floating to recovery

The past couple weeks I just haven't been recovering. Like I said, it's been some solid days of garbage meat.  I've been stretching, sleeping hard, eating well and still not turning the corner. So on Friday I tried something completely new. I booked an hour to float inside an insolation tank.

I've been curious about Float Seattle ever since the first day their A-board appeared on the sidewalk near Oiselle HQ. They promised among other things: enhanced muscle recovery, stress reduction, improved sports performance, world peace... you know, the basics. I walked in trying not to give in to my skepticism. I wanted to give this a real go. I mean it was $40, that's like a good meal. A new sweater. Half a week in groceries. A sketchy massage.

In fact I did very little research (also known as compulsive Googling) on Floating before I tried it. I wanted to find out what I thought, independent from what I was supposed to think. I read a couple drop downs on the menu, but then directed my Googling to pace calculators and taper theories. All I knew was that I would be floating in a solution of highly concentrated Epsom Salt, in an enclosed tub, in complete darkness and silence.

I arrived before my appointment. The front lobby smelled like lavender. Two men, who looked more like firefighters than the hipsters I had envisioned, sat waiting for their tubs. I signed a waiver (if I'm trapped in the isolation tank and boiled alive due to heater malfunction... kidding) and was shown to room 3. Lucky number, score! The entire Float studio has a clean modern design. Exposed concrete with minimal ivy and mossy details. In the room there is an open shower, a bench and hooks by the door for your clothing, and the tank.

Although the lobby is feet away it felt like my own private room and experience from the minute door number 3 closed. I was given earplugs and a towel. Instructions to shower, get in, and close the lid and lay with my head at the far end looking up. The float facilitator (?) suggested arms at side or bent elbows with hands above head.

I showered, a quick scrub down (with the provided Dr. Bronner's lavender soap, of course). I stepped into the tank, sat down and pulled the lid shut behind me. My tank had no light inside. So it was completely dark as I found my way to the back and laid down. I knew I would be floating, but it was still unnerved how easy it was! I could lay my head into the water support, and my entire body just lay buoyant.

There is no concept of time. But I would guess for at least the first 5 minutes I fought back some intense and unexpected claustrophobia and fear. What if my lid was stuck? What if there was an earthquake? What if the water level suddenly filled and filled and I was asleep? I counted my breathes in and out and told myself to let go of the fears. I breathed out the word 'calm'. Like I do when I panic in races.

The rest of the hour I swung back and forth between trying to zone out of my body and envisioning the Chicago course and my game plan. When I'd accidentally hit the side of the tank or start obsessing about how the water on my forehead just wasn't warm enough I used a breathing meditation from yoga, in: I am, out: here now. Until I came back.

What was unexpected was how heavy my legs felt. They felt like they were 300lbs each. Like they weren't mine. Like they weren't human. I imagined feeling weightless, I mean they were obviously floating. But in the cartoon of my mind my legs were giant statue versions of themselves. When I'd go to wiggle a toe I couldn't. They were blocks of frozen granite.

After the hour is up music plays into the tank. I didn't think I was that relaxed but when the music came in I about hit the ceiling. Like being abruptly woken up. I should have laid back and let myself come back slowly, but I sat right up and got out of there. I was spinning but I was nervous they needed the room right away. Another shower and then out into the post-float room.

After that it's out into the world. As I walked home, I couldn't believe it but it really felt like my legs had some pep. The next morning when I ran, they felt just normal tired. NOT like the epic exhaustion I'd been fighting. And on Sunday my 18 miler with fast middle felt pretty darn good. My legs could actually move. Of course I've been fighting to recovery on all fronts, but I really believe floating made the final flip for me.

I booked another float after my 18 miles on Sunday. I found my way to calm and quiet faster this time. My legs didn't feel like concrete either, which was interesting. I'm out for a recovery run this evening, I'm curious to see if I feel a difference.

Have you ever tried floating? Other alternate recovery methods?


  1. I am... here now.... Damn that's good. Gonna start using that. And thanks for the review. Will have to check this place out.

  2. This place sounds SO cool. I was telling my friend about it on our run tonight... I want to try! And I love your mantra; I could use it every once in awhile! You are going to rock Chicago, I just know it!

  3. Very cool! I've been intrigued by floating since I watched a Vice documentary about it. As for other alternative methods, I've found reiki and bodytalk to be helpful in relaxation and getting centered. Both are pretty cool experiences.

  4. This sounds kind of amazing! I've never heard of it before so I just looked it up and guess how much it costs in NYC? $90! Yikes. I think this could benefit my husband right now and I would love to try it some day!

  5. Stealing your mantra for Twin Cities, Mac. Thanks for the float recap. I've been really curious about it and would love to try that. Somehow I think floating in my tub with epsom salts isn't going to compare, but damn, I'm really tempted. :)


Post a Comment

Popular Posts