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.

Inspirational wall art for optimists. I would never, ever give this wall space in my home.

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.

Foam Rolling

I use the one on the left. The one on the right is so wrong.

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.

Float Therapy

One hour of float is equivalent to four hours of restorative sleep? I still doubt that. And the detox claim? I’m don’t buy that either.

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.

Yin Yoga

Wide Leg Seated Forward Fold, or the much more mellifluous Upavistha Konasana, one of more than two dozen yin poses.

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.”

Enter squash.

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.

Several poses that, when held for a long time, bring me relief.

So how about you?  Are you a pessimist? A realist? An optimist? Do you yin? Roll? Float?

30 thoughts

  1. I don’t do any of those things but I might have to give the foam roller another try now after reading this.
    I say ‘another try’.. I mean a decent, proper, actually-using-the-thing kind of try…😅
    I have a massage dolphin which I love, and I also love hot muscle cream (I think it’s called muscle balsam?). That stuff (especially together with the dolphin) has the same effect for me after skiing as your yin yoga has for you after squash 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we have one of those dolphin thingies laying around somewhere, too! I recently got a Theracane because I often have kinks right under my shoulder blades. Thirty seconds of painful pressure with that really helps. Thanks for the comments!

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  2. I’m also a realist but I prefer to say I’m a realist that leans toward optimism since I try to see things in a positive light. Pre-COVID I went to yoga class every week but since then I’ve fallen off the wagon and now rarely do a full-on yoga session (as opposed to just doing some yoga poses after I run). I’m a firm believer in the foam roller and use mine 5 x a week. Also have done float therapy a few times. My first session was after a half marathon in Delaware. I definitely wasn’t as sore as I would have otherwise been.

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  3. I am a hardcore optimist. So much so, it often drives Tara (a self-described realist) nuts. Hey, I can’t help that I always see the good in people and give them the benefit of the doubt! When somebody cuts me off in traffic, Tara’s giving them the bird while I’m talking about how badly I feel for them because they must be experiencing some inner turmoil I don’t know about, and hoping they have a better rest of their day.

    It’s a sickness, I know.

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  4. I am a realist, I look at things as they are in life and deal with them in a practical manner. Foam rolling can be painful, especially if you’re new to it. But then again, pain in a specific area while foam rolling is typically a sign that your muscle or tissue is tight and needs some TLC. I try to do it a few times a week, but I would rather go for a bike ride, as it gives much more pleasure than rolling or yoga

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  5. I lean towards pessimism, but I’m also a realist. I’ve been trying to be more optimistic over the years, especially that I’m getting older and there are more obstacles and setbacks that come in the way. But with the obstacles and setbacks, there also comes opportunities and achievements, which make life all the more living for. Especially since I didn’t listen to my body when I was younger while working out, I feel the consequences (temporary and chronic) today, and now I try to be mindful when I work out to prevent any further problems happening down the line.

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  6. My profession has turned me into a jaded realist, with several extra doses of cynicism and skepticism. Occupational hazards? And foaming rolling works wonders, but when I first saw one, that ‘what the fuck!?’ look definitely creased my face. Now I own one.

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  7. I am a realist through and through. I don’t enjoy exercise, but do attempt to think positive thoughts about it. I go for walks. I like yoga, but during the lockdown I slowly did less and less of it. Yin looks promising. Thanks for sharing it here.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Like you, I never really cared for foam rolling. But it’s not just anecdotal, right? Science is backing it up? I think I really should get on that to soothe some kinked muscles. Thanks for this reminder!

    Like

  9. This is such a great post! I zazen, do tai chi (long version soft form), meditate in nature, practice diaphragmatic breathing, and when I really need to free my inner child, there’s a swing hanging from a tree in a gorgeous space that overlooks the lake.

    Liked by 1 person

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