SELF – April
If They Can Relax,
So Can You
These swimmers have only 100-odd
days left before the biggest test of their lives—the
Trials for the Sydney Olympic Games. SELF sent them to
Canyon Ranch for some 11th-hour
you think you're under pressure? Olympic-caliber swimmers spend up
to five hours a day underwater (for months on end) with only the
line on the bottom of the pool to keep them company. "These
women are a tough bunch," confirms Charlie Snyder, communications
director for USA Swimming in Colorado Springs, the sport's governing
body. "Fifty- and 100-meter races are fierce. Successful sprinters
go all out—there's no room for anything else."
Or is there? To find out, SELF asked five world-class and gold-medal
in the middle of the toughest year of their lives—to converge at the
Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Tucson for three blissful days. Between special
pedicure powwows (and two-hour pool workouts prescribed for them by their
anxious coaches), SELF got advice on keeping your muscles buff, mindset healthy
and body beautiful. Dive in.
The Comeback Queen
"Age is my confidence booster," says Dara Torres, who at age 33 is
the poster girl for "older" swimmers. She holds two gold Olympic medals
(1984 and 1992), one silver and one bronze (1988). After seven years in retirement,
Torres put her broadcasting job on hold and hopped back into the pool to train
full-time. She's amazing everybody: In 1999 she won a gold medal at the US Open
in the 50-meter freestyle, beating her best time ever, set when she was 18 years
old. She plans to be the first American woman to swim in four Olympic Games.
Fitness Secret Weapon: "Monday, Wednesday and Friday I
do an hour of Spinning, running or Tae-Bo, plus 90 minutes of weight
training. Then I swim for an hour and a half. On Tuesday, Thursday and
Saturday I swim for two hours in the morning and again in the afternoon."
Think-Tough Tricks: "I focus on getting myself psyched.
Right before a meet I get all hyped-up by listening to music—classic
rock from bands like the Doors, who were big before most of the girls
who are swimming now were even born!"
Alison Terry, 26 (right), captured a gold medal at the World University Games
last year and then set her sights on the Sydney trials, where she hopes to be the first
African-American swimmer to make the US Olympic team. (She comes from a biracial
family: Her mother is white, her father African-American and Native American.)
When she's not swimming, she's crusading in her hometown of San Diego, urging
urban communities to build more public pools where minorities can learn to
Fitness Secret Weapon: "I take a Spinning class twice a week
and it's really tough. Anything I do on land is really challenging! On
the two days I don't swim, I stretch, warm up on the bike, lift weights
and do crunches for an hour, then do 45 minutes on the treadmill or bike.
I also do yoga once a week."
Think-Tough Tricks: "I'm motivated by the people at the pool
where I practice. There are stroke victims, even a woman who is a quadruple
amputee. She uses arm flippers to swim, and it's amazing. We all have swimming
The Pool Partier
Melanie Valerio, 30, is one serious athlete. Her long legs (she's 6’3")
and unbelievable arms—she can put them around four people at once—helped
her win a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. But she's not such a serious person. "Swimmers
are used to being naked together," she laughs. "We all grew up
in swimsuits, so we're really free." Valerio spends most of her time
hanging out with her dog (a 130-pound Rottweiler named Gunner) and her boyfriend
(a 205-pound navy lieutenant commander named Lanny).
Fitness Secret Weapon: "I lift weights—and I really
like lifting heavy weights—and run three miles, four times a week.
I swim for two hours every day except Sunday. I also do tons of jumping—jumping
rope, jumping over boxes. It's a great way to build lower-body power."
Think-Tough Tricks: "I remind myself that there's more to
life than swimming. Like close friends and good times."
The Water Warrior
"Boy, you don't want to mess with Ashley Tappin," says Snyder. "She
can be very intense." He's right: At 25, Tappin exudes determination, which
is no accident: She's been swimming since she was nine, and can swim the length
of an Olympic pool in an astonishing 25.54 seconds. That speed earned her a gold
medal at the 1992 Olympics. Today she's back, after enduring a series of shoulder
injuries that kept her out of the ’96 Olympics and still give her a good
deal of pain. "Some days I couldn't take a shower or get dressed because
my shoulders were so sore," she says. "Sometimes I'd think, ‘I
don't want to do this anymore. I want to be normal; I want my body to heal.’ But
even when I was really young I thought I could go to the Olympics. My goal has
stopped being a physical thing and become mental."
