BEMIDJI — It’s never too late to change, or so believes new massage therapist Polly Merhar.
Merhar, who is in his 50s, spent most of his life working in business administration before deciding to take his career in a whole new direction. Now she is a nationally certified massage therapist and owns Trail Ready Massage in Bemidji.
Originally from the Duluth area, Merhar got her start in business when she opened a restaurant along the north shore of Lake Superior. After she and her husband sold the restaurant over 20 years ago, they moved to Bemidji to be closer to their family.
A few decades later, Merhar decided to give up his career in business administration and rent a suite at Bemidji’s Chief Plaza, 1510 Bemidji Ave. N, to run his own small business offering massage therapy.
“It was the right decision,” Merhar said, “which is always a good thing to go into a career and find it was the right call.”
Trail Ready Massage is fully managed by Merhar, who greets clients in the small, colorful space with a warm smile and a positive attitude.
In addition to scheduling appointments upon request, Merhar has also partnered with healthcare providers who can provide referrals for their patients.
“Any age, any path,” Merhar said, “that’s exactly the kind of thing I had envisioned as a target market.”
Merhar has always been an active person, but said she found inspiration to help others on their own health journey one day while driving down the street.
“I saw this old couple walking, supporting each other in their walkers and canes,” Merhar said. “Three miles later, I saw this fabulous couple standing, gray hair, holding hands. (I thought to myself) these are the people I want to be, and these are the people I want to help others be.
This situation inspired Merhar to pursue a career where she could help people from all walks of life stay active and comfortable, setting her on the path to becoming a certified massage therapist and also later inspired the name of her business.
A year later, Merhar graduated from the program and earned her national board certification in massage therapy and bodywork. Then, on February 9, she welcomed her first official client to her new venture.
“I really appreciate the people who come,” Merhar said. “It’s just wonderful to help them and help them feel better.”
In the months since opening, Merhar has worked with everyone from clients undergoing cancer treatment to retired dancers in their 60s. Helping each of them reaffirmed their decision to embark on their new careers.
“They’ve had this long winter, (maybe) they’ve had COVID, they haven’t had a massage in years,” Merhar said of her clients, “a lot of people just want to be more at comfortable.”
Merhar added that she felt she had a better understanding of her client’s desires, as she, too, had gone through periods where chronic pain and other physical challenges had affected her ability to live comfortably.
“I injured my back in my 30s,” Merhar said. “You just have those things in your life where all of a sudden it limits the things you can do.”
After undergoing physical therapy, Merhar was able to return to her active lifestyle, which she hopes can help others achieve as well.
“My tagline is ‘Joining You on Your Journey to Wellness,'” Merhar said of his business model. “I want to help other people become really active people. And be healthy as they age, whatever path they choose.
When a client comes for an appointment at Trail Ready Massage, the first thing Merhar does is a health intake. She sits down with the client to discuss their needs before designing a treatment plan that will help them achieve their goals.
“Right now I’m doing full clinical massage, which takes a lot of fitness and muscle,” Merhar said. “There’s also a lot of my time working behind the scenes.”
Therapeutic and clinical massage, offered by Merhar, differs from a massage intended solely for relaxation. Massage therapy aims to relieve pain and address specific physical problems a person might be experiencing.
For Merhar, massage therapy is something she hopes to work in even as she gets older, and thinks it will be her last career move.
“If I still like it, there’s a lot I can do,” Merhar said. “I can do this until my body can’t take it anymore. This is the last career I’m going to have.”
She is already thinking about adjustments she can make to the services she offers that might be less physically demanding and is excited to learn new techniques and practices to offer her clients.
“There are all these things that I can continue to learn as I go,” she said. “I am exactly where I need to be.”