Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The winter of bone broth

I am all about n=1 experiments. In other words, yeah, I collect a ton of advice from folks like Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, Liz Wolfe, Jason Seib, etc., but, when it comes down to it, I chart my own path through the paleo/primal world by trying things out and seeing how they work for me.

So this winter became the time to start *seriously* experimenting with bone broth. The benefits of regular, daily consumption of homemade broth are pretty indisputable. You could go here if you want to read a longer piece on all it can do for you. 

All those positive effects are beautiful, but I was most interested, in the midst of the cold-and-flu season, in bolstering my immune system from the ravages of the filthy, filthy world. 

However, alas, I am lazy in the kitchen. So previous broth-y experimentation had been derailed by simple issues like: (1) "How do I store all this?" and (2) "I made so much that it'll go bad if I keep it in the fridge, so, now I have to freeze it."

My old method of addressing these two "problems" (which are really kind of the same problem, I know) was to store it in ice-cube trays in the freezer. I read this somewhere as a helpful hint. <Cue soothing, yet uplifting musical tones, and perhaps bring in Mr. Rogers to say: "If you store your broth in the freezer in ice-cube trays, it won't go bad, and you just pop out a few cubes each morning into a mug and heat it up, neighbor!">

I found the whole ice-cube-tray thing to be spectacularly annoying. There's a photo of me in the Oxford English Dictionary (photo version) ladling tiny amounts of broth into individual segments of ice-cube trays next to two entries: "Stupid" and "Sucks."

I didn't like it at all. And the fact of the matter is that when I don't like something in the kitchen, my internal verve to do said thing is going to be mighty small mighty quickly.

And then I recalled the words of Robb Wolf: "Some people call it bone broth. I just call it soup."

And this made me wonder: why the hell am I using ice-cube-sized portions of broth? You can't OD on soup, for crying out loud. So I said to myself, "Self, why don't you buy some man-sized containers, and just store this stuff in the fridge? That way you can drink a mug of it every day, not just three ice cubes' worth. And, self, you will never *ever* have to freeze it."

I occasionally make good sense with myself.

Furthering the laziness, I decided to opt for "easy" ingredients that would probably lack some of the flavor of the more fancypantsed recipes, like that one I linked to a few paragraphs ago, but which would lack none of the immune-boosting whap-a-dang that I was looking for. (It's possible that "whap-a-dang" has not yet made the current edition of the OED).

This is how easy it is to make bone broth my way:


-- a bone or two from a grassfed cow. Bonus points for joint bones.
--a crockpot full of water
--two tablespoons of apple-cider vinegar (helps get the minerals out of the bones into the broth)

Combine all that stuff (garlic, salt and pepper amounts are up to you) in the crockpot. Heat it to a boil and then cook on low for 24 hours.

Yes, 24 hours.

Strain out all the goop and bones. Store in the man-sized containers in the fridge. Drink a mug of it every day, and, yes, drink the fatty film that forms on top… it melts when you reheat the broth before drinking it, and it has spectacular good-for-you fat in it because it is from a grassfed cow.

It's like deadlifting for your immune system. Get going on that.

Thoughts from the Costco checkout line


"Dude.... Oh shit, no way. Ack. Dude!"
-- the sound of my brain in the Costco checkout line, where the contents of everyone's carts are on display for all to see.

I love Costco. They have things I need in large, cheap containers, like toiletries, paper products and cases of San Pellegrino (an item that used to fall into the category of "total splurge" that we purchase a lot now now that we don't really ever spend money on alcohol). They also are a decent source for some vegetables, occasionally some meat (although I hear that some of them are more than "decent" in that regard and actually carry grassfed beef…. Sadly, not ours yet), etc.

Costco also sells all the same ultra-processed/grain-and-industrial-oil-filled crap "food" as the supermarket, in much larger containers. So the shopper has to make a lot of responsible choices.

Or not.

From what I can tell there is an absurd amount of "not" going on.

