I crack my eyes open, just a tiny bit, I can watch the brunette sink slowly into the hot water, her face crinkling with pleasure as the water slips over the tops of her breasts. Keeping my eyes open, however, seems to be an effort I can't sustain. Instead, I close them, lean my back against the worn teak planks of the communal hot tub, and let the warm New Mexico breezes bring scents of pine and juniper and just a hint of a mournful Japanese flute. A thought washes over me. They can't make me go home.
I first heard often Thousand Waves, the near-legendary Japanese health man spa nestled in the mountains outside of Santa Fe, almost a decade ago. I'd been climbing down around Alamogordo, and my friend, a veteran ski patroller, had suggested we go to Ten Thousand Waves at the end of a hard day on the rocks.
"What's that?" I asked.
"Let's put it like this," she said. "If you've been a very, very good person, when you die you'll go to Ten Thousand Waves."
Wait a minute, you're thinking. Chicks go to spas. Well, more guys are joining them than ever before--calls from men have increased almost 900 percent in the past four years, reports Man Spa Finder, a travel-reservation service (see "Find a Man Spa Near You," page 31). The reasons for this surge in interest might surprise you.
The first is simple--your hard-trained body needs a break. There's a reason why world-class athletes take their own massage therapists and body workers on the road with them. The more, and the harder, you train, the more micro-injuries you get. What you call "soreness" is actually an accumulation of small injuries to the muscles. Your joints creak; your muscles knot up in response to the repetitive stress. You feel stiff, achy. Massage therapy, coupled with a nice dose of relaxation, is a balm for the body.
According to the American Massage Therapy Association, massage therapy can go a long way toward reducing the trauma of exercise. "Like a finely tuned sports car, keeping an athlete in top physical form requires regularly scheduled proactive maintenance," the AMTA says.
In my case, more like a 1956 Chevy truck than a finely tuned sports car. Nonetheless, regular massage, according to the AMTA, can do five things for the active man:
* Lessen the chance of injury, through deep-tissue massage, education on stretching, and event preparation.
* Enhance the elimination of metabolic wastes, such as lactic acid, that are by-products of exercise.
And what better place for a massage than a health spa? According to the Orlando-based National Travel Monitor, which tracks these kinds of things, more and more business travelers are finding refuge in hotel spas (four in 10 say health man spa services are a very desirable amenity). And why not? A health spa is a cool place to do business. Tired of transactions between holes on the old golf course? Consider closing the deal in a hot tub. This used to be a California-only quirk, but according to a goodly percentage of the spa owners I talked with, a day at the spa can work wonders on both sore muscles and stalled deals.
Spas divide roughly into two categories--destination (or resort) spas and day spas. As a general rule, a destination spa man is a place you might travel to and spend a week, sweating off that Christmas goose. A day spa is just that--a place you visit for a day. I say generally because many of the day spas, including Ten Thousand Waves, for instance, offer multiday programs and have housing facilities, and most of the destination spas have single-day, or individual, programs.
CHOOSING A HEALTH MAN SPA
Unlike, say, politicians' campaign promises, all spas, day or destination, are not the same. They break down into three types--fitness, pampering, and places you'll visit as soon as you win Lotto.
Fitness spas are, as you might've guessed, oriented toward fitness, usually with a host of exercise programs. Pampering spas want to relax you, with features that often include facials and body wraps in addition to massage. High-end spas want your wallet. If you can afford them, then go for it, but understand they're mere indulgences. Fitness and pampering spas will serve you just as well.
Ten Thousand Waves leans toward the pampering end, but it has an amazing 116 massage therapists on call, providing 11 different massage styles. And this is in Santa Fe, the massage capital of the Southwest. Ten Thousand Waves picks off the cream of the crop, then trains them in the spa's very specific, very Japanese manner.
THIS WAY TO NIRVANA
My first massage at Ten Thousand Waves was a Thai massage from James Peckham. Eschewing any bad puns about "Thaiing one on," I settled down, fully clothed, on a mat on the floor. I'd never had a Thai massage. It was something completely different--no fragrant oils or deep massaging of the muscles. Instead, Peckham focused on compression (pressing on pressure points in the body) and yogalike stretches.
After about 10 minutes, I felt muscles knotted from a 12-week half-Ironman training schedule start to loosen up. Within half an hour, the persistent pain in my right hip joint just disappeared--poof! --and has yet to return. After an hour and a half, I was not only relaxed, but my body felt looser than it had in months, as if all the sticky fatigue poisons had been flushed out of my system and all my joints relubed.
From there I went to an hour of anma, a traditional Japanese foot massage, which began with my feet being soothed first with salts, then with heated rocks as they soaked in a tub of barely tolerable water. Oh, my! Oh, yes! Where have they been hiding this stuff from me? Nagging heel pain? Gone in 60 seconds. Aching Achilles? No more. In near bliss, I was trundled off for my next surprise--a bird-crap facial.
Ten Thousand Waves is the exclusive importer of processed Japanese nightingale droppings, which have been used for centuries by geishas to lighten and smooth the skin. The dropping is dried, pulverized, then sanitized with ultraviolet light. The bird dookie is then mixed with essential oils and smeared on your face by a really attractive young woman who doesn't see this as at all odd. While the dung worked its wonders on my face, she continued massaging my head and neck.
Voila! Four hours later, I was a new person--relaxed, loose and exfoliated, ready to throw my body into some freezing-cold water at the crack of dawn and pretend to swim.
You owe it to yourself to give that aching body a rest. And if you've got a couple of extra bucks, a weekend at a spa like Ten Thousand Waves might be just what the doctor ordered. Just don't forget to order the bird guano.
THE TEN THOUSAND WAVES EXPERIENCE
It's not cheap, but few things in life worth doing are. And hell, you've earned it. Therapeutic massage starts at $65 for 55 minutes. The really cool specialty massages, such as Thai, Japanese Hot Stone, or a Master's massage from any one of the spa's experts, escalate into the $125 region. Or you can have the 45-minute four-hands massage--two experts working on your poor body--for $160.
The anma foot treatment--a must, if you ask me--is $85 for 45 minutes. And let's not forget the deluxe Japanese Nightingale facial at $125. If you don't get it for yourself, at least pop for one for the spouse. There are also hot-oil treatments, herbal wraps and miscellaneous other goodies. If you've come for a romantic weekend, splurge and get one of the private hot tubs--the settings are breathtaking. The overnight rooms are all suitably Japanese (they include a full range of subtitled Japanese movie tapes), very peaceful, and run from $185 to $255 a night.
Internet: https://norsk-apotek.com/augmentin-uten-resept/ Address: P.O. Box 10200, Santa Fe, NM 87504 Reservations: 505-982-9304 Information: 505-992-5025
FIND A HEALTH MAN SPA NEAR YOU
Spa Finder (www.spafinder.com; 800-255-7727) lets you search for spas in your area; more importantly, Spa Man Finder gives you some insights into just what the spas you find are all about. If you're looking for fitness, for example, you might not want to head to the Vermont spa a friend of mine visited, which included three gourmet "squares" a day and about 15 minutes of semi-aerobic exercise. The only thing that got a workout in her eight-day stay was her liver, as the bar opened at 4 p.m.
Spa Man Finder also offers special deals and travel packages--some with pretty substantial savings--and general information about spas. For those still stalled in the last century, there's a print version of Spa Finder, a bimonthly magazine for $18.
COPYRIGHT 2002 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group
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