Whirl and Steam

Now that winter’s really here (it’s -10C right now, with a 42 km/h wind), I’m well into my usual winter regime of twice-weekly whirlpool soaks and steamroom sessions. At the end of each of those, I do a short breathwatching exercise. I’ve been tagging those as “cross training workouts” on dailymile, which may seem a bit of stretch. It’s not really, though. Let me explain.

Whirlpool I do the sessions (at my local YMCA) on the days I don’t run. My logic is that they serve to refresh, renew, and regenerate. Not that I’m working so hard in my training runs that I need healing, but it makes sense that my body needs some sort of recovery modality to keep me on course and uninjured. As far as I’m concerned, heat and moisture do the trick. I use the whirlpool as a massage tool. I use the steamroom to relax my nervous system. And the breathwatching is a kind of psychological “cleansing” which finishes the whole session nicely.

My experience (and enjoyment) of steamrooms goes a long way back. When I was in Istanbul in 1970 and 1971 (both times on my way to India), I visited the 400 year old Cagaloglu Hamami Cagaloglu Hamami, Istanbul, one of the city’s most famous bathhouses. The 2 1/2 hour experience had me washed, steamed, massaged, and served locally-made beer, all for the grand cost of $1.75. I was one clean hippie! Both the Turkish hamam and my YMCA steamroom are part of a worldwide bathhouse culture that’s existed for thousands of years.

Breathwatching also has a long tradition, in many culture’s mediatative practices. A traditional approach is described here. (Note: I don’t follow Osho, aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. He was, I think, a charming but very manipulative charlatan. His explanation of breathwatching, though, is simple and easy to follow.) Another explanation of breathwatching, from the excellent book Running Within, by Jerry Lynch and Warren Scott, can be found here.

The whirlpool and steamroom will get me through the cold winter weather and to my spring races. After that, it’ll be ice baths after my long runs in the summer heat. Breathwatching? That’ll just be a regular thing.


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