And the fact that often I am the "weirdo" that gets questions about the contents of his cart from other shoppers is some strange amalgam of horrifying and amusing. It often goes something like this:

Other person (OP): Wow, avocados, sparkling water, spinach! Trying to eat healthy, huh?
Me: Yeah, I don't eat a lot of the food they sell here.
OP: Are you vegetarian?
Me (stifling overreaction): Uh, no. No. Definitely not. I just don't eat processed food. Like, um, anything in a package really.
OP: <blank stare as if I just responded in an obscure Serbian dialect>

Or, truth be told, sometimes I get a positive reaction ("Wow. Good for you!"), but then invariably followed by the qualifier that OP "couldn't possibly" do that because of some reason that ultimately comes down to liking the flavor of all that shit in the large boxes.

What's the point of all this? Oh nothing profound, believe me. … just a further expression of the sobering realization, once again, that eating clean is: (1) something that only you can decide to do, follow through on, etc., and (2) if you do it, you will sometimes be the complete fucking weirdo. You will have to explain yourself more than you want to, and you will have to reorient your brain so all that crap that you used to buy simply is not food to you any longer.

But, god, it's glorious once you "get there." Living well is truly the best reward.

Oh yeah, there's a third realization: Most people aren't going to do this with you, which gets back to realization #1, I suppose. You are driving your own bus down the highway of life. Take charge. Or don't. It really is entirely up to you.

And Costco is there for you either way.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

CrossFit changed my life

"What, other than your family, has had the most impact on your life in the last few years?"

It's a kind of deceptively simple question. My friend asked me just because we tend to roll like that --  occasionally posing a left-field interrogatory to see what will happen if we pour a little kerosene on the burning embers of our aging brains….

I didn't really hesitate more than a second: "It has to be CrossFit."

And the answer makes me laugh, because I have been kind of vocal on occasion about having some serious issues with the delusion of a few folks who think they are doing CrossFit just to be healthy and live long, but are actually training at a pace, frequency and intensity that has left health/longevity in the rearview mirror in exchange for, something resembling flat-out exercise addiction and grinding themselves to bits.

But those complaints are with the misuse of CrossFit, or, more specifically, the failure to distinguish between CrossFit as a health/longevity training tool versus CrossFit as a sport. (Either is fine, by the way, but understanding which path you are buying into is critical).

Let's not confuse all that with a basic fact: CrossFit has radically changed my life for the better in a number of very significant ways:

1. I am so much stronger at age 51 than I ever was before. No one's going to confuse me for a strongman competitor, mind you, but when I started CrossFit in the spring of 2010, I had never picked up a barbell in my life. I was a runner who also did some haphazard machine-based strength work in a globo gym. I had, as I like to call it, the flexibility of a man twice my age. CrossFit, particularly in a gym that has a so-called "strength bias," has done great things for me: my deadlift is currently at about 2.25 times bodyweight;  50-ft farmer's carry = just under 2.5x bw;  front squat is up over 1.5x bw, and my back squat is a little more than that. I move better than I did twenty years ago, and I keep improving in both strength and mobility. It's, well… it's totally fucking cool is what it is. I feel like I have slowed down the aging process, and I am, as always, firmly against the aging process.

2. Short intense sprint-based workouts a few times a week are wickedly efficient for general health/fitness. I wasted so much time back in the day on a treadmill that it just kills me….

3. When I play other sports, or do any outdoor activities -- whether volleyball or hiking, or even drumming (yes, drumming is a sport… heh) -- I have more stamina and endurance, and a general lack of soreness afterwards, than I ever did. One particular example: I have day-hiked Mount Whitney, tallest peak in the Lower 48, three times in the past ten years. (That's a 22-mile round trip with over 6000 feet of elevation gain -- and then loss -- in one day. The day-hiker starts at 3 a.m. with headlamps on so he or she is sure to make it back down the mountain on the same day). The first two times I hiked it -- both pre-CrossFit -- the uphill was grueling, but the 11-mile downhill from the summit to the trailhead completely slaughtered me. Quads on fire, feet about to quit. Just awful. In 2012, two years into CrossFit, and just after I turned 50, I did it all again, but that time with minimal pain. Sure, it was hard, but it was the easiest it had ever been for me. Why? Strength. I no longer felt at mile 17 like I had five miles to walk on legs that were about to give out on me. Strength is a very good thing, and it translates into endurance -- the ability to go long distances and not have your muscles give up.

