Former professional baseball player Ray Thoma sits down with Brian to discuss his motivation for getting into float therapy and why it is for you…
- Mindfulness and how it affects your performance.
- Why Ray got into float therapy.
- The answers to the biggest questions people have about float therapy.
- And much more…
WATCH this video on Steph Curry and Harrison Barnes and why they float.
READ this article on Tom Brady and why he floats.
If you take a full-marathon runner after he or she gets done, it takes about 4-5 full days to recover to have your body feel somewhat normal again or whatever normal is at that point. From floating you could actually feel normal by day three because floating helps them take and pull all the lactic acid through your body that’s built up from that long run or what you just did with the IRONMAN.
Cain: Hey, how are you doing? Brian Cain, your Peak Performance Coach here, with the Peak Performance Podcast. Our guest today, Ray Thoma, is a former professional baseball player and currently runs The Float Spot. Now if you’ve never floated before, imagine floating in a tank with no sound, no light, and you’re motionless for anywhere from 30 minutes to 120 minutes – and you come out and it’s the most refreshed and relaxed and recovered you’ve ever felt in your life. I’ve tried a lot of different recovery methods, from cryotherapy to massage therapy, and floating is the best in terms of coming out and feeling recovered and being recovered, and Ray is one of the leading authorities in floating as a part of recovery. Ray, thanks for joining the Peak Performance Podcast and educating me and our listeners to the benefits of floating. Thanks for being with us.
Thoma: You’re welcome, Brian. Thanks for having me.
Cain: Ray, could you kind of give our listeners sort of your career in a snapshot, from playing professional baseball, meeting Harvey Dorfman, getting introduced to the mental game, and then kind of your journey to The Float Spot?
Thoma: So I was drafted by the Oakland A’s. I was actually drafted by the Chicago White Sox out of high school and turned it down and went and played at Western Michigan University, then was signed by the Oakland A’s and played from 1982-1988. The last two years of my career I was traded to the Chicago Cubs. I always had in my mind that if it wasn’t fun anymore it was time to go on. It was going to be my decision, not somebody else’s.
When I retired in 1988, I had to join the real world again and that meant going back to school, starting a sales career. I was able to get my first job at Reebok selling footwear to Joe Girardi. But my career progressed.
I’ve always been on the health and wellness side, and I was running the national sales for the US for a company that was based in Sydney, Australia, and I was in a pub – and if anybody has ever been to Australia, the beer is significantly a little bit heavier there and a little bit stronger.
Cain: No surprise that you were in a pub. None of us are surprised that you were in the pub, and that’s where this story really begins.
Thoma: Well, no surprise that you even responded to that comment. But that’s neither here nor there. These two massive guys were sitting at the bar and all I kept hearing was the word “float.” The only thing that registered in my mind was, “are these guys possibly parade float builders?” That’s the only thing that would make sense. Or pool float builders. I started asking them some questions and they were two athletes that were part of the Australian Institute of Sport – AIS. AIS is an Australian entity that takes all the elite athletes in the country, trains them, educates them, houses them, sends them all across the world to compete.
Australians have always been known for having that little extra something – something that kind of sets them apart from people, but they never shared it. They started telling me about floatation therapy and they said that every member in the Australian Institute of Sport, it’s mandatory that they float for visualization techniques and accelerated muscle recovery. I thought that was the absolute coolest thing I had never heard of before.
I did about eight months of research and found out – sometimes when you start reading about things and it seems too good to be true, it usually is. The more I turned over information on floating, it not only was true but it was probably better than what they even explained. So I started traveling around the country going into different float centers and I started to realize that, especially from an athlete standpoint, the days when I was playing it was all about train hard, train hard, train hard, train hard and you’re going to get better. Well, sad but true – you can’t train the same bad things and expect to get better. Then all of a sudden it turned into what’s more efficient in performing, and that is how much more efficiently your body recovers in order for you to train harder and perform better.
What is coming out now – and that’s where floating comes into it – is this term called mindfulness. We have to be very mindful of ourselves. We have to clear our heads. As an athlete (especially in baseball), you know when you’re in the groove and you’re in that zone, that sweet spot – that ball coming at you looks like a beach ball. It doesn’t matter what it does, you know you’re going to be able to handle it. On the other side, when you’re not in that groove, it looks like an aspirin coming at you and it’s doing 15 things before it even gets to home plate. So it’s how do you get to the point of clearing your mind out?
Floating is probably the best thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. If you want to break it down into simple terms, as an athlete we – well, I’ll hold that. The great athletes think less and less. In floating you get into an environment that’s 300 gallons of water, 12 inches deep, with 1100 pounds of medical-grade Epsom salt. The water and the air are temperature regulated to be the exact same temperature as the surface of your skin. That’s what takes the sense of touch out of the equation. It’s always been known as “sensory deprivation” but in honesty, it’s all about sensory awareness.
We have lost the understanding of ourselves. We don’t spend time with just ourselves. We have cell phones with us, music all the time, TVs, computers; but being able to quiet your mind down has the most amazing effect on your body, because once you quiet your mind down you’re not hearing all that chatter and you can focus on what you want to focus on.
