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Meet Trailblazer Lisa Talev

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Talev.

Lisa, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I first studied massage in 1998, when I was living in San Francisco. A year later, I moved to Austin, where my SF certification was worthless, so I had to start all over at massage school in Austin, for my Texas massage license. I got that in 2004, and in 2005 I started working as a massage therapist at several Austin area day spas.

In the summer of 2007, I was laid off from my full-time job at a day spa when the owner decided to close and sell the business. I’d previously had no business training, and no interest in starting my own business (I dreaded bookkeeping and marketing and was terrified of doing complex tax returns). But as luck would have it, the spa owner really wanted us to succeed. She gave us each a packet of our clients’ contact info and even put our contact info on the spa website for clients find us. She then had an everything-must-go sale, where I was able to get thousands of dollars’ worth of spa equipment for under $500.

Within a few years of working for myself, I had lots of regular clients who’d found me thanks to my former spa clients. To prevent injury from over-working as a massage therapist, in 2010 I enrolled in the Professional Health Coach Training Program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). I became a certified health coach in June of 2011, which helped me diversify my income so I wasn’t just relying on massage to pay the bills. I studied Reiki (energy work) from 2010-2012, taking all three levels of training that are offered, to become a master reiki practitioner. I studied Qigong in 2011, which further enhanced my energy work skills and self-care toolkit.

I enjoyed a full practice in Austin for several years, splitting my time between massage, reiki, health coaching and some private chef work for coaching clients. But after 17 years in Austin, I was ready for a change. One year after my mom died, I packed up my things and relocated to Tucson, AZ in September of 2016.

Now, just a little more than 2-1/2 years into living in Tucson, I finally feel like it was worth it to move here. I have proudly watched my small business grow through my word-of-mouth referrals, and I really enjoy working with my massage and reiki clients. Because I can work with women who live anywhere in the U.S. for the coaching part of my business, I am continuing to look for new ways to reach women across the country who are looking for a stress-management, self-care and weight loss coach. I’m also eager to expand my local clientele for healthy cooking lessons, which make weight loss and clean eating easier.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Relocating and starting all over again after 9 years in business was extremely challenging–perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’d gotten used to having a full practice in Austin, then found myself starting over from zero in a new state, with no one who could vouch for the quality of my work, and no appointments on the books. Remembering how helpful business networking had been for me in Austin, I joined a few different networking groups in Tucson and slowly watched my practice grow from there. But despite persistent effort, it took nearly 2-1/2 years to feel like my business was on solid footing. That was longer than I’d expected!

But even in Austin, my entrepreneurial journey was full of bumps in the road. It wasn’t a straight line from launching my practice to filling it. Six months after starting my private practice, my dad died, and a month later I inherited care of my mom, who had Alzheimer’s. I also had the challenge of the 2008 recession, where lots of middle-class people cut back on “luxuries” like massage.

I consider the period between 2008-2015 to have been my emotional boot camp. It forced me to fully live the self-care habits I teach my coaching clients (“walk the talk,” so to speak). There was lots of chronic stress I had to manage daily, so I could show up fully present and inspiring for my clients. Ultimately it forced me to live as much as possible in the moment, instead of worrying about the future or grieving the loss of the past.

I also experienced a physical challenge in the Spring of: repetitive strain injury, especially in my right wrist (I’m right-handed). I needed to limit the number of massages I did per day in order to be able to keep working as a massage therapist long-term. After a lot of soul searching, I decided to train to become a holistic health coach, so I could diversify my income and still do what I love, without having to work for someone else or quit massage altogether.

But obstacles so often carry a hidden blessing. The silver lining to me in learning to manage so much stress with healthy habits was that I ended up getting into the best shape of my life as a result of my intensive and nurturing self-care. I went so far as to do fitness modeling as a hobby (and to promote my coaching practice) when I lived in Austin. As a direct result of taking great care of myself during difficult times, I got to experience being in my body in a whole new, more powerful way.

We’d love to hear more about Inspired Wellness Tucson.
I’m a massage therapist, reiki practitioner and holistic health coach. My massage sessions are very comprehensive, combining multiple modalities of massage (like deep tissue, hot stone and myofascial release) with custom-blended aromatherapy, cupping (with silicone cups, which are less intense than the glass-and-fire Chinese cupping method), and alignment-correction blended in. I also use hot foot and neck towels in every session, giving my clients a luxurious and pampering spa experience, with no added fees for all the extras they get. Hot stones, aromatherapy and cupping area already figured into the base price. All my massages come standard with hot stone therapy (except where contraindicated, or if a client doesn’t want them). Cold stones are an optional no-cost add-on during the hot summer months.

