Athlete Recovery aka Liquid Recovery
Posted by Dean Karnazes on Mar 22nd 2022
My parents used to think I was part fish. My mom sometimes checked behind my ears for gills. Growing up in Southern California, I spent more time in the water than on dry land. A day without surfing was sacrilege. My friends and I were surf disciples; we lived in the waves, all day, every day. So when my dad offered to get me a waterbed I was stoked. Cowabunga baby!
I found sleeping on an ethereal liquid medium far more natural than box springs. It was glorious. I remember waking up in the middle of the night thinking I was seaborne (though that could have been the mushrooms, come to think of it). Whatever, dude. I slept like a baby. A baby otter that is, floating atop a watery surface.
In the summer, I was a hot baby otter. The bed got warm. In winter month I was more like a furless penguin naked against the elements. Truthfully, I can’t remember if my first waterbed had a heater. If it did, I didn’t know how to use it. During the winter months I slept in puffy down jackets to thwart off hypothermia, swaddling myself like an Eskimo.
Despite the challenges, I still preferred sleeping on liquid versus a traditional mattress. Even as a teenager I could discern the difference. I loved my waterbed.
Unfortunately, my first-year college dormitory warden (AKA: Ms. Negatron) wasn’t so cool with the idea of me setting up a waterbed in my cell – err, my room. She would have none of it. So my slumbering seafaring days came to an end.
Flash forward a couple decades: I’ve traded my surfboard for running shoes. Both sports have their necessary roughness, but running is a lot less forgiving. Still, I love the sport. And it helps keep me sane (suffering brings salvation).
The challenge for me as a runner, especially as the years go by, is preserving myself. How do I last? I’ve reconstructed my lifestyle to optimize health and fitness. This has involved dietary changes, the incorporation of more cross-training, workplace adaptations—such as a standing desk—and, of course, quality sleep. The importance of quality sleep for recovery and optimal performance cannot be overstated.
I’ve followed all of the practical recommendations for getting a good nights rest—making sure the room is dark and quiet, avoiding screens before bedtime, sticking to a routine, etc… But one area that has always vexed me is finding the right mattress. It seems no matter how much cushioning there are inevitably pressure points. And then there’s the issue of temperature regulation. The night following a hard workout or big race, it seemed impossible to keep my body cool, and this inevitably results in lesser quality sleep.
So when I learned of the rebirth of waterbeds, I was intrigued by the possibilities. And now that I’ve been sleeping on one for the past month, I can honestly say I’m impressed. Waterbed technology has come a long way since the unwieldy days of my youth. Gone is the sloshing and undulation. Everything’s been reengineered to steady the ship. And temperature is regulated using a digital control for precision. And pressure points? Forget about it, there are none. That’s part of the beauty of sleeping on water.
I’m not sure what happened during the dark days when the waterbed went away, but I’m sure grateful for its second coming. The foghorn in San Francisco used to keep me up at night, now it’s my lullaby.
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Dean Karnazes is CEO (Chief Exercise Officer) of Afloat Sleep