Spa for the Course

PUBLISHED: 11:16 10 March 2008 | UPDATED: 15:03 20 February 2013

Relax and take it easy!

Relax and take it easy!

Linda Mitchelmore takes time out to get tranquil...

OK, here's the thing - somewhere between the gerbil, the dog, the kids, your mate, your mother, and your mother-in-law, you've all but forgotten your own name. You look in the mirror and an alien looks back; Brillo-pad hair, lacklustre eyes and skin; and your hands - well, gloves never should have gone out of fashion, should they? Your eyes slide down the mirror and it seems your clothes have shrunk. And that can't be the beginnings of a bunion, can it?

But you've ticked all the boxes, so what's to do, because Hari-Kari is beginning to have its appeal?

Never fear - help is on hand. And it's called a 'spa' - such a lovely, old-fashioned, gentrified word. A spa will put you back on track, and wherever you live in Wiltshire, there's a spa near you. Just about everything that can be done to a body is on offer - reflexology, Indian head massage, floatation pool, sauna, facial, manicure, pedicure, bodywrap, nutrition advice, body massage... to name but a few.

And this, dear reader, is where a little visualisation is required.

You pitch up at the spa (aka health and fitness studio, although spa sounds like more of a treat and less work on your part, doesn't it?) for your first visit. You are almost as anxious as you were on that first day of school. There's no need to be anxious, though, because all is calm and sweet-smelling within. That ubiquitous spa item - the waffle-cotton robe - is a great leveller. And it hides all chocolatey sins. No one will know whether you arrived by bus or Bentley.

So, where to start? The phrase is 'top to toe'. But there's another one - 'the only way is up'. Decisions, decisions.

Let's opt for the second choice and have a skin-softening foot treatment and pedicure. You'll be in footsie heaven within minutes. Some gentle reflexology could come next - rebalancing the imbalances in our bodies and our lives.

You're beginning to make relaxation into an art form when someone suggests the float tank: an hour of candlelit weightlessness with soothing music on the periphery of your hearing. Or you could go for the water-bed massage where jets of water ease your taut muscles without you having to move a single muscle yourself. Household chores and that showdown with the boss are confined to the past history section in your brain.

Time for a few lazy lengths of the pool - its temperature perfection. Maybe a short walk (tummy muscles held in, please) along the poolside to the Jacuzzi for a bit more muscle-moving thanks to cleverly aimed jets of water - hips, thighs, saddlebags this time.

Lots of heavenly-scented-freebies-in-the-shower later, and you're back in your womblike waffle-cotton robe, padding over to the manicure chair. They might look like instruments of torture spread out on a pristine white towel but, trust me, these manicurist girls work miracles; soften, trim, buff, polish, slick of nail colour. This bit isn't just for the girlies either - men's hands can be even more neglected despite the absence of dishwashing/vacuuming/dusting in their lives.

The same goes for facial cleansing, toning and moisturising too. An eyebrow shape anyone? Make-up? Only the very best products are used in spas and they glide over the skin under the expert care of the therapists.

Nearly done now, but perhaps there's time to fit in a massage because you-re fast losing your inhibitions and with just the teensiest bit of imagination you could believe you're not light years away from any supermodel or film star at this moment - certainly not the hunched, stressed-out person you were when you arrived.

Ah, massage. This is the bit where your shoulders at last come down from somewhere just underneath your earlobes. As limbs and torso are smoothed and rolled, you actually begin to feel taller and your waist reappears as if by magic. Afterwards, you glide - a shrine to poise - towards the hair salon. A simple wash and blow dry or the full Monty with highlights/lowlights/re-styling - the choice is yours.

All this being pampered can make a person hungry, and now you're looking good on the outside, it's time to think about the inside- 'you are what you eat' being today's catchphrase. Nutrition advice is on hand in many spas. A longer stay can have a reducing regime incorporated into the package. But the buffet table is a feast for the eyes and the stomach and it's all healthy, fresh food so just tuck in, I say. And to drink? Waters and juices of startling purity - and maybe even a glass of wine!

Spa, so the dictionary tells us, means 'a curative mineral spring, or place with such a spring'. But no one is going to make you drink the foul-smelling, sulphurous waters these days. Personally, I prefer to think spa stands for Superior Personal Attention. Give it a try - you won't argue with that.

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