Each session is fully customized to the client’s preferences, so no one ever feels like they’re getting the same “routine” everyone else gets. Reiki can be done in combination with massage or as a stand-alone session. Reiki is safe for pregnant women of all stages, and is also appropriate for sexual trauma survivors, since they can stay fully clothed throughout, and much of the work is done either above the body or very gently touching. Some clients prefer stand-alone reiki sessions, but most of my clients who get reiki prefer having it blended into a massage.

I work primarily with women, usually age 30-80, although I sometimes work with teenage girls who are referred by their parents, or clients over 80, referred by their adult children. I only take male clients who are people I know well, or the husbands/boyfriends/partners of my trusted female clients.

I treat chronic stress regularly (clients with PTSD, Type-A business owners and clients who have anxiety or depression). I also work a lot with chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, migraines, sciatica, neck and shoulder pain, pain related to car accidents, sports injuries, knee pain, hip pain and myofascial adhesions. I’m not trained in oncology massage at this time, so I typically refer cancer patients to other MTs, who have more specialized training in that arena (my first responsibility is to make sure I cause no harm, so I always refer out to other therapists if someone with a complex medical condition I’m not trained in how to work with contacts me).

In my health coaching practice, I love helping women overcome overeating and break free from sugar addiction. I help my coaching clients learn to feed their hearts and spirits instead of stuffing their feelings down with food or drink. Weight loss, mindfulness and eat-to-live mentality are some of my favorite things to teach my coaching clients. I also enjoy teaching private healthy cooking lessons to teenage girls and young women, whom I’m passionate about educating on nutrition, so they don’t fall into the common trap of deprivation diets or eating disorders.

I’m also very comfortable working with women who are dealing with grief, since I’ve recovered myself from intense grief: losing both my parents in my 30s, getting divorced at 37, and losing a few beloved pets along the way. Reiki, massage and health coaching are all very supportive during the grief recovery process. I also refer out to local grief counselors as needed. It’s always an honor and a rewarding experience to help someone get their vitality back, after suffering through a devastating loss.

I’m also proud of the coaching work I do for women who struggle with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. In addition to teaching the fundamentals of nutrition & healthy eating, I teach how to set healthy boundaries, I also teach how to use non-food rewards and exercise for stress relief, which helps rewire the brain to crave real-life activities more than food. I also help my clients create stress-busting rituals that are unique to them, which take the place of overeating or other bad habits.

I love it when my coaching clients say they’ve developed an “inner Lisa” that guides their day to day choices and helps them evaluate whether a certain food or behavior is the right one, that they’ll be the happiest with. I love helping my clients reframe their challenges and refresh their perspective.

We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
I think a lot of women feel overwhelmed juggling all the responsibilities and endless work of entrepreneurship or a full-time job plus family, let alone taking on additional leadership roles. Adding leadership responsibilities always mean more hours to put in behind the scenes, more emails to answer, calls to return, problems to solve and mandatory meetings to attend.

There are only so many hours in the day, and modern life is already overflowing with responsibilities that keep us running to keep up. For their own sanity and health, women need to decide how many irons they can realistically keep in the fire. Juggling work, family, home maintenance, social obligations, and self-care is already a challenge for many. Adding on top of that the pressure to take on leadership threatens burnout to many women who are already frazzled just keeping up with daily life.

From a different perspective, there are other barriers in the area of female leadership besides boundary setting and fear of burnout. If we are used to operating from our limiting beliefs (like “there aren’t enough hours in the day to be a leader”), then I could see women’s limiting beliefs getting in the way. It may come down to how we are socialized from an early age: to be quiet and pretty, rather than leading the pack.

One final issue is that it could have to do more with self-criticism or self-doubt than external barriers. As I mentioned, too many of us are socialized to be quiet and sweet, not to ask for raises, not to rock the boat, and to let the boys talk more. Women tend to be more self-critical than men, tearing themselves down in their minds, over-analyzing what they said or will say. Some find it’s easier to let men or those already in power take credit for their ideas, rather than fighting back or standing up for themselves. These issues would naturally translate to not feeling comfortable in a leadership role where you’re making decisions, guiding the ship, taking stands not everyone agrees with and speaking on behalf of the whole team.

The more we can empower girls from an early age to share their ideas, lead discussions, inspire others, and organize community action, the more we will make it easier for women to take on leadership roles as a part of everyday life, without necessarily adding more sense of burden to their schedules.


  • My massage prices are all-inclusive, meaning you get lots of ‘bells and whistles’ without paying extra for them
  • My health coaching sessions are very affordable compared to many other coaches: just $80/hour or $50/30 minutes
  • I offer free initial consultations for women who are considering working with a health coach but want to make sure we are a fit before hiring me

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Ricardo Acevedo, Robert Kenney, Charles Schmidt, Xander Halifax, James Cee, Diana Lott

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