4. CrossFit got me into paleo. When I started CrossFitting on my own, the Zone was big. There is nothing wrong with the Zone as a nutrient-partitioning strategy, but as a "way to eat" it can lack some basic guidance about what the foods providing those nutrients will be. You can "zone" Ben and Jerry's, McDonald's and cookies -- not really what I was looking for as an overall nutritional plan. But reading up on the Zone led me quickly to "paleo" this and "paleo" that, and, once I joined a CrossFit gym, in June 2010, where the trainers emphasized paleo as the ticket to good health, I was sold. Four years later, here I am, having experimented all over the map with different shades of paleo and primal food, and having fully worked out a "way to eat" that works for me. Thanks to the Paleo Physicians Network and Primal Docs, I even have a doc who is down with the whole plan. My wife has put an autoimmune disease into remission with a paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP) that she never would have known about from her AI-specialist doc. It's all really remarkable, and it simply would not have happened when it did had I not gotten into CrossFit.

5. Community. We were recently at a party at the home of a fellow CrossFitter. In fact, everyone there was from our gym, CrossFit Aspire. People were talking about liking this or that workout. Some of them were discussing training regimens that would crush me with their frequency, and others were professing love for long metcons that I don't really enjoy at all. Finally I said, "You know what I like the most about CrossFit?" and, pointing to the gathering in the room, I answered my own question: "This. This is what I like. Hanging out with cool, smart, focused people who have a sense of community." That pretty much says it all. I don't belong to another organization where people are so tightly bonded together. It's completely fucking cool, and gives the cynical-bastard side of me hope for humanity. Really.

In early 2010, my son Kevin invited me to come out to his CrossFit gym to watch an in-house competition because, he said, "I think you will think this CrossFit thing is pretty cool." I'm not sure that "pretty cool" adequately describes what's happened since then. Thanks, man. I'm in for the long haul.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Crockpot beef heart with bacon/soppressata stuffing

A couple of years ago, I posted this recipe for crockpot beef heart stuffed with bacon, mushrooms and onions. It is a wonderful way to get offal into your life pretty "painlessly." Heart is a lean muscle meat. Yes, it is technically also an "organ" meat, but it has none of the "organ" taste of, say, liver.

According to Mark's Daily Apple, beef heart is "an excellent source of a number of nutrients, including thiamin, folate, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, CoQ10 and several of the B vitamins. In addition, beef heart contains amino acids that are thought to improve metabolism and compounds that promote the production of collagen and elastin (thin and wrinkle free? Sign us up!)."

But yesterday, I changed the recipe enough -- with glorious results -- that I thought it was worth officially revisiting it. Yeah, the old recipe is great, but this one is top-notch as well.


--1 (grassfed) beef heart
-- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
-- four ounces soppressata or other hard Italian salami, diced into cubes
--10 slices of bacon (thick cut if you can)
-- turmeric
-- garlic
-- cumin

Cook the bacon. Chop it up. 

Clean the heart by trimming off most of the fat and any obvious arteries from the outside. Then stuff all of the bacon and salami into the heart cavity. Really stuff it full and then use toothpicks -- the longer the better -- to hold it together. Or, you can skimp on the toothpicks; just be sure, when this thing is done cooking, to scoop up the stuffing that falls out into the crockpot.

Put the stuffed heart in the crockpot along with the coconut milk, some garlic, cumin and turmeric (it's a crockpot use a lot of each or the flavor gets lost).

Cook for 11-12 hours on low.

Do not skimp on the cooking time or you could get very rubbery meat as your reward.

Slice and serve with the stuffing slopped all over it. It's so delicious. Enjoy.

(And I forgot to take a pic, so here is the old pic again.)