Fitness Secret Weapon: "I train six or seven days a week:
strength-training drills an hour or two, four days a week. That could include
lifting free weights, jumping over boxes and doing crunches with a weighted
ball. Sundays, my days off, I run for a half hour."
Think-Tough Tricks: "Hard work isn't easy for anybody. When
I dive into a pool and it's freezing cold, I don't love it! But day in,
day out, this is my job, so it just wouldn't cut it so say, ‘I don't
feel like going to work today.’ At a meet, I think about how far
I've come. Then I settle down and find that fire within."
Liesl Kolbisen, 23, earned that nickname after winning two gold medals and
one bronze at the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships and three US national titles.
With her lean frame and buff biceps, she has a strong shot at gold in Sydney.
Fitness Secret Weapon: A typical day for Liesl includes a 20-minute
warm-up on the treadmill, an hour of strength training, an hour of swim
drills and a second, afternoon workout: 30 minutes of sit-ups and a 5,000-meter
Think-Tough Tricks: "When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I focus
on my breathing to keep calm. At a big meet, you can get tired out if you're
too worried. I also think about my future. I'm getting married this year,
and I know I'm going to be a wife and mother—I want 10 kids at least!—and
I'll move home to northern California to start teaching kids to swim. Not
the competitive things. Just the fun stuff."
Arms Can Be Yours
"This is a great routine to build your upper body," says Ashley Tappin
(left). She uses 30-pound dumbbells for the first two moves; mere mortals can
get results with five- or 10-pound weights.
1. Do two sets of 10 biceps curls. Stand and rest weights against your
upper thighs, palms out. As you curl up, focus on your biceps; lower
2. Do two sets of 10 shoulder presses. Stand, rest one weight on each
shoulder, then press them straight overhead. Lower slowly.
3. Do 10 sets of 10 back arches. Lie on your stomach, arms extended
in front of you, elbows slightly bent. Lift your head, shoulders, arms,
knees and feet a few inches; hold for a count of 10.
4. Do two sets of 10 pushups to work your chest, shoulders and arms.
Advice for Highly Active Gals
Planning to spend some time in the pool this summer? Save face (and
skin and hair) with this advice from women who make fending off wrinkles
and split ends an Olympic event:
Ashley: "Moisturize! When you're in the
water a lot, you can never have enough lotion around. Slap
it on after every shower."
Alison: "Wet your hair before you
put on your swimcap and work in some leave-in conditioner
(not regular conditioner—it makes your cap slide
off). This seals the cuticle so your hair doesn't soak
Liesl: "I brush my teeth
compulsively after I get out of the pool. Chlorine
can ruin your tooth enamel. I use Colgate Total—the
kind that kills everything. And use sunscreen—I
like Coppertone Water Babies, and buy it in huge
bottles to save money."
Dara: "Chlorine makes your
skin soft, but it dries it out. I use Bath & Body
Works lotion—it smells like cotton candy—every
time I get out of the shower. And I also love Kiehl's
Facial Moisturizer With Sunscreen."
keep your nails from splitting,
always keep them polished.
I do mine myself, with light
colors on my fingers and MAC
Blackout on my toes. My man
How'd She Get Those Abs?
Okay, it's not just laps in the pool, says Dara Torres (left),
who was the first real female athlete to be featured in the Sports
Illustrated swimsuit issue. Here are her instructions for Abs Ladder
Sets, which she does three times weekly (but be warned: they're
not easy). "I've always been obsessed with keeping my abs
in shape," says Torres. It shows.
1. Crunch Up. Lie on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor. Press
your lower back into the floor. Place your hands lightly behind your
head and raise your torso all the way up to your thighs, then lower
it slowly. Torres does three sets of 40; start with two sets of eight
2. Crunch Up Again, this time lifting your knees up so they're at
a right angle to the floor and crunching up to meet them. Again,
Torres does three sets of 40; you can try two sets of eight to 12.
3. Keep Crunching. Straighten your knees and extend your legs so
you're in a V. Do one set of eight to 12 reps. Repeat one more set
of step one, another set of step two, and then finish with one more
set of step one.
Get a leg up on two breakthrough devices that just might be the dimple-erasers
we've all been waiting for
all the beauty banes, cellulite has got to be one of the most universal.
