

Do you treat people who play Ultimate?

Yes, I do. Actually when I was in London recently for the World Championships, I was a player, and I was also the team trainer/massage therapist.

That’s amazing. No many people can say that. Were there injuries?

Not many. One hamstring pull, which is common. An AC sprain, in the shoulder. Overall, our team held up well.

Do you see climbers?

I see climbers for their forearms, shoulders, and their fingers.

You do finger massage?

Oh yeah, the scar tissue can be serious. The tiny muscles in your hand help you grip and there can be scar tissue built up around the attachment points, which interferes with proper function and force. Especially elbows. The response can be significant – with treatment, people can feel their grip strength improve.

Being a massage therapist has probably helped your athletic career?

Hah, well that’s kind of how I got started. I have had a lot of injuries, and I wanted to learn how to fix them. But I also love working with people. I’m an extrovert. Basically I’ve been massaging since I was five; friends, family. I love it.

Where do you climb here in town?

I climb with my family at Stelly’s Gym. Shout out to Kaleb Thomas! He’s the head setter and puts up awesome routes. They’re a great local organization, and I have a lot of gratitude for them. They are very kid friendly; my boys climb there as well. And I would not be the climber that I am today without their facilities. They help me push myself to be better.

You’re a “crusher?”

I want to be. I have moments of crushing. I climbed my first 5.13a this past fall. I aspire to climb more difficult routes. That’s really the point actually. I’m in massage therapy to do more. And I’m in massage therapy to help other people do more. I want to help people live their lives vibrantly. You know, how’s your energy? Are you able to do what you want to do? Are you winning at life?

Click to enlarge

Christy on Boss Wall at Horne Lake

Christy on Boss Wall at Horne Lake. Photo by Dag Holmberg

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Posted by Arbutus Health Team

The Arbutus Physiotherapy & Health Centre is a health and wellness clinic that provides physiotherapy, massage therapy and chiropractic care. We provide assessments and treatments to people with acute injury, chronic pain, and sports related injuries. We can help you recover and return to an active, healthy lifestyle, and peak performance.

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