What Richard Sherman could learn from the NHL

Note: I wrote this the morning after the rant in question. As you will see farther down, two days after that incident, Sherman apologized. 

"I've been gifted. The world is full of people who not only haven't been gifted, but have had something taken away from them. All I have to do is see one of them, some little girl who can't walk, and then I don't think I'm such a hero anymore. I think that compared to them, I'm a very small article."
--Bobby Orr 


You can read a lot today about Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and his post-game "interview" last night where he was asked to comment on the final play of the game. What we got from Sherman in that interview was this outburst. 

I remember that, when it happened, a few thoughts came to mind:

-- "Really? Didn't your team just win? How about you talk about the team, or the win, instead of yourself."
-- "Another football player acting like he is the center of the damn universe."
-- "That was awfully egocentric -- even for a football player who thinks he is the center of the damn universe."
-- "I hope Sherman isn't one of the players that coach Pete Carroll has convinced to start meditating, because if he is, pretty clearly, he is doing so while looking into a mirror… contemplating his own 'greatness.'" 

And finally, the most dominating thought:

--This is why I like hockey. 

Hockey is different -- beautifully different. Watch a hockey interview -- any hockey interview. It could be with the guy who just pantsed the top goaltender in the league -- whom the scorer hates with a burning passion -- just after said scorer plowed through four opposing players with no help whatsoever from his teammates to put in the Stanley Cup winning goal in triple overtime, and the interview would still go like this:

Reporter: "Tell me about that last play?"
Player: "Oh, you know, I saw an opportunity, and, you know, he's a hell of a goaltender, so I knew I would need the support of my team on that one, and, sure enough, they were right there and set it all up."

Sometimes the reporter will even try to stoke some controversy:

Reporter: "You and [goalie that he just beat] really go way back with an intense rivalry. Some people would even say there's a lot of animosity there."
Player: "He is a competitor, for sure. I'm just glad our team really stepped it up."

Now go watch that Richard Sherman interview again…. It has it all: self-promotion, denigration of the opposing player, and then a little more self-promotion. The word "team" is nowhere to be found. Sherman's teammates, including the one who caught the ball that Sherman tipped, are not mentioned.

Then go read this "defense" of Sherman as a warrior girded for battle who we wrongfully or unreasonably expect to act like an adult in an interview. 

That piece falls apart as soon as you consider: "Hey, what about interviews with hockey players?" Who is more of a hyped-up warrior than an NHL player? Yet somehow, those guys manage to put all that adrenaline away to respond to the questions -- even the dumb ones, even when the interviewer tries to provoke something more Richard-Shermanesque from them. Hockey is a sport so concerned with keeping the individual ego in check that a mere over-celebration of a goal will get a firm rebuke from one of the game's premier commentators. In football, on the other hand, the individual ego reigns so supreme that players on teams that are losing celebrate sacks like they just won the Super Bowl.

"Me! Look at me! I'm great! Never mind the team!" 

It's embarrassing. Or it should be. 

Richard Sherman is a very talented football player. He really may be the best corner in the league.  But he should be the object of universal criticism today for that egocentric rant, not the subject of apologist nonsense telling us how he probably was still all wound up over whatever he was wound up over and needed some chill time. The top tier of former coaches and players -- the "elder statesmen" of football, so to speak -- should be stepping up to put a lid on this behavior. I would say "before it gets out of hand," but it's already a long way out of hand. It really doesn't matter what baggage Richard Sherman brought with him to the game. And it doesn't matter what the reporter's question was (although seriously, a request to "take us through that last play" is about as non-controversial as it gets).  If he were a hockey player, his attitude would change quickly, or he wouldn't be in the league.

Do your job, sir. You do it well. But let your play speak for itself. Be humble. Be… well, be more like a hockey player.
POSTSCRIPT (January 21, 2014): The Philadelphia Inquirer just posted an account of Sherman's apology. The main line from it: ""I apologize for attacking an individual and taking the attention away from the fantastic game by my teammates. That was not my intent."

