This was first posted on the Swimming Without Stress blog in February 2016.
A room for cold water immersion was the least popular place at the Costa Calero Thalasso and Spa I visited twice last week. Numbers were good for the sauna and steam room. And plenty of people were enjoying floating around in warm saltwater, in the open air.
I’m never quite sure what I’m doing in a spa. Saunas make me claustrophobic after a few minutes. So for guidance I had a look at the ‘Relaxation Circuit’ chart on the wall. I thought I’d give the music therapy room a miss. I doubted I’d experience the benefits of tepid water, soft lighting and piped music. But I was interested in the suggestion of 3 minutes in the frigidarium. I’d use the opportunity to do some bare-chested cold water training. At least I’d have the space to myself.
I’d seen other people either wading in waist deep for about 5 seconds or plunging heroically then making a sharp exit. It seemed like 3 minutes might be a long time.
I stood for a couple of minutes, like a doubtful child. My legs and pelvis were soon acclimatised but the rest of my torso was reluctant. Might I have a heart attack? Should I plunge or submerge gradually?
When swimming in a cold pool, ducking straight under to get going has its advantages. The first few strokes are short and nasty but it only takes a length to become acclimatised. In the sea I sometimes just keep walking until I run out of land. I enjoy reaching that point where I know I’m going to swim, it’s going to be more than just a paddle. If I wait long enough, it’s almost as if there’s a moment when the sea takes me naturally.
But there was nowhere to swim to in the frigidarium. After a couple of minutes up to my waist, it was time for something to happen, for further descent.
I bent my knees a bit. Using the Alexander Technique, I directed my head and torso up, keeping my back in one piece, and lowered my height by sending my knees forward over the toes. I bent my knees a bit more, several times, and before long I was up to my neck in a deep monkey position, enjoying the opposition of my spine going up against my knees going forward. Instead of taking my breath away, like cold water tends to, this was opening my breathing up. I was calm but exhilarated. It was the highlight of my visit, even better than bobbing about in the warm saltwater.
And the next morning I was straight in the cold saltwater pool, without any faffing around but also without the shock and fight of those first few strokes.
For more posts on swimming and the Alexander Technique, visit the Swimming Without Stress blog
Visit the Cardigan Alexander Technique website for more information on Alexander lessons.