I’m not an optimist. We need optimists, and if you happen to be one then thank you for your service to humanity, but I’m not a member of your club. When the chips are down or the hormones are raging, I’m a firm believer in the power crabbiness. Swearing is stress management, and grousing does a body good, so when some Pollyanna tells me that I’m suffering from a “first world problem” or that I should turn my frown upside down, I need to just walk away.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a pessimist either. Committed pessimists can suck the life out of you faster than you can say “to hell in a handbasket.” When I find myself around someone who is married to their misery, embraces pessimism as a lifestyle choice, or racks up complaints like steps on a FitBit®, I don’t walk away. I run.
So what am I then? I’m a realist, and my personal form of realism comes with a healthy dose of skepticism. I tend to be wary of bold claims, leery of advertisements, and suspicious of many products’ promises. This is especially true of the claims made by the health, wellness, fitness, and recovery industries. Think wrinkle creams, “fat-dissolving” infomercial gadgets (“only five minutes a day!”), daily energy gummies—things like that.
In light of all that, it’ll come as no surprise that I initially scoffed at the following activities. Eventually, though, pain, curiosity, or pestering led me to give them a try, and the trials turned me into a believer.
If you work out a lot but neglect your stretching, you might end up with shooting pains in random muscles. That was—and still is if I don’t roll—my problem. Massage therapy helped, but though twice-a-month sessions were more than enough for the budget, they weren’t nearly enough for the, uh, gluteals. The husband has rolled for years, advancing to the knobbly “muscle mincer” because, he says, it hurts so good. He’s long encouraged me to roll, but you know how it goes when your longtime partner suggests something: Ignore! Anyway, after a particularly protracted period of pain, I capitulated, and after a couple of sessions—Pow! It worked! I still neglect foam rolling when I get busy, but when the shooting glute pains start, I just roll my way to fee-free relief.
I first learned about float therapy when it was offered at my massage therapy spa. I definitely rolled my eyes and a “pshaw” probably escaped my lips. It was awfully expensive for what I assumed was an away-from-home bath and it made grandiose claims Realistic Me wasn’t buying. I’m not sure what happened—I think they dangled a special offer designed for scoffers like me—but eventually I took the bait and scheduled the float for a Sunday, the day after I raced a duathlon. It was relaxing and all, but so is any bath, right? It wasn’t until the following morning that I realized what it had done for me. My Monday morning gym instructor happened to have done the same duathlon (she kicked my ass—she always does). During class she mentioned the race and said something along the lines of, “Hey Travel Architect, aren’t you sore from the duathlon? I’m so sore!” It was then that I realized that, in fact, I really wasn’t very sore. Not really sore at all. I should have been, but I wasn’t. That was it for the scoffing. Thenceforth, a float session was always a post-race necessity.
I am NOT a yoga person. My best friend is a yoga instructor, but I just can’t get into it. I’ve tried it—really, I have. I’m sure it’s fantastic and brings you inner peace and long life and makes you long and limber and makes your skin all dewy, but I just can’t do it. I can’t! Whenever I come out of a yoga session, I think, “Well, there’s 60 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.”
Determined by Forbes™ magazine to be the healthiest sport (ok, that was in 2003), squash is also one of the most grueling. You know how in racquetball the ball is really bouncy? You can stand in one spot all day the the rubber ball will always come back to you? Well, in squash, that’s not the case. Powerful hits fueled by insane, fencing-style lunging is what makes the ball go. You will emit a forceful grunt with every swing. You may get hit by your partner’s racquet. You will slam violently into the wall. Multiple times. If you decide to play squash for the first time (or the first time in a long time), make sure you’ve planned to be “out sick” the next day because you. will. not. be. able. to. move. Your eyelids will hurt. Your scalp will hurt. Your earlobes will ache. Your racket arm with throb. You will not be able to wipe yourself in the bathroom, wash your hair, roll over in bed, or lift a fork to your mouth. Breathing will be a struggle. Walking, an impossibility.
So, yeah. The husband and I sweat out any marital discord on the squash court once a week most winters. It takes at least a month of playing before the aforementioned pain lessens to just “really bad.” A few years ago the husband had been doing yin yoga with his swimming friends and encouraged me to join them.
But remember: yoga = no.
Unfortunately for me, the yin class always started shortly after our squash games ended. After several weeks of nagging by the husband, I finally acquiesced just to shut him up. It’s important to note that yin yoga is different from other types of yoga in that poses are held for anywhere from 2½ to 5 minutes. It’s not fun. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s stretching—really protracted stretching. The day after my squash-followed-by-yin experience, I could roll over in bed. I could blink without grimacing. I could walk. My racquet arm was still a useless lump, but that’s because the yoga hadn’t targeted my arm muscles. In short, I was transformed from a fragile, moaning shell into a mildly sore athlete. From then on, it was yes to yin.
So how about you? Are you a pessimist? A realist? An optimist? Do you yin? Roll? Float?