Several years ago, I worked out with a personal trainer in a bunch of one-hour sessions at my gym. She was all about proper lifting and careful stretching – and nasty core exercises I’ve patently avoided to this day. But she did give me one time-proven piece of advice: after working out, go relax 10-15 minutes in the dry sauna. You’ve already revved up your metabolism with the workout, so the sauna helps extract toxins from the body. Yes, and the sauna also helps imitate the heat and humidity of South Carolina in the summertime.
My wife & I are heading to the Palmetto State for a long-overdue getaway at the end of May. We’ll be spending a few days in the western counties before catching up with our daughter and her boyfriend in coastal Charleston. We’ve taken this trip before. The difference? Last time we were there in early April when the heat and humidity sort of caressed your cheek with a soft kiss. This time we’ll be there to kick off summer and it’ll feel like standing under a hot shower. Outdoors. Fully dressed.
I’ve always been a sweater (no, I don’t mean the extra layer you pull over your head in the winter months). After a long jog, my t-shirt and shorts are so wet they could double as sponges. My hair falls wet-stringy straight down my forehead and the perspiration runs in rivers here and streams there. Yep, I’m one handsome dude. But where most people say ick, I recognize sweating for the healthy cooling/cleansing process it is. A sign my metabolism is alive and kicking. Turn on the faucets, baby.
Speaking of moisture, isn’t moist one of the most atrocious-sounding words in the English language? I’ve never made peace with those five letters and I know I haven’t used moist in a sentence in years (no matter how good my baked goods taste). The English language has such beautiful words, like chimes and delicacy and silhouette. Why disrupt the sweet-sounding party with a word like moist?
I’m not gonna pretend a good sweat is ever comfortable (maybe it’s because I feel moist) but I’ve certainly gotten used to the sensation over the years. And now that I live in Colorado? Zero humidity. Well, okay, there’s a little humidity here at 7,500 feet above sea level. But most of the time it’s so dry, the needle on your tank seems to be perpetually on “E”. This pathetic little voice deep inside your body pleads for, “water… water…” (think Tin Man asking for his oil can – that kind of voice).
Let’s go back to my dry sauna sessions. Since you’re already asking the question, I don’t mean “wet sauna” (where steam is introduced into a room as tiled as a Chinese kitchen). I’m talking about that other room, with nothing but wooden benches and a nasty little blast furnace in the corner (wood-burning, electric, hot rocks – whatever heats like hell). You sit there draped in a small towel in 200º F and for a few minutes, all is quiet and comfortable. But then, almost imperceptibly, your skin develops a sheen. You begin to glisten. Suddenly droplets of perspiration pop out all over the place and it’s “open the floodgates, Poseidon”. A million little leaks.
I won’t speak for the ladies’ locker room (that mysterious country club adjacent to our locker room), but sometimes the men’s dry sauna can get a little awkward. When you approach the glass door, it’s so steamed you can’t tell how many guys are already in there. Once you enter, choose a place on the bench without hesitation or you’ll be judged. Good chance you’ll end up next to a heavy breather, which in some schools of thought is therapeutic. Other times you’ll end up next to someone with headphones, which somehow don’t block the four-letter words of his rap music. One time I was subjected to the wellness preachings of a huge Samoan-looking guy, where I thought it best not to argue with his musings. All of which is to say, you never really know what you’re gonna get with the dry sauna. It’s an intimate little sweatbox filled with semi-naked strangers. Good times, huh?
When I’m in Charleston I won’t miss the dry sauna because Mom Nature will provide her own version round-the-clock. The heat and humidity will promote enough of my perspiration to – as the family says – “make my face rain”. I’m like one of those mysterious underground springs, where the water keeps bubbling up from the ground and you wonder if it’s ever gonna stop. Every gonna stop? Not with my metabolism. For sheer entertainment value, if you’re in Charleston later this month, keep an eye out for me. I’m the one with the million little leaks.