Last week I turned 50. In anticipation of this event, I ramped up my wellness activities in 2023, which helped balance the avalanche of legal work my team and I coordinated for our clients. I have written about wellness a good bit, including the two-part article called A Radical Day of Extreme Self-Care. In the fast-paced world we all navigate, finding effective ways to unwind and rejuvenate is crucial for maintaining a healthy mind and body. For me, one such modality is the TriBathalon.
I, unfortunately, did not come up with the term TriBathalon. The concept was introduced to me by my brother-in-law, Rick, who heard it from a gym-hating friend from college. If you Google, TriBathalon, it takes you first to the definition in the Urban Dictionary.
An intensive gym session consisting not of actual exercise, but of quality time in the sauna, steam room and jacuzzi.
The next page under the Urban Dictionary search result is for a blog. When you click the link, it takes you to a landing page with a photo of a pool overlooking a larger body of water with the following words: The World of TriBathalon: A Unique Insight into the Little-Known World of Serious Hyrdorelaxation.
There are no posts.
I prefer “contrast hydrotherapy” after I actually work out, because I incorporate a cold plunge between each hot element of the TriBath. In fact, on Saturday mornings a small group of friends led by Stanton meet at the Madison Health Plex for what some may call an extreme workout. I have written about Stanton before in Cancer and the Farm:
Stanton is sort of like the Mayor of Everywhere —a gregarious salesman. He married a farmer’s daughter too. Stanton knows everyone and everyone knows and loves Stanton. He is almost objectionably positive. I have even heard him say cancer is one of the best things that ever happened to him, because now he values life more. He cherishes being present –the moment. After he received the “all clear” from his doctor and was experiencing remission for the first time, a group of us went white water rafting in Tennessee. Back then, in an area the guides know is safe, they would let an especially brave river passenger sit on the front of the raft headed into a significant rapid, feet tucked under, hands holding the small rope at the tip of the raft, like a bull rider in a rodeo. In the picture that hangs on his office wall, Stanton has his right hand pointing to the sky –his facial expression is of exhilaration and of a man joyously alive. Like a warrior who had conquered his adversary, surrounded by his fellow soldiers, paddles like swords in the air.
Stanton’s weekend workout starts with a 50-minute spin class. This past class the instructor played music reminiscent of my time at Funtime Skateland, which was located on Cooper Road. In the 1980s, Funtime served as the youthful equivalent of a nightclub for kids on the south side of town. It provided a neon world for 13-year-olds to gather, hoping to get to first base in the seat of the racecar video game. I may have busted out parachute pants or Guess jeans depending on the evening, because my mom worked at the mall, and I never paid full price for clothes.
After the jacuzzi, we move to the 25-meter pool and swim about a half mile. After swimming, we start our hydrorelaxation session in the hot tub adjacent to the pool, but only for about five minutes. Growing up in South Jackson, I did not know anyone who had a swimming pool, and the Southwest YMCA did not have a hot tub, so my friends and I would sneak into the nearby Best Western that boasted an indoor swimming pool with a hot tub. My high school classmates and I may or may not have shared a 4-pack of wine coolers while relaxing in that bubbly wonderland.
After the hot tub, we transition to the cold plunge. Stanton keeps time and we follow him like children led by the Pied Piper. Using intentional cold exposure is a trending activity right now thanks to health and wellness influencers. As you know, I give legal advice –I am not a doctor. But Stanton says the shift from warm to cold induces a sort of shock which triggers our circulatory system to respond with increased efficiency. This process promotes detoxification, accelerates muscle recovery, and enhances heart health. While I am not sure if any of that is true, from experience I can say I feel surprisingly energized when I emerge from the fifty-degree water – like a Coach receiving a Gatorade shower following a big win on the road.
The next step in the TriBathalon is the steam room. Steam bathing is an ancient practice embraced by diverse cultures worldwide. The ancient Greeks and Romans were avid practitioners of steam bathing near hot springs, and indigenous communities utilize steam and sweating for health and spiritual practices. Native Americans also use hallucinogens for healing, but more on this later. Also, heat therapy and cold plunging are prominent in Nordic countries, where the people are some of the happiest in the world. The claimed health benefits of steam include reducing blood pressure, improved circulation, relaxation, and recovery —something every divorce lawyer and those needing their services should be concerned about.
From steam we go back to the cold.
To me, it is easier to go in quickly when my toes hit the icy water. I then go immediately under. We do not stay quite as long on round two, unless we get caught up in a conversation, which happens. While experts say you should have your hands submerged and fan the water around a bit, I typically hold my hands in front of my face like a child reciting his bedtime prayers. If you stay still, your body creates a thermal shield that helps keep you a touch warmer.
“Warm” is relative, of course.
After the second round of cold, we move to the third and final heat source —sauna. The sauna is my favorite of all TriBath disciplines. A study published by the National Library of Medicine claims the following:
Facilities offering sauna bathing often claim health benefits that include detoxification, increased metabolism, weight loss, increased blood circulation, pain reduction, antiaging, skin rejuvenation, improved cardiovascular function, improved immune function, improved sleep, stress management, and relaxation. However, rigorous medical evidence to support these claims is scant and incomplete, as emphasized in a recent multidisciplinary review of sauna studies.
I understand the National Library of Medicine sounds like a reputable source, but I side with those boasting the health benefits of sauna, like a 2018 Mayo Clinic article which says sauna bathing goes beyond just being pleasurable and relaxing – it is linked to various health benefits. These include lowering the risk of vascular diseases like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease (CVD), stroke, and neurocognitive diseases. Saunas may also have positive effects on nonvascular conditions like pulmonary diseases, common flu, and even mortality. Additionally, they could help in treating specific skin conditions and alleviating pain in conditions such as rheumatic diseases and headaches.
The last stop of the TriBath is a final cold plunge. Research says you need about 11 minutes per week of intentional cold exposure, but we usually do about that much time in three sessions on a Saturday alone. After the TriBath with contrast hydrotherapy, we make our way to yoga taught by my friend, Jennifer, who I recorded a podcast with last year. I wrote about yoga in the article Savasana, which is one of my personal favorites. Our wives usually like to join us for yoga, and then we meet at Primo’s and have breakfast to reminisce about the day’s 3-hour ritual.
I am a man who, to use another baseball analogy, has rounded life’s second base. With so many more things I endeavor to do, as I reflect upon the anniversary of my first trip around the sun a half-century ago, I beseech you to find your own sanctuary for mental and physical rejuvenation. Do it in community. It may or may not add more years to your life, but I promise your own version of the multisensory experience of the TriBathathalon described in this writing is worth it.
Craig Robertson is the founder of Robertson + Easterling. For almost 25 years, he has practiced exclusively high net worth divorce and complicated family law in Mississippi. He sees his role as extending beyond legal guidance to encompass the support of clients through the intricate and challenging landscape of emotions that accompany divorce. He provides compassionate and empathetic assistance for those who need to navigate the path of healing.