Smell Nice, Look Good and Perform Better
In an overstressed world, we need to talk a lot about recovery. In my last article, I talked about how important self-care and recovery is in a fitness program - if you want to effectively losing fat or gaining muscle and athleticism. I’d like to share with you one of my favorite methods of self care: a bath. Yes, some old-skool shit but a bath does wonders for mood, skin, muscles and nervous system. If you are trying to get the illusion of great skin through Kardashian contour but end up buying acne products instead, you need to take a bath. If you are training vigorously over 4 hours a week, you need to take a bath. If you average less than one hour a day of free time during the normal working week, you need to take a bath. And if you are one of those who is check email and working regularly on Saturdays AND Sundays, you just need to give me a call, boo.
In America, women typically spend about 70% of their beauty budget on cosmetics and 30 percent on treatments, whereas french women do it the other way around (I really wish I could cite this statistic but I’ll have to scour my books, but you get the gist). Beauty treatments and bathing are tactic No.1 to great skin.
When you think about it, all of the cultures that we praise for beauty, longevity or allure are often bathing cultures; France, Korea, China, Germany, Russia and Turkey to name a few. Living in Berlin got a me a front row seat to Mediterranean beauty: honey and salt scrubs in the sauna, cool pool dips after heat, bentonite clay masks. All of these methods involved, heat, sweat and cold paired with everyday, budget friendly products you find in your kitchen. For a broad who likes to travel and pinch a penny, these were perfect and lovely solutions for a beauty routine. You bet I took notes.
Taking a bath and allowing your skin to open up and fill with blood is a great way to get nourishing products deep in your skin. Also, let out toxins and dirt from your skin. Clogged pores don’t stand a chance in a steam bath with the right amount of oil and salt. Water is the great solvent, meaning it dissolves most substances. Your soaked, sweaty skin will expel anything that does not belong to the body, including heavy metals. What you put in the bathtub can enhance these effects. Even better, followed by a cold rinse, you experience twice the beauty and physiological benefits. Think about it, if elongation and contraction is good for your muscles and tightens it up, the same is true for your skin. I have seen 55 year old turkish ladies have insanely firm skin and they swear by tri-weekly icy cold rinses after a sweat and soak.
Which bring us to the science portion of our argument. Too tough for beauty? Well, you’re lying because everyone has an innate desire to naturally look their best AAAAAAND you can’t out-tough your nervous system.
We are an up-regulated society: amphetamines, productivity and intense effort rule the conversation we have about value and success. This is the sympathetic nervous system. This is the FIGHT/FLIGHT/FREEZE system. Think about the last time you were scared, got in a fight or were in shock - remember how exhausted you were following that? Without down regulation techniques and partaking in joyful activities, at some level, we stay in the world of the sympathetic realm - meaning we carry on with a low level of fight/flight/freeze running at all times. Is it any wonder why we get burned out from a lack of self care? No thank you.
Taking a bath and relaxing by candlelight is a parasympathetic trigger. We relate being in warm water to the womb. You are safe, naked and warm in a soft glow of light. You are truly taken care of in this state. This signals the parasympathetic system to do what it was meant to do - chill you the f**k out. This will cause your muscles to relax and your heart rate to decrease - letting you practice relaxing. If you are an A type personality you will have to practice relaxing. And it is a worthy project. I’m hoping this article will bring some purpose to your relaxing so you feel more productive about it :)
Bathing as a primal parasympathetic trigger is also useful for people who suffer with chronic back pain from injury. Arachnoiditis sufferers find great relief in hot waters. Sadly it is one of the few things that helps. But the good news is that with regular hot water treatment, opioid painkillers are not typically necessary. Exposure to extreme heat also tigger heat shock proteins. These have the power to make you stronger and healthier through increased nervous system regulation and boosted immunity.
If you are an athlete, crave chocolate all the time, have an arthritis flare-up, suffer from frequent muscle cramps or having trouble sleeping, you may find great benefit in adding magnesium to your bath. Magnesium typically comes in the form of epsom salts. When broken down, it is turned to sulfate and magnesium. The skin is a great way to absorb this very important electrolyte.
“But Coach Ingri, HOW do I do this? What should be in my bath?” GREAT question.
I take what I call a Cleopatra Bath every once and awhile. It’s based on her beauty routine, I just don’t have slaves milking 60 goats for fresh milk every week. It’s a hot bath with 2-3 handfuls of Epsom salt OR Himalayan salt, two liters (or quarts) of goats milk, a generous squeeze of honey and some kind of smell good essential oil and at least two candles. The oil depend on your desired effects. If I’m looking to go out later, I’ll go with rosemary or peppermint for a boost. If a bath and a book is the highlight of my evening, I’ll go with lavender to relax. The best part is, you probably have this stuff in your spice cabinet or growing outside. Rub the spices between your hands and drop it in the tub.
A more “practical” bath would be salts, three tablespoons of bentonite clay and … something that smells nice! Fresh basil or rosemary is nice. Or you can add straight coconut oil (1-2 tablespoons) to get soft AF skin without lotion slathering.
BAM. There you have it: smell nice, look good and perform better, all in one hour. I really can't express how important this is you your overall health. History has had a long dance with “taking the waters” from ancient greece to medieval England. There really is no reason to stop this very beneficial and healthy practice because it “frivolous” or “unmanly”. The advantages gained in you daily living by weekly bathing is noticeable. And if the rate limiter between you and blissful afternoon or evening is simply a dirty tub, then get your low level intensity fitness in and scrub that shit, for 15 minutes. Trust me, it’s worth it.