As a child gymnast one motto was drummed/stretched/press-upped into me over and over again: “No pain no gain”.
Even preparing for a gymnastics class the words were there. “You have to suffer for beauty,” my mum would warn, tugging my unwilling hair into an untidy French plait. “Now hold STILL!”
I gave up gymnastics (and my mum stopped plaiting my hair) in my late teens but the saying played in the background as I struggled to get decent grades, to get into a decent university. At the decent university, even though I partied hard, I still clung to the phrase, pulling all-nighters every week in an effort to get the essays done on time (often literally five minutes before the 9am deadline – then I’d go straight to bed).
A similar situation continued throughout my careers in advertising (gotta put in those painful hours to please the clients) and then journalism (gotta put in those painful hours to please the editor).
And then there was childbirth, the ultimate no-pain-no-gainer (epidurals/caesarians notwithstanding). When the midwife says you’re too late for proper painkillers and it’s time to PUSH THAT BABY OUT, you don’t say, “actually, I have a feeling this might hurt a lot, so forget the baby; let’s just go for coffee.” No – you PUSH and you scream and it hurts like nothing else on earth and then you suddenly have your very own BABY and it’s all worth it, because, as I’ve learned over and over again: no pain no gain (except for haemmorrhoids; only pain).
This compressed life story explains why, whenever I go for a massage and I'm asked what pressure I'd like, I feel compelled to choose 'hard'. Because if it doesn’t hurt, how can it help?
But this week, something changes. This week, I go to the quite wonderful Fletcher’s Cottage spa in Archerfield, East Lothian (40 minutes drive from Edinburgh, by the sea) AKA Scotland's best spa, to experience their Sisley Spa Day. Settled in a squishy armchair, compulsory cloud-like slippers on my feet, delicious fruit smoothie in hand, I'm handed a form to fill out. But when the massage pressure question arises, I find myself choosing ‘medium’ for the first time ever. Why? I guess it’s the stressful culmination of:
- spending two weeks looking after the kids solo over the Easter holidays (Pink House Husband was holidaying – ahem, I mean saving the world – in the USA)
- spending the past few months harbouring an unidentifiable and rather nasty rash (turns out it’s psoriasis brought on by strep throat, for anyone following #rashgate on Instagram)
- attempting to sell a house in Edinburgh and buy a house in London
- running my own business
From then on it’s a slippery slope to unearned happiness, which starts with an hour or so of lounging around in the heat treatment area. In the heavenly steam room, due to the clouds of steam and celestial music, I believe myself actually at the gates of St Peter’s (sadly, due to an unfortunate hamster-related incident when I was 11 years old, this is patently impossible). And then I glide into the empty sauna, with its view of the walled garden. In between getting happily (but not uncomfortably) hot, I treat myself to sparkling water (in my mouth) and rain shower (on my skin), although I avoid using the ice provided for a rub down – too much pain for my new-found liking.
Then it’s an hour or so of catching up on the Sunday papers (by which I mean reading the supplements, obviously – I don’t need Trump intruding on my chilled-out state) before the actual 1hr 45min-long Sisley treatment begins.
Don’t know about you, but I find reading (and, truth be told, writing) descriptions of spa treatments intensely dull. Suffice it to say, therefore, that:
- It involves a full body massage
- And a facial
- Both of which are wondrously relaxing
- I fall asleep 3 times
- I drool 2 times
- I say, truthfully, ‘yes, that pressure is perfect’ 1 time
- It's not painful
- It's bloody lovely
Treatment over, I drift back to my sofa by the window. As I take in my rustic-luxe surroundings, appreciate the crackle of the fire and gaze over the pretty garden, afternoon tea arrives, complete with cakes, scones and crust-free sandwiches (the only sandwiches I will ever eat – and no, this habit doesn’t fit with my newly-abandoned "no pain no gain" motto, though let it be known I do force myself to eat yellow Fruit Pastilles before smugly imbibing the far superior black ones). I devour the lot. After some more lounging, gazing and reading, it is finally time to go home and manage my menagerie of small boys. But I’m ready for them now.
We’ve established that throughout my spa day no pain was experienced. So what – if anything – have I gained? Oh so much: my body feels more relaxed, my face feels fresher and more bouncy (yes this is a thing your face can feel), my mind feels lighter and calmer. And most importantly? I’ve gained the knowledge that sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself - and your family - is give yourself a break.
The Sisley Spa Day costs £195 and includes a 1hr45min Sisley face and body treatment, use of the spa facilities, and afternoon tea. Click HERE for more info on Fletcher's Cottage spa; to make a booking call 01620 897 580 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Fletcher’s Cottage at Archerfield for inviting me to experience the Sisley Spa Day. As always, all opinions are my own. If you have a hotel or spa you'd like me to review, get in touch at email@example.com