Guidance From Gary (Float Spa Owner)
Guidance from Gary
CrossFitter and Float Spa Owner
After my 5-days of floating,
I chatted with float spa owner, Gary Hirthler. Originally from Massachusetts, Gary moved out to California and received his B.S. in Kinesiology from San Francisco State University. Since then, Gary has worked in the health and fitness industry, and co-owns CrossFit Santa Cruz Central. With a desire to help people reach their full potential, Gary has worked with professional athletes, beginner crossfitters, and everyone in between. Now that Gary has added Float Spas to his arsenal, he not only helps with physical fitness, but with spiritual, mental, and emotional wellness as well.
Check out our chat below:
How did you get involved with float tanks to begin with? What sparked your interest?
“There was a series of events that led us to consider a float center, but simply, Joe Rogan’s podcast was where we first heard about floating. The benefits he described were very intriguing.”
How many hours of floating do you have under your belt?
“It's hard to say. Since opening about 8 months ago, I've probably floated on average 2-3 times a week. Generally 90 minutes [at a time]. Probably around 80 floats, maybe more. So that would be around 120 hours.”
What’s a common response to floating from first time floaters?
“You know we seem to always have super positive responses. One that comes to mind that people often report after their first float is becoming aware of where tension is being held. The body has an opportunity to completely let go, but if you've conditioned yourself to "hold on" in certain areas, it will be clear where that is while you float. Definitely an eye-opener for people.”
How many “first time floaters” become repeat floaters?
“Another good question, I wish I had a more exact answer too. Our goal is to have everyone float at least three times. Like most things, it takes a few times to really get a feel for it and truly understand what floating is. It took me 5 floats before I started to get it. That being said, I'd say most people come back, while at the same time there are a lot of people that just come once.”
What’s the most profound experience you’ve had while floating?
“I absolutely love the feeling of floating. You can get into these beautifully still spaces where everything, even your mind, is fully in the moment without any want or need for anything else— complete peace. Specifically, and this has happened a handful of times, you can get into these hyper-creative spaces where concepts and ideas come to you with immense clarity. It's like a full body "aha! moment." You see an idea and exactly the steps you need to take to manifest it. Your mind can feel so free, skillful and capable where seemingly any problem in your life can be solved.”
‘You can get into these beautifully still spaces where everything, even your mind, is fully in the moment without any want or need for anything else— complete peace.’
How has floating helped you outside of the tank (i.e. in training, in business, in life)?
“The true reason I am in this whole game is for the effects [floating] has afterwards. The float world says that if you ever get, or have, full access to a tank, float 14 days in a row. I decided to do that when we got our tanks and the effects went beyond my wildest dreams. I suffered from debilitating anxiety and depression from about the time I was 19 [until I was] 30 years old. So, I have a good idea what it means to be anxious and depressed. I've also spent the past 7 years exploring different spiritual paths including plant medicines, which have given me glimpses of beauty beyond my wildest dreams. But, the most profound thing I think I can report is how floating in salt water for 60 to 90 minutes on a regular basis can completely shift your reality. Floating every day for 14 days completely changed what the world "looked" like to me. I felt like my perception of the world was much lighter, more pleasant, and so much more peaceful. Things that would normally agitate me, or give me anxiety had little to no effect now. My level of happiness and gratitude went through the roof during this time. I was blown away and deeply encouraged that what we were doing with Sage would profoundly help our community.
For the science folks out there, that are interested in the research, check out this YouTube video. The video is a talk by Justin Feinstein at the 2016 The Float Conference. Dr. Feinstein is a clinical Neuropsychologist at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) who mainly studies anxiety. He has two float tanks in his laboratory!”
What’s the recovery benefit from floating (i.e. CrossFit athletes)?
“Really good question, and it's actually pretty simple. We rely on our autonomic (involuntary) nervous system to function. There are two sides of this system - sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest). Exercise and training is very much in the sympathetic nervous system. You train to stress your nervous system (among other things), so that it will adapt into a more capable entity. How do you most effectively adapt from your training? You find ways to put your body in more of the parasympathetic nervous system, to tip the scale. Sleep, being in nature, meditation, community, good nutrition are all examples of ways to access the parasympathetic nervous system. But more than any other method, floating is second to none when it comes to being in the parasympathetic nervous system. In a sensory reduced environment, like floating, there is nothing for your nervous system to do or respond to - there is absolutely no stress - not even a sensation of gravity! So, what does it do? It does what it was made to do when it is not being asked to do anything; it regenerates your body and nervous system. Floating is the most effective and natural way to access your bodies inherent recovery tools. We have the power to heal, we just need to put ourselves in the places that allow our bodies to work their magic.”