Well played, sir. Now you finally got it right.

In the spirit of full disclosure, so the reader doesn't think this is a secret anti-Seahawks rant. I was rooting for the Seahawks last night. I like both Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson immensely. No, they aren't "my team." That status is reserved for the Oakland Raiders, who have disappointed me for a long time. I am still hoping the 'hawks beat the Broncos, but Mr. Sherman needs a serious change in attitude.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

That Year -- looking back at 2013

2013 made me stronger.

Not necessarily in a physical sense... but I guess there's that too. I PR'd often enough in the gym and did things, particularly regarding deadlifts and front squats, that made me proud that I am still lifting heavier each year. (But I'm still just fitter than the average dude my age, not some kind of gym beast).

Instead, 2013's strength gains were really more about exploring and learning about weaknesses, and inner toughness when it came to various other challenges.

My dad died back in late May. Over the previous few years, he had experienced an awful mental and physical decline that I have gone on about here a number of times previously. But, despite the fact that his death was mostly a sad relief -- for him and me -- May and June were a madhouse around here as a result. And when I really think about it, everything about my existence had elements of This Is More Stressful and Hectic Than I Want It To Be from August 2011, when he went into nursing-home care, to his death this past year. It took seven dumpsters (yes… Seven. Fucking. Dumpsters) to empty his house before I could even start paying someone to bring its interior from its aesthetic perch in the mid-1970s to the present so it could be sold. And then there was all the crazy shit that someone always has to deal with when a person dies.

Fortunately, I am blessed with an amazingly supportive wife, and I got just the perfect level of help from friends, family and those I paid to work on everything that needed to be done regarding my dad's care, his house and his death. There is some magic blend of tenacity, fortuity and gratitude that gets a person through this sort of challenge, and I got lucky and tapped into all three.

The last few years forced me to re-learn two principal things: (1) we are much tougher than we might imagine, and (2) what matters the most is the people you surround yourself with and your health -- mental and physical.

And this all brings us to other aspects of 2013.

More than ever, meditation has been an essential, daily part of how I empty my busy mind. And this past year, I not only blogged about meditation, but I got to blab on about it on a podcast with my friend Kendall Kendrick, from Primal Balance. I even ran a 30-day meditation challenge in July, and started another one more recently. I used to joke that there is no quicker route to deafening silence on my blog than mentioning meditation. Slowly but surely, that is changing a little bit as a few more people realize that their busy, crowded brains need emptying, and that all that CrossFit hoohah about being a "badass" isn't worth shit if your head isn't right.

Good food is critical to health and happiness too, and, besides going on and on about the benefits of an ancestral lifestyle here and on my Facebook page, I also got involved with a couple of paleo/primal challenges at the CrossFit gym where I am a member. There is little I enjoy more than helping out people who really want the assistance, and both of those events have given me a chance to do that. I really dig it.

And then I learned that even when you get sleep, food, stress and exercise where you think you want them to be -- you know, even when you are the fucking paleo drummer, maaaaan (I'm kidding!) -- there are always improvements to be made. I went to see a paleo doc this year for the first time. I learned most things on my insides are great, some are good, and a few improvements are in order. In a month or so, I am going to go back for my second round of bloodwork to see if the changes the doc suggested have helped me step up my game in the health/longevity department.

I also realized this year, more than ever before, that the only focus of my fitness regimen should be health and longevity, and that my ego is the enemy in that regard. I'll keep relearning that lesson as needed.

There some other enemies too, though. I have been up, down and all around with alcohol over my life, and I am just about done. As I said in that post, I won't foreclose the notion of a very special drink in a very special place, preferably with a very special person. But seriously... it is not going to be often. Amazing things have happened since I stopped regular moderate consumption of alcohol. Most notably, my blood pressure has plunged, even in stressful times. Fuck yeah.

And there will, undoubtedly, be further adjustments in the future. Right now, as a matter of fact, I decided my body fat could use a downward turn, so I am eliminating fruit for a month, just to see what happens. I am only a week or so into that new approach, and already I am seeing good results, a fact that just further underscores to me the neverending value of treating one's life as a constant self-improvement project/science experiment. N=1 is good enough, most of the time.

