Wednesday, January 5, 2005
Since I pretty much get to decide where the Road to Wellness takes me, then I say it goes through Bay St. Louis, Miss. Ms. D and I always enjoy any free moments we have to spend down on the Gulf Coast, and Bay St. Louis has its share of the things that appeal to us most—happy, creative, artistic people; good coffee and a place to walk or roam through a touch of nature.
This past weekend, we headed south for about 36 whole hours of vacation (those of you who read religiously will remember the column that covered our workaholic natures) as well as to visit the Art in the Pass festival in Pass Christian. We were pleased not only to enjoy to balmy high-80s and clear skies of a September day on the Coast, but also to encounter some wonderful little luxuries that easily add to an air of wellness—or at least relaxation.
Ms. D's favorite table at Art in the Pass was, of course, not art at all. That table belonged to Measha Wooden of the Mermaid's Purse, an artisan in soaps and essential oils. The oils are what I want to talk about—Ms. D has learned a fair bit about the oils—"aromatherapy" it's called—and has shown me their benefits.
Peppermint oil, for instance, is great for both waking you up and for tackling a headache. Ms. D puts peppermint undiluted on her temples and forehead (being careful to avoid her eyes) to create a soothing burn that often clears up her headache, or at least masks the symptoms while she works to survive it. Peppermint can be burned in a special burner designed to diffuse the oil and fill a room with the smell; experts say that the aroma can boost energy and concentration—perfect for the workaholic. (I've sometimes found that a cup of peppermint herbal tea gets me on track.)
Another important essential oil is lavender, which can be used to relax a room with its aroma; Ms. D likes to sprinkle it on the underside of her pillow or on a small cotton square that's allowed to float around on the bed at night. Diluted with water, we use lavender as a soothing anti-rash and anti-itch cream. (For more uses for essential oils, see Valerie Ann Worwood's "Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy" (New World Library, 1991, $19.95.)
While Pass Christian had the essential oils this week, Bay St. Louis features one of the most important stops on any Road to Wellness—the healthy hangout. At 604 Beach Blvd., that's Da Beach House, a place where you can get gourmet Hawaiian coffee, breakfast, fresh smoothies and plenty of exercise, thanks to the kayaks, the tours and the loving management by owners Todd and Colleen, who left Mississippi years ago for Hawaii, only to bring back some expertise, imagination and a strong desire to create a great place for folks just to be.
The half-a-weekend away helped me get in my walks along the boardwalk and the beach. But now it's time to get back to the grind. That means continuing the walking and gearing up to start … working out. That's right. In the sixth week of Wellness, it's time to get a little more serious about the gym. I'm feeling ready to start rebuilding some muscle. (And no, I'm not just saying that because I want to go back to the beach.) Building muscle builds strength and endurance while increasing your metabolism, causing you to burn more calories even when at rest. And that's going to be an essential part of getting myself in better shape.
If I can get to the gym three times this week, I'll spend time alternating between upper-body and lower-body workouts on each of the days using the machines at the Y for a start and trying to get done in about 30 minutes; on the other days, I'll take long walks around the neighborhood or head back to the gym just for the treadmill.
Ideally, I'll get out of the gym relatively quickly and, if possible, exercise twice in one day—an early morning walk and an evening workout, for instance. It's ambitious, but this week feels like the right week to start getting ambitious and taking this life-changing wellness thing a bit more seriously. I'll let you know how it goes.