Not your mother’s cold shower

What’s up seattle?! Has the temperature stayed above70 degrees for more than a day or so yet? Not in June anyway, but that’s ok. The 5th of July is right around the corner, and that means warmer days are on the horizon. I think its safe to introduce one of my favorite hydrotherapy tricks: Cold showers! If I had mentioned this back in February, I may be getting hate mail, but I think you’re ready for it now.

At the end of your shower, turn the knob to cold and hang on in there ‘til you can’t stand it no more. Go ahead and forward bend and touch those toes so you let the cold water really hit your back and shoulder muscles. Let it stream right into your face and sting into your jaw and forehead, let it patter on your pecs, forearms, and belly. Your muscles will feel more awake, alive and ready for the day. You’ll get out of that shower, look in the mirror, and see shinier eyes and feel a stronger heartbeat.

Last night I schvitzed at Banya 5 for the first time in about 4 months. It was such a refreshing way to end the day after a long day of massage. If you haven’t yet treated yourself to the relaxation station that is Banya 5, please do yourself a favor and hit it up soon.  Fortunately, unfortunately, they are closing up shop for ten days starting this friday for annual maintenance and repairs. Good to know that they appreciate a good deep cleaning like the rest of us, but I guarantee there will be some regulars in town that will experience hydrotherapy withdrawals.  It was so nice to see all the regular water dogs lounging around the place last night. I had missed my own hydrotherapy routine so much that I set an all time personal record of sitting in the cold pool for over 2 minutes! It is like taking every cell in your body on a zipline adventure into Niagra Falls, or something. You can create your own analogy, just GO!

Also, they do body scrubs, facials, and massage from a phenomenal team of therapists, including yours truly on a sub basis.

By the way, that cold pool is salty like puget sound at a balmy 46 degrees. So, if I can do two minutes in that sans wetsuit, you can do a minute in your cold shower.

Happy Summertime!




Songkran to Mae Sariang

Yesterday, Justine and I have arrived to Mae Sariang, a sleepy little mountain town in northern Thailand.   It feels so peaceful up here. Last night I slept 12 hours. There has been a lot packed into the last couple weeks. This feels like a chance to process it all.  This last weekend marked the Thai, Cambodian, and Laos New Year, a water festival called Songkran.  If you’ve been in it, you know it is something worth experiencing. As our friend Cara from San Fransisco who we met up with yesterday, said, “This puts a San Franscisco street party to shame.” 

 I wasn’t bold enough to venture out with my camera during this city-wide water fight, but I’ll try to depict the chaotic bliss in words.  In the city of Chiang Mai, there is a moat surrounding the Old Town.  People largely use this sunbaked moat water to throw on each other all day from around 11 until 6 for three days.  On the 13th around 11am when things were just getting going, Justine and I found ourselves in a tuk-tuk unarmed and very bewildered as people started dousing us with water. We had all our valuables including a kindle and a couple cameras, so we quickly sought the refuge of our guesthouse where we dried out our things. That day was mostly a wash.  The next day, the 14th,  we felt more rejuvenated and ready to go.  We bought some pink buckets and started walking the perimeter of Old Town along the moat.  It felt like more than half the city had come out to play. Everybody was walking around as wet as a drenched rat and carrying a super soaker or a bucket. There were several stages with live music, and hoards of food vendors were out, but mostly the attractions were empyting our buckets on these happy Thai people and refilling our buckets from their troughs of water. After a couple hours of being hosed, we went back to the hotel to clean out our ears and dry out our clothes again. When we met up with Cara a little later, we were clean and dry and ready to eat. We walked away from the main party scene, but still got doused. As the day wore on and the sun started descending though, there was a sweeter nature to the washing. It turned from dousing to splashing.  The point of all this washing of course has a backstory worth sharing.  And of course like everything in life, things are a lot more enjoyable when you care to learn another perspective. Traditionally, Songkran was a quiet festival of house cleaning, resolutions, and temple festivities.  The city’s temple’s primary Buddha was ceremoniously bathed. Afterward, water might be sprinkled on the hands of elderly family members or playfully splashed on friends in a way of wishing them good luck. The cleansing powers of water also always felt good during the hottest time of the year.  As a huge fan of hydrotherapy, I am so glad I got to experience it Thai style.