My free time in 2013 was also a little bigger than ever. Both my kids are now off to college/grad-school, and while I miss them, their independence is something I have always encouraged, and now that it is here, it has provided me and my wife with more time for fun on our own. There was a trip for both of us to Paleo FX, and another to Utah and Arizona for some high-quality hiking. I had more time for volleyball, more time for the gym, and more time to play drums -- on my own and in a band. There was just more time. And time is freedom. And freedom is good.

This was also the Year of the Dog just a little more than usual around here. We have always loved our pets, but in 2013 my wife and I added one dog to the pack, lost one, and we both started volunteering as dogwalkers at the local animal shelter. We already knew that dogs were awesome. But giving back to the world of dogs has proved even more so.

It was a really good year. It wasn't always a really happy year. But things, overall, are even better than they were when 2013 began. And even around my little slice of the blogosphere, there are more people checking in here than ever (hell, I even have smart guest bloggers -- like her, and her, and him -- and I even get asked occasionally to write something on someone else's blog). Sometimes great people who I respect even say nice things about my efforts here. 2014? Let's go.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Guest post! "Floating on [a Salty] Cloud Nine [Days in a Row]" by Skylee Robinson

Skylee is an attorney in Seattle who enjoys spending her free time searching for the best meal, cup of coffee, and fitness regimen. You can find her online @skyleejane on Twitter, Instagram, and Gmail. I (Steve) met her (and a whole lot of other people) for, oh, about 3.6 seconds each at a Paleo FX 2013 afterparty. While we didn't get to talk then, her subsequent Twitter feed has contained references to floating in a sensory-deprivation saltwater tank that made me think, "Wow, what a cool, meditative way to chill." I asked her to do a guest blog post, and she agreed! Enjoy….

It’s 8:35 a.m. on the first Friday of the New Year and I’m sitting on what is (in my opinion and at this moment) the most comfortable spot on the planet.  I’m on an insanely soft and plush couch with a blue throw pillow under my left arm and my legs up on the long part of the fabric sectional.  As I sit (rather: lie) here, reveling in how comfortable I am, I start chuckling about something so trivial I’m almost too embarrassed to type it out:  I’m laughing at how I know it’s exactly 8:35 a.m. even though I haven’t yet seen a clock.  

I think back about my morning, which started with an hour of power vinyasa with my favorite instructor at the spot above the Whole Foods on Westlake.  The relaxing and meditative properties of yoga have been well-discussed and I have no intentions of boring you with them here.  I will say, however, that I recall feeling restless during the morning’s shavasana because I knew today’s true resting pose was meant to exist in water.  

Right after class I took a short drive along Lake Union and across the Fremont Bridge to where I am currently lounging: at Urban Float in a prime location right on Fremont Avenue.  Because I arrived on time for my scheduled 7:30 a.m. session, I walked straight from the front door into my private room, briefly greeting Eve the Receptionist along the way.  This being my ninth consecutive morning session with Urban Float, Eve knew that I knew how to handle the next hour.

Yes, this is my ninth day of floating.  Yes, that’s incredibly indulgent.  No, you do not need to float nine days in a row to feel relaxed (but it doesn’t hurt).  

When Urban Float first opened over six months ago, I signed-up for a membership package that provides me with four floats per month.  This allows me to come for a visit for one hour once a week, which is usually more than enough to help me clear my constantly-buzzing head and calm my frenetic mind.  Yet during the Fall work kept me on the road or otherwise away from Fremont.  Then Thanksgiving and Christmas arrived with its flurry of friends and family, shopping, Holiday parties, and cooking.  During the process of picking up torn bits of wrapping paper on Christmas morning I realized that those four monthly floats were still waiting for me like the presents under the tree that had waited until that morning to be opened.  I logged into my online account and booked a Boxing Day appointment…and another appointment the following day.  After tweeting about how wonderful I felt, Steve asked if I would be willing to write about it.  I decided to bridge 2013 with the New Year by continuing daily float sessions into 2014 and write about how I felt then.