The despicable dimples can be seen on athletes, women who eat great
diets and those who are in very good shape, says Stephen Bloch, M.D.,
surgeon in Highland Park, Ill. "They are doing all the right things—yet
they have cellulite." Until very recently, banishing the bumps
for good was just a pipe dream. Although exercise and weight loss do
they are by no means a cure-all. The problem is that cellulite (fat
deposits) settles just under the skin between connective tissue fibers.
deposits enlarge, they push the skin out, forcing the underlying fibers
to pull down. The result: that awful overstuffed-chair look. So even
if your body-fat percentage is low, the fat you do have may nevertheless
settle right beneath your skin.
Unfortunately, bad luck isn't the only thing working against you. Cellulite
is genetic. Even if your mother's thighs are as smooth as Michelle Pfeiffer's,
you may still get cellulite because an ancestor carried the gene. Then
there's aging, which can cause the connective fibers in the skin to loosen,
exacerbating the problem.
The light in all this darkness is that our impossible dream may have
come true: In the past year, the FDA has given two devices the green
light, allowing manufacturers to say that the products "reduce the
parents of cellulite"— a fairly lightweight yet significant
endorsement. It represents the first time the government has allowed
any anti-cellulite treatment to make claims about efficacy. The machines—Endermologie,
which is made by a company called LPG USA in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and
SoftLight, from ESC Medical Systems in Bothell, Washington—deeply
massage the flesh and may temporarily rearrange fat tissue to make
Until the development of these devices, women have been deluged with
special diets, lotions and massage mitts that look vaguely medieval and
require such vigorous application that they probably do more to tone
your upper arms then your thighs. What's worse, none have had a real
effect, says Hubert Greenway, Jr., M.D., chairman of dermatology and cutaneous
surgery and director of the skin and cosmetic surgery center at Scripps
Clinic in La Jolla, California. And though spa-style wraps and scrubs
might slough the skin or temporarily plump it, they produce very short-term,
mild effects, he says.
Even liposuction is ineffective. In fact, it can actually make cellulite
look worse. "Liposuction decreases volume, but it doesn't touch
the fat that lies directly under the skin," says Harold J. Milstein,
M.D., a dermatologist with the Dermatology Center in Philadelphia. Liposculpture,
a slightly more precise operation in which fat is rearranged with a smaller
instrument, has somewhat better results. But it still carries the downsides—and
the risks—of any operation.
One of the selling points of the new treatments is that they are noninvasive,
says Dr. Milstein. They work essentially the same way: A patient lies
on a table while a technician moves and hand-held device over cellulite-ridden
areas in the thighs, hips or abdomen. (Although the procedure must
be done under a doctor's supervision, a trained technician can do it.)
of the new devices incorporate a series of rollers that draw skin into
the openings between them, alternately kneading the tissue and administering
a vacuum pull. The treatment feels like a deep-tissue massage, similar
to shiatsu, and each device has multiple settings, which range from
relaxing to downright
painful, says Dr. Milstein. Traditional massage isn't as effective,
because the movement of tissue isn't as uniform, and a masseuse may
find it difficult
to push and pull at the same time.
Endermologie and SilkLight appear to reduce cellulite in several ways.
They increase circulation to the area, which helps flush fluids from
the surrounding membranes. They also rearrange the fat cells, either
by pushing them into another spot or by stretching the connective fibers
to allow the pillows of fat to settle into a smoother pattern. The
machines may also stimulate the formation of collagen, which could
help fill in
gaps and plump up the skin. "In truth, we don't know exactly how
it works," Dr. Milstein says. "But it does work."
