Fall is a hard season for me–the hardest. This year, instead of denial (mini skirts), acceptance (allowing the inevitable), deceit (telling myself how wonderful the season is when I don’t actually believe that, and fleeing (Miami!)), I have decided to just treat myself really well. A little pampering, and a bit of allowing myself to complain. 

In Spa Day #1 I pampered at home with less than $10 worth of Duane Reade goodies to help.

For Spa Day #2 I ventured out of doors wrapped in my warmest sweater over a thermal, over a long sleeve t-shirt, over a tank top, two pairs of leggings, knee high socks, and my highest boots. I get cold.  Hence the problem with fall.

Underneath it all is my bikini! Where am I going?  To Spa 88 Turkish and Russian Baths for a no-frills, but hardcore, heating. 

You can feel the heat as you descend. There are offerings of wet hot, two kinds of dry hot, cold showers, and a cold water plunge pool that is a small square – just 5 feet deep. 

I enter the steam room.

The steam is laced with eucalyptus, which loosens up my chest– I didn’t even know I was holding on to anything. I sit in there for 100 slow breaths, noticing that some parts of my body are not warm at all. I don’t think I’m sweating, I’m just damp from the moist air. It’s so wonderful being warmed up I could happily leave after this, but instead I change venue.

Dry heat.

A schvitz is lovely. My head is wrapped in a towel. I sit on the lowest bench in the first of two saunas. I have only one companion who asks if I mind if he brings up the heat a bit.  Do I mind?  It can get hotter?  I am in total heaven.  He opens an oven-like door and begins throwing water down the hatch.  WOW is it hot. A few minutes, talking ceases, there are beads of sweat just rising. My companion grabs one of the large buckets and fills it with cold water, which he then pours over his head.  

This is where I bow out.  My vacation is to run from the cold, not to bring more cold to me. I decide to cool off with some water lounging in a lovely area behind the café. It’s not too crowded and those who are here are similarly relaxing, spread out on towels, hydrating.

Dry and hotter heat.

Head gets wrapped again for the Russian sauna – the real deal I am informed (warned?) by a passerby. A few silent basking bodies are in the large room. The heat radiates out of hot stones that are stoked throughout the night. I’m acclimated to the warmth by now and find a seat on a middle bench. I close my eyes until I sense movement. One of the men scoops water into the oven, as in the first sauna, and then he and another man start whipping the heat up with towels.  I have to lean back at this point as the heat is almost too much for me.  Just another few breaths in here–nice and even and slow – and I make a break for it.

Coconut water is an excellent hydrating agent. It’s loaded with potassium and just a little goes a long way – no need to gulp lots of liquid. It saves me now as I lounge in the café. Less relaxing due to the huge plasma tv, but it doesn’t matter.  All here are wrapped in white towels, melting.

I skirt the cold water pool.  I know, it is fabulous for the circulation. But so is jumping on a trampoline, which I do regularly. I stick my toes into the pool water instead. Not ice cold, but cooling before my Jacuzzi moment.

This is really why I’m here. I love a Jacuzzi. The jets are both relaxing and invigorating. The atmosphere festive, and you can always fully or just partially submerge. I target the jets to some achy spots on my hip and then just run my calves by them. Calves work hard and the action of the muscles pump blood from the far extremities back to the heart. It’s hard work. My calves deserve this kind of love. I deserve this kind of bliss.

My boldest move…

…is not so bold, in fact, but whatever. I’m pampering, so it doesn’t matter. Out of my beloved Jacuzzi and slinking into the pool for a few (very) short backstroke laps. 

I indulge in a few more minutes of Russian sauna warming. I’ve actually been lounging and lazing about for four hours and now it’s time to cool down and prepare to return to my world. I grab a beet, carrot, ginger juice and a water. I didn’t get a chance to have a platza or a body scrub this time around, but I‘ll be back.  

Why not try an escape? There are several similar Turkish and Russian bathhouses in in New York. A day pass runs from about $20-$40. The cold of a fall evening feels wonderful after this pampering.