Back in my room, I pulled off my yoga gear and hopped into a lukewarm shower, not once minding the chill from the tepid water as I rinsed the sweat, condensation, and the smell of incense from my hair and body.  Instead of drying off I grabbed a washcloth to completely dry my face, then I tore open a small plastic pouch containing two hunter orange foam ear plugs.  Though the color is loud, the soft cushions are effective at silencing both the room and my thoughts.  I patiently waited as the pliable material reformed itself to the contours of my ear canal, then turned my attention to my best friend for the next fifty-five minutes:  my very own sensory deprivation pod.  

Twitter: @gennapeterson

I have often described to people that a pod is approximately the size of a tanning bed, but in retrospect that is not accurate.  I would instead compare it to the size of a small car (I could even go a step further and compare it to an Isetta since both enable entry via a single hinge, but this tank certainly feels larger than that tiny Italian vehicle).  But like most things in life, it’s what is inside the pod that counts, and inside a sensory deprivation pod is about a foot of special water.  The water is automatically filtered and circulated between visits, but that’s not the best part about the water itself.  The water is heated close to your body temperature; around 95 degrees.  Additionally, inside the water is about 850 pounds of epsom salt, making the density of the water comparable to that of the Dead Sea.  That means that as soon as you are inside the pod and inside the warm, salty solution, your body’s natural buoyancy brings you right to the top of the water.  

The first time I floated was nearly a year ago at the Float Shoppe in Portland, Oregon.  Earlier that week I was traveling in Chicago and did a CrossFit session that involved over 100 pull ups, which was dumb as all I had to show for my effort were two pulled lats.  I sought relief from my massage therapist but there was nothing she could do to alleviate the pain in my back and shoulders; simply touching my lats would make me flinch.  I couldn’t sleep either because no matter how comfortable my bed it was always pushing upon the same areas of my body that were already causing me discomfort.  Through either sleep deprivation or sheer desperation, when I found a Groupon to the Float Shoppe while visiting a friend in Portland I decided to give it a try.

I’m so glad I did.

Once you close the lid of your pod and turn off the lights it becomes pitch black.  It takes a few seconds for the flashes of the last light you saw to leave your retinas, but once they disappear you experience true darkness.  It is so dark that you will have to make an effort to think about whether your eyes are open or closed.  This darkness, in combination with the body-temperature water and warm humidity of the ambient air, means that you will have no idea where your body ends and the warm water begins.  And you will just lie there in silence, floating on a warm, salty cloud with nothing but your thoughts and the experience to entertain you.

The first time you float you’re initially reluctant to dip your head back into the water for fear of drinking in a gallon of water saltier than the sea.  But even through that first session you trust you won’t drown and you find a way to let go.  That is exactly what happened the first time I floated.  My head dropped back into the water, but my face was never submerged.  My arms naturally positioned themselves in a cactus pose above my waist so I could rest comfortably in my state of weightlessness.  And while lying within that tank and in that water I experienced something so uniquely calming that I fear my words cannot appropriately describe it.  But I will say after finishing my first float session I felt like it was more than my neck and lats that let go.  I felt such peace that lingered with me, and is perhaps still with me today. 

And so here I am, 8:35 a.m. on the very first Friday of 2014.  Today’s session was so relaxing that I fell asleep until gentle music pumped into the water, lightly reminding me that my hour in the pod was ending.  After rinsing away the saltwater in a slightly warmer shower, drying my body and wrapping a large white towel around my hair, I am now wearing my favorite pair of sweatpants, smartly paired with a smirk.  Yes, I am still giddy about how I know what time it is.  Does it matter that some time has already passed in the process of me writing this piece?  No, not at all.  Am I aware that exactly one week has actually passed since I was sitting in the lounge at Urban Float that first Friday?  It doesn’t matter.  I suppose that’s the thing about floating, let alone floating nine days in a row:  I feel too damn good to mind the little things.