Still, even the biggest proponents of the technology admit that it
won't work on everyone. Plus, there's no way to know if and when you'll
results. Dr. Bloch estimates that 70 percent of the patients he treats
have noticeable benefits. Among those women, a smaller group will see "absolutely
dramatic" improvements. And in a limited 1998 study of Endermologie
patients, which appeared in Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, women who completed
14 sessions were able to reduce their body circumference by at least
"I had horrible cellulite ever since college," says Fern Felsenheld,
32, an advertising account supervisor in Livingston, New Jersey. "I'm
not overweight, and I exercise almost every day." After three
months of SilkLight treatments, Felsenheld says her cellulite is almost
gone. "It's not a hoax, " she says. "It really works
and my husband and friends all noticed. It's definitely worth the money." (To
find a practitioner in your area, call 800-22-3911 for Endermologie; for SilkLight,
Speaking of cost, this silver bullet comes with a big price tag. The
initial treatments, which will stretch over two months, cost about
$1,500. After that, you can look forward to once-a-month follow-ups,
cost about $100 each. And if you really want the results to last, you
may have to continue indefinitely, says Joel Lamm, M.D., Director of
the Dermatology Center of Long Island in Hicksville, New York. "This
is really a temporary reduction," he says. "To keep it, you'll
have to commit to regular maintenance." Beyond this, the program
also demands that you stick with the other components of healthy fat-management:
Eat a good diet, exercise regularly and drink lots of water, which
helps keep the fluid that's released from the fat cells moving out
The perfect patient is someone who is at or close to her ideal weight. "You
also have to have a reasonable expectation of what you're going to look
like," says Dr. Lamm. "If you're 40 and you want an 18-year-old's
body, or if you're 30 pounds overweight and you want to drop two dress
sizes without going on a diet, it's not going to happen." But
if you want a way to get rid of cellulite that fits in with an existing
strategy of sensible eating and exercise, this might just be the miracle
you been waiting for.
Day Spa 101: A Beginner's Guide
Uninitiated in the arts of seaweed and salt scrubs? Here's our no-nonsense
you don't consider yourself the spa type: You get up well before noon,
spend your days in an office instead of the mall, and think pampering
it means a shower that lasts longer than three minutes. But lately, even
at the most un-spa-like of folks are getting a taste of the spa experience,
thanks to the proliferation of day spas. These sell on like outposts
and-where you can partakes of typical spa treatments by appointment,
as opposed to
signing on for several days and traveling to in remote resort — are
now springing up in most urban areas. These spots are making it easier
for people with stopwatch schedules and conservative cash flows to find
relief for muscle (and mental) is tension, take better care of their
skin, and get an all-around recharged.
For those and not versed in spa-speak, though, the treatment menu at
many day spas can be baffling. The typical entrees go far beyond ordinary
pedicures, facials, and massages. And even some of those old standbys
have been gussied up with new techniques and products. Your best choice,
Marcia Kilgore, owner of Bliss Spa in New York City, is something you
couldn't, or wouldn't, do at home. "If you really want to relax
your body, see a professional who's got the training and the materials
to do it right," she
says. (For tips on how to find a reputable days spa, see "What to
Know Before you Go.")
Some treatments, though, promise to deliver more than they're able: younger
skin, a slimmer figure, a "detoxified" body. Here's a rundown
of what—and what not—to expect from today's day spa offerings,
with insider tips for getting your money's worth.
Because they're focused on deep-cleaning your skin and restoring its natural
balance, facials can't be can be great maintenance tools. They're also
good for special occasions when you really want to shine. Most facials
remove surface roughness and increase circulation, giving your skin a certain
glow. However, you should schedule your facial a day or so before a big
event, to allow any pinkness or puffiness to subside.
The no-frills facial includes cleansing, moisturizing, and sometimes
steam and extraction (in which an aesthetician manually removes debris
pores). Speak up if this gets painful. Although these things can improve
your skin's texture, don't expect to emerge with invisible pores, says
Harold J. Milstein, M.D., a Philadelphia-area dermatologist and a spokesman
for the American Academy of Dermatology. "These types of facials
do make pores a look better, but they don't change their size."
An aromatherapy facial incorporates oils from flowers and other plants
that promise to aid troubled skin. Herbs such as rosemary and lavender
have been used in traditional medicine for generations, although clinical
trials in the United States are rare (essential oils are more commonly
used in European medicine than they are here). But even skeptics agree
that they smell wonderful, have relaxing benefits, and won't hurt your
skin if used properly.
Glycolic acid facials, which used acids from fruit,
exfoliate without scrubbing and can leave your skin looking and feeling
promise to " erase" signs
of aging. That's an overstatement. Exfoliation removes dead surface cells,
so it may lessen tiny wrinkles, superficial scars, and acne, but not
in a dramatic way, Milstein says. Also, those treatments can be harsh,
on sensitive skin. Be sure to ask your spa professional to start you
out with a mild solution.
Oxygen-enhanced facials are particularly popular now.
