Lately I’ve been talking a lot about balance, as well as the mental side of training. While I’m currently focusing on improving my mental state, my physical recovery (aside from sleeping) could really use some attention. Throughout the week, I mainly rely on foam rolling/mobility, a massage, and adequate sleep to keep my body healthy. However, after an intense or prolonged training week, travel, or even bouts of mental stress, additional methods can be beneficial and improve recovery.
Needing Some Recovery
One of the few recovery methods I’ve tried is floating. My most recent floating session was over the Christmas holidays, after experiencing a delay-filled trek from NYC to Victoria. My body was completely shot. Turns out that getting to sleep at 2:30 am local time (but 5:30 am EST), and being squished in
germ people filled airports wreaks havoc on your nervous system. I slept until a respectable time of 7 am, and had great plans to train twice that day, first at 11 am and then again at 3:45 pm. I figured I could shake off the minimal hours of sleep and jet lag, push through the training, and then call it an early night.
You can probably guess how well that plan worked out. During my first session with Erik, I felt truly unfit. I could hit the ball just fine, but as a rally progressed past 8-10 shots, my legs felt as though they had been injected with burning liquid. The more tired I got, the later I got on the ball, reducing my options. Talk about a downward spiral!
After the match, Erik suggested I go to Floathouse for a 90-minute float instead of training again later that day. I jumped -lethargically- at the chance, and he set it up right then and there. (Erik owns Floathouse, and was kind enough to comp me a float).
Have you ever done 90 minutes of absolutely nothing? No, I don’t mean sleeping. I’m talking about actively taking time to shut your brain off, and relax so deeply that you enter into almost a hypnotic-like state.
What is “floating”?
Floatation therapy, or simply “floating” is a form of sensory deprivation, where you lie in a tank filled with 1000 L of water + over 1200 pounds of Epsom Salts, all heated to skin temperature. This saturated solution allows you to float, unable to distinguish between the air (which is also heated to body temp) and water, giving you the illusion of being in midair. When the lights are dimmed/shut off, your ears are submerged in the tank (your face is above the water, so you breathe normally), and you have zero bodily contact with any hard surface, you feel deprived of virtually any senses.
What are the benefits of floating?
In addition to stress relief, there are lots of benefits to floating. Some of the additional benefits include:
Engages Parasympathetic System
This is a fancy way of saying that it helps you relax. Suppressing your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode) allows for your parasympathetic system to engage, which helps decrease muscle tension, blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones, and increase endorphins.
Floating can relieve back and neck pain, by alleviating compression on the spine. Conditions such as arthritis, bursitis and tendinitis can be improved simply by lying in the float tank.
Most people are magnesium deficient without even knowing. The concentration of Epsom salts, (aka magnesium sulfate), is so concentrated in the float tank, that some of the minerals are absorbed into the skin and hair. This can prevent cardiovascular disease, regulate blood pressure, help prevent osteoporosis, and provide PMS relief.
Athletes can benefit from the deep healing effects of the epsom salts, as well as the experience of weightlessness. It also improves circulation, flushes lactic acid, and detoxifies muscles.
Meditation and Visualization
The float tank is truly a unique experience, as it allows you to reach a deeper and quicker level of meditation. (Personally, I found that I reached a mental state similar to what I imagine hypnosis to be like. I wasn’t sleeping, but I was not fully awake and thinking, which was incredibly peaceful). Some find that the combination of extreme relaxation and heightened awareness can induce a level of calmness needed to perform at ones best.
A 90 minute session in the float tank can promote the production of feel good neurotransmitters (dopamine and endorphins), while relieving stress hormones.
My Experience at Floathouse Victoria
When I walked into Floathouse, I couldn’t help but immediately feel calm. It is modern and simplistic, and feels a lot like a spa. I especially love the indoor greenery!
I was greeted by a friendly front desk person, and headed to my float room. Each room has a tank and a shower. The float itself lasts for 75 minutes, but you are given an extra 15 minutes to shower (before and after) and get settled in the tank.
The first thing I noticed when I climbed into the tank was the water thickness and temperature. The feel of the water was remarkable. Thousands of pounds of dissolved epsom salts creates a very heavy solution, which is so saturated that it allows your body to float evenly in the water. Furthermore, because the water and air are heated to the same temperature, they are virtually indistinguishable from one another, so you never feel chilled.
I chose to keep both the neon lights and the music on during the float, and also kept the lid of the tank cracked open slightly. While I do love the isolated experience, I’m a bit claustrophobic, and simply felt more comfortable feeling as though I had some “contact” with the outside world!
This particular time, it took me a good 20-30 minutes to settle into the float, and once I did, it passed by in a flash. While I didn’t find myself in a hypnotic state like I did during my first experience, I was able to relax and completely let my mind go.
After the float, I immediately noticed the difference in my state of mind. I felt less stressed, and much more equipped and ready to handle any crap that might be thrown my way. Although I couldn’t feel a noticeable difference in my body right away, I know that the epsom salts (paired with a good night of sleep), would help me recovery immensely for the following day’s session(s).
Would I Float Again?
If I had access to an affordable place like Floathouse in NYC, I would absolutely incorporate it into my recovery routine more often. (This is why I take advantage of my friends/family/member discount when I’m home in Victoria!). Prices aside, I think floating is both physically and mentally beneficial. It doesn’t feel like a waste of time (if you’re highly anxious, I could see this being a problem!), and the state of relaxation is unlike anything I have ever experienced.
If you live in Victoria or Vancouver BC, check out Floathouse (they have locations in both cities)! I cannot recommend them enough. Once I find somewhere in NYC I’ll be sure to post about my experience there as well!