 Anyway, yesterday the third day of the festival, we decided to hit the high road for the mountains. Of course it wasn’t that easy to escape getting wet.  The smaller town of Mae Sariang had their own party going on when we arrived,  and  again we succumbed to more water fights as we explored the town last night looking for a cold drink. We had left our pink buckets back in Chiang Mai so this time our only defense was to say “Kop koon ka” (Thank you very much-i think) and let them bathe us with water.  This time I just I found that offering my shoulder up and letting the healing power of water renew my fiery skin was pretty renewing. There was a town parade with more live music and dancing in the streets.  Today it is quiet, though and tomorrow we will take a guided tour to visit a Karen village and take a boat ride down a river close to the Myanmar border.  The people we have met are so friendly and helpful.  I did think the mountains would be a bit cooler, but no. It is currently 100 degrees F, and “feels like 113,” according to  I agree.

 It has been over two weeks since my last post-sorry! I’ve been in vacation mode, but also on the move. In Cambodia, we visited three major cities: Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and the surrounding Angkor Wat temples, and Battambang.  I’ve been writing and  accumulating thoughts and pictures everyday. I’ll try to catch you up on my wherabouts with some pictures. Fair?

Hydrotherapy 101: Inflammation and cold therapy

Hydrotherapy is a big topic.  I love water and I like using it as therapy. “What should I use, heat or ice?” clients love to ask.  My quick answer is “Use both but end with ice. Always end with ice.” Heat has numerous wonders. Everybody loves heat. It’s the favored team in the Superbowl, and ice is the underdog.  The underdog has the slow creeping win. Ice surprises you in the 4th quarter with guts and glory, zest and vigor.

I want to highlight some benefits of ice because I get the feeling that some of my clients think I have a touch of  sadomasticist behavior everytime I reach for it. In fact, ice massage is incredibly healing. Here’s why:

Ice has an abrupt stimulus, which kicks your body into action. Superficial blood vessels at first constrict, causing blood to be sent down to deeper tissues. Then as you thaw out these same superficial blood vessels dilate like crazy, trying to redistribute warm blood to the places that cooled down. Red blood cells and white blood cell counts increase 70-100% with this new supply of blood. Another benefit is that cold penetrates deeper and longer than heat.

It is important to recognize the signs of inflammation: redness, heat, swelling, and pain. Redness is caused by the dilation of small blood vessels in the area of injury. Heat results from increased blood flow through the area and is experienced only in peripheral parts of the body such as the skin. Fever is brought about by chemical mediators of inflammation and contributes to the rise in temperature at the injury. Swelling, called edema is primarily caused by the accumulation of action.  All this action signals our trusty pain receptors to fire resulting in pain.

If you see feel these cardinal signs of inflammation you can probably guess what i’d recommend. Ice ice baby.

Your best friend

Ice a specific area for 20 minutes at a time with with one of these trusty gel packs which you can find at any Bartell’s or Walgreens. I always have a few in the freezer. They are great for headaches too.

Also very handy and even more specific is the ice cube-dixie cup.  Just fill up a few dixie cups with water and store them in your freezer.  The next time you have a kink in your neck or achy wrists and forearms, you’ll have a “cool” easy tool to ice down the area.

You'll want to marry it

The third icing tip I have is specifically for plantar fasciitis.  This is a pesky type of inflammation on the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia extends from the heel bone to the five toes. It has been reported that two million Americans suffer from it often due to long periods of weight bearing, or with long periods of repetitive high impact, like in running. The symptoms are pain and numbness on the bottom of the foot, and are usually more severe in the morning with the first steps out of bed.  Stretching the foot before getting out of bed helps. Also icing before you go to sleep may decrease that inflammation and aid in healing faster over night.  Rolling  the foot over a frozen plastic water bottle is the best way (and cheapest way) to iron out the fibrotic tissue and cool down the inflammation.

Plantar Fasciitis "cold feet" massage