Nancy Back is the owner and massage therapist at Serenity Within, which recently opened in downtown Preston.  ANTON ADAMEK/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
Nancy Back is the owner and massage therapist at Serenity Within, which recently opened in downtown Preston. ANTON ADAMEK/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
"I would like to help them do well and feel well," explained Nancy Back. In other words, Back wants to help her clients find serenity.

The new massage therapist in Preston recently opened her new business, Serenity Within. The name, along with the dove inside a triangle logo, tells a lot about who Back is and the path she has taken to start her own business.

Back grew up in Fillmore County and was a member of the first graduating class in Kingsland in 1993. She then went on to study for a semester at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. She moved back and studied human services at Rochester Community and Technical College and received a diploma as a human services technician.

Her life continued in Illinois where she married and had three children. She worked as a stay-at-home-mom and also received certification to work in schools as a teacher's aide. She also became certified and worked as an EMT.

After a life change, she moved with her kids back to Fillmore County in 2011 and worked at Fillmore Central School District as a librarian until she got a job as a chiropractic's technician at Arndt Chiropractic. She remained there for a year and a half.

Back had long desired to go into massage therapy. "Even when I was a little girl, I liked giving massages," she said, noting that at the time she graduated high school, it wasn't a viable career option. However, by the time she moved back to Minnesota, the opportunities were there.

While she worked with Dr. Arndt, Back was checking out several colleges to see what massage therapy programs they offered. Most of the programs she encountered either took too long to complete or were located too far away. Back kept searching for something that would fit with her responsibilities as a single mother with three kids.

One day at work, one of Dr. Arndt's patients told Back that they had gone to a school called Total Look School of Cosmetology and Massage Therapy in Cresco. "I kept it in the back of my mind, telling myself, 'I'll check out that school,'" recalled Back.

When she did and discovered it was an intensive six-month program her thinking changed to, "I could do that!"

She ended her time at Arndt Chiropractic in May and starting this past June, began the massage therapy program at Total Look.

Building upon her skills gained at the chiropractor's office and her nine years as an EMT, Back graduated on Nov. 14. Dedication to her studies allowed Back to complete the program in five-months instead of the usual six. She became a licensed massage therapist through the state of Iowa and decided to carry those credentials into her business in Minnesota, even though the state does not have any requirements or regulations for those wishing to practice massage therapy.

Back feels it is important for the clients to know what education and experience the therapists have to elicit confidence and security.

Throughout her education, Back recalled receiving support from many sources. Her instructor at Total Look, Holly Rasmussen, would tell her, "You can do this," whenever Back would start to wonder if perhaps she was "getting in over my head."

Back also gave thanks to Dr. Arndt, who used affirming and positive comments to help her.

Back's children and faith have also played a vital role in her life's journey. "My family has been very supportive," she said, adding with a laugh, "They like the idea that I'm a massage therapist, though they don't get as many massages as they were probably expecting."

She explained that Joshua, Kasey and Brendon have been her cheerleaders and helped her realize she has the ability to carry out her dream, even making personal sacrifices at home to help her. "I couldn't be where I am now without them," she explained.

When Back was still living in Illinois, she got involved with a lay ministry course through her Catholic church.

"It helped me become a better version of myself," she described. She sees herself as an instrument in God's hands to be able to help others feel better.

The name Serenity Within was derived from the Serenity Prayer, which says, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; The courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference."

The logo has a triangle symbolizing the Holy Trinity and a dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit. "It's been a powerful prayer in my life. I wanted to give back to God everything that he has helped me with. He helped me find serenity within," Back said.

The Serenity Prayer will be displayed in the business, but Back explained that the topic of religion will only be discussed if the client brings it up.

Every first appointment with Back will begin with a client discussion about their health history. Back explained this helps her understand which methods she can use that will be most effective. The discussion does not cut into the time spent on the therapy.

Back stressed the therapies she uses help improve medical issues and aren't just feel-good massages. She specializes in Swedish, deep tissue, pre- and post-natal, geriatric and sinus massages. Myofascial release, sciatica issues, TMJ treatment, and relief of muscular pain are other treatments she can handle. Once she acquires the equipment, Back will also be able to administer cold/hot stone treatments.

Having already had clients, Back said the best part of her work is seeing their improvements. "I'm very happy for them and love seeing them do better," she said. "There is something therapeutic about touch."

Back has relationships with Lisa Stensrud at Fillmore County Physical Therapy and Dr. Arndt, with whom she keeps open lines of communication to ensure her clients get the care they need.

The Preston Economic Development Authority showed their confidence in Back by providing her with a five-year revolving loan of $4,445. "Therefore, the whole community has been helpful," Back stated. "I'm grateful for them."

Back plans on having her business become a full-time job and hopes to become a part of the Preston business landscape and community-at-large.

Currently, Back has hours only by appointment, but hopes to become more established in the coming months. Her rates are $40 for a 30-minute massage, $55 for 60 minutes and $80 for 90 minutes. She can be reached to set up an appointment at (815) 275-2360.