Some treatments used lotions with hydrogen peroxide, which bubbles when
it hits your
use real oxygen, sprayed a fine mist directly onto your face to create
a cooling, tingling sensation. The claim that oxygen may help prepare
skin damage and therefore make it appear smoother does have some scientific
basis, Milstein says. "That extra oxygen and supplements the oxygen
supply to the stand by the blood, so there's a synergistic effect," he
Most body treatments relieve tension and increase superficial blood flow,
which (at least temporarily) can translate into better-looking skin and
improved posture and flexibility, plus a feeling of calm and release. "You
should feel completely relaxed and renewed," Kilgore says.
Some body treatments are billed as " detoxifying," but don't
buy it, Milstein says. The purifying effects, even from those designed
to make you sweat, are minimal. If you think a detoxifying treatment sounds
relaxing, though, you're right. So go ahead — that's as good reason
as any to get pampered.
Massages come in several varieties. If you're chronically
stiff, try stimulating shiatsu, in which a therapist pushes various pressure
points to release
tension. If you're feeling stressed-out and over-stimulated, you may
prefer the classic kneading-and-stroking Swedish massage. If you're an
a deep-tissue or neuromuscular massage can loosen up your muscles to
increase your mobility and decrease soreness. And for the perfect noontime
spa escape, indulge in reflexology, a type
of massage therapy that focuses on pressure points in the feet. " Your
feet affect your entire body, so you walk out feeling rejuvenated," says
Stephanie Matolyak, a spokeswoman for Spa-Finders, a New York City-based
group that represents spas across the country.
Total-body scrubs employ just about any type of grit—and the hands
of a technician—to exfoliate your skin. A popular option is the
salt scrub, also known as a salt glow, in which a technician wets your
skin, then rubs you all over with a paste of course salt and water or
oil. It's a stimulating experience that will leave you feeling buffed
Packs and wraps are less-abrasive options and may be
more attractive to sensitive-skin types. In a mud pack, you're painted
all over with
mud and allowed to dry. After it's rubbed away, it leaves your skin feeling
softer, smoother, and tighter. For more relaxation, try an herbal or
seaweed wrap, in which you're encased, mummy-style, in strips of fabric
been soaked in a plankton-and-water solution. It's both hydrating and
mildly exfoliating, so it will smooth and plump up your skin. It can
cellulite—temporarily, at least. Don't expect permanent or profound
changes, and don't be fooled into thinking that mud or plant matter will
infuse your skin with vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients. "The
molecules are just too big to pass through the skin," Milstein explains.
Hydrotherapy runs the gamut from de-stressing to distressing.
At the one end, you may choose an underwater massage in a Jacuzzi-type
shower, in which you lie on a table under a series of gentle spray jets.
At the other end of the spectrum are high-pressure firehose-like treatments,
such as the Scotch hose, which alternates blasts of hot and cold water.
Before you sign up for a treatment, make sure you stress the fact your
looking for: relaxing or energizing. "A good spa service can lead
you're wearing to go or ready for a nap," Kilgore says.
What to Know Before You Go
Selecting a spa. Ask
friends for recommendations, or call Spa-Finders (888-255-7727) to
order a worldwide day spa directory. Licensing requirements for aestheticians
and massage therapists vary from state to state; ask the receptionist
if all staff members are accredited.
Treatment for the timid. If you're intimidated by full-body treatments,
go for reflexology, a manicure, or a pedicure, says Kristin Trombino,
a spokeswoman for Key Lime Pie Wellness spa in Atlanta. They're very
soothing, don't require you to remove any clothing (except your shoes),
and are relaxing enough to bring you back for more.
What to wear. Spas typically provide slippers and a robe. If you're
shy, it's OK to wear panties for a massage or a bathing suit for
a hydrotherapy treatment. You may also want to bring a hairbrush
or hat if you're getting a massage or facial, as both could leave
your hair flat or oily.
Insiders' advice. Skip the shaving if you have a body scrub scheduled
for later in the day, says Marcia Kilgore of Bliss Spa in New York
City. And drink lots of water before and after you get a massage
or steam treatment to replace the fluid you lose through sweating.
How to budget. Plan to pay $60 and up for a basic massage or facial
and $100-plus for more elaborate body treatments. Manicures typically
cost $30 and up. Ask about package deals, which can save you some