Runners May Benefit From Hot Stone Bathing

Jannine Myers

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I decided to visit ThaiMed Spa in Ginowan, and see why so many Japanese women are dedicated to getting their weekly ‘fix” of ganban’yoku, otherwise known as “hot stone bathing.”

The practice of hot stone bathing involves laying down on a heated slab of stone (made of ether granite, black silicone, or kihouseki). The slabs of rocks (rock beds) are heated, as is the room in which the rock beds are situated. The treatment involves lying down on one of the slabs for durations of 15 minutes at a time, alternating between prone stomach and back positions, and then leaving the room for 5 minutes to drink water and cool off. You will repeat these intervals for a total treatment time of 90 minutes.

Kihouseki, which is the type of rock used at Thaimed Spa, emits far infrared rays and negative ions. According to the website www.blacksilica-intl.com, far infrared rays “are absorbed by cells throughout the body and cause blood vessels to dilate, which is said to improve blood circulation, speed up the metabolism and help to eliminate wastes.” And negative ions are a type of antioxidant present in nature that is reported to react with and break down toxins in the bloodstream.”

What this means, in terms of health benefits, is that the combination of far infrared rays and negative ions, work together to promote the following activities in our bodies:

  • improve skin tone
  • aid weight loss (by speeding up metabolism and eliminating waste)
  • cause blood vessels to dilate which in turn helps to improve blood circulation
  • alleviate back and shoulder pains
  • lower blood pressure
  • boost immune system and help reduce the effects of pollen allergies, diabetes, constipation, menstrual disorders, rheumatism and arthritis

[Source: www.blacksilica-intl.com]

My key motivation in trying ganban’yoku was influenced by it’s claims of improving blood circulation. My body temperature is typically quite low and I suffer from poor blood circulation. One of the negative consequences of poor circulation (from a runner’s perspective), is that I often experience swelling in my lower extremities and calf muscles. It’s obviously difficult to say if one visit had any positive effect, but I do plan to visit the spa on a frequent basis and see if there is any significant improvement over a certain period of time (I’ll keep you posted).

Instructions on what you will need to if you decide to try ganban’yoku:

  1. Check in at the front counter and fill in a personal information card
  2. You will be directed to a changing room and given a key and locker. Inside your locker you will find a cup, towels, and bathing clothes. Change into your bathing clothes, then remove the largest towel as well as the cup, and lock everything else up.
  3. Proceed into the bathing area. You will see a shelf on the wall with allocated cubbies to place your water cup. Before you put your cup up however, take a few sips of cold water.
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  5. Enter the hot spa room, lay out your towel on the rock bed assigned to you, and lay down on your stomach. Lie there for approximately 7 or 8 minutes, then turn over on to your back. Do not stay in any one position for too long as you may end up with minor skin burns. After a total of 15 minutes, leave the room and go and sip on more cold water. Cool off for about 5 minutes before returning to your hot bed.
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  7. After a total duration of 90 minutes, drink some more water and then go and change back into your clothes. There are showers in the changing room if you wish to shower, but it’s actually a good idea to hold off on the shower until you get home (your skin will stay moist and comfortably warm).
  8. Try to enjoy the experience
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Cost: Y1300 for 90 minutes

Map: thaimed_mapl

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Life is like a bowl of oishii Cherries…

“Where are ALL the cherries?!”

Corinne shared with me her son’s question, above and I had to stop and think on it. Every year here in Japan we celebrate sakura blossoms starting down here in the south and slowly moving up as the temperatures rise. Unlike the cherries we see from Washington state, I had never eaten or bought a bunch of Japanese cherries. And when the American cherries do hit the commissary at a staggering $8 a pound or so, I close my eyes and take a breath and buy two bags. We go home and celebrate our small fruit happiness for the moment.

Last week, we were running along the trail that a few of us WOOT’rs run regularly at lunchtime, near Foster. This time, there was an older Okinawan farmer out under the cherry trees, looking up, and picking something. It didn’t register at first but as we approached, he offered us to share in his find, sakuranbo or cherries. Aha!! Mystery solved. We picked our cherry from where he pointed and all shared a cherry together. They are small and a little tart and only seem to be around a week or so, like the blossom itself.

Look closely, they're there!

Look closely, they’re there!

A little research shows that although the fruit is edible, the trees we see in bloom each spring are bred for the blossom, not the fruit.

Which leads me to another thought, introducing cherry juice to your running diet. There has been a little buzz for a few years on the benefits of cherry juice and long distance running.

NIH published a study based on the premise that tart cherries may reduce muscle damage and pain during strenuous exercise. They used tart cherry juice and a placebo to test on runners during a long distance relay race.

The conclusion was drinking tart cherry juice, starting a week before the race, and during the event, can minimize the post-run pain (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20459662). And who doesn’t want less pain!

Although we can’t make our magic tart cherry elixir from our beautiful sakura trees all over the trails and island, we can give it a go with the good ole’ American version. The commissary does sell the frozen cherries for smoothies and off and on, sells tart cherry juice. Share with us if you agree with the buzz!