So from a mental standpoint, there is nothing I’ve found that’s greater than floating. From a physical standpoint, it’s not a teaspoon of sodium. It’s all magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is the most depleted mineral in our body but also it helps with taking inflammation out of joints. When you’re floating, you’re literally in a sense of weightlessness. You feel absolutely nothing on your body. You can stretch in ways you didn’t think humanly possible. Your entire muscle structure starts to relax, and once it relaxes, it starts to elongate again. You don’t get the constricted muscles that you do from working out. It’s the greatest recovery method.
If you take the analogy of – and you should know, Brian, from just doing the IRONMAN – if you take a full-marathon runner after he or she gets done, it takes about 4-5 full days to recover to have your body feel somewhat normal again or whatever normal is at that point. From floating you could actually feel normal by day three, because floating helps them take and pull all the lactic acid through your body that’s built up from that long run or what you just did with the IRONMAN. So from a mental standpoint it’s fantastic.
One of the things that I went and found, the equipment that we’re using right now (this is where the visualization side comes into it) – I ran into two attorneys in London that they were both litigators and they always had a hard time sleeping the night before a big court case. They put so much time and effort into preparing, so the adrenaline is building up – not unlike what athletes go through before a competition. They said what they would do is they would put all their legal briefs on a digital recorder the day before court, they would listen to it for a couple hours, they would go float. What happened is they not only slept great that night before but when they got into court the next day, they felt like there was a teleprompter in front of them, like they knew all the answers. They thought that if they were able to take all that external crap that’s around your head getting ready to go into court and just focus on what your job is, it made them better attorneys.
Once I heard something like that (because I don’t know a single attorney that is able to settle down) – I thought if floating did that for somebody like that, what could it even do for an athlete would be absolutely amazing.
This past year the Cubs got a float tank. They put it into their new facility. JJ Watt has a float tank in his home. Steph Curry floats. In fact, ESPN did a segment on him. So it’s started to become mainstream again.
Cain: Ray, what are some of the obstacles that you have experienced with people coming in or the first time they hear about floating? It’s kind of like anything else, right, that’s met from the four stages of acceptance where they go “well, that’s not for me” or “well, that might be okay for others” and then finally once they try it I think they’ll say, “I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this my whole life for recovery.” What are some of the resistances that you see people bringing to the table when you’re talking about floatation?
Thoma: Good question. When you start to explain everything that happens, a lot of times people will look at you like a deer in the headlights of a car from thinking “I’ve never heard of that before” or “why haven’t I heard that before?” “Oh, you mean I’m closed in?” No, you can actually lift the lid up or down. People that self-diagnose claustrophobia – it always ends up being about a control thing. It’s hard to in some ways comprehend that something that you literally do nothing in has that much of an impact on you mentally and physically.
So you have to tell the story. You have to share with people. They’ll listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast – who is a huge proponent of floating. They’ll hear this leach. The big thing is that people come in and say, “I want to float because I want to fall asleep, I have a hard time sleeping.” Not all the time will you sleep. You know that from yourself. Sometimes you’re tired, sometimes you’re not. It’s just about giving somebody the time to let go.
If there is a commonality, women probably have sometimes a little bit harder time of floating than men from the simple standpoint that women are the greatest multitaskers that walk this planet. Even when they say they’re doing nothing, they’re just doing less of something. So just to go into a float tank and do nothing and not think about all the other things in life that we have to do is sometimes a challenge. But I think with how yoga is exploding, more of the mindfulness businesses are opening up; floating is getting accepted a lot faster.
I mean, this has been around for 50 years. Think about this. In 50 years there are a little bit over 300 float businesses in the United States. It’s almost mind-boggling to think that there’s that little, but we’re at a point right now where in this generation, in this world with everything we’re faced with, we’re more overstimulated now than we ever have been our entire life. So when you hear about Steph Curry, why he floats, the travel schedule in the NBA, the pounding on your muscles, the demands from fans and everything else that goes on in your life, how do you get away from that mentally? Floating is what works.
JJ Watt found out the same thing. I’m not saying that the Cubs won a World Series because of a float tank because I don’t know how much they were using it or when they used it or who uses it, but I’ve got to think it’s had something to do with it because at some point we have to do something for what’s between our ears and not just us physically.
Cain: Well, you’ve got Steph Curry, NBA MVP. You’ve got JJ Watt, two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. JJ Watt also has been very vocal about the amount of sleep that he gets, between 9-10 hours of a sleep a night, which is not easy to do, but it takes making the decision for recovery and making the decision to take care of the million dollar Ferrari we’re all walking around in called the human body instead of thinking of recovery as a sacrifice. I think as athletes and as coaches or as the entrepreneurs and people listening to this podcast, they make themselves do the work. They make themselves wake up and work out. They’ve also got to let themselves relax. I think for all the listeners, getting a session inside of a float tank in 2017 (or whenever you’re listening to this), make that a priority.
Ray, what’s the best way for people to contact you if they’re in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to check out a Float Spot, and if they’re not in that area, what’s the other ways for them to do that from around the country?
Thoma: The best way if you’re in the Dallas area – we have two locations, one in Frisco and one in Flower Mound. The best way to find out the location that’s closest for you or more convenient is get on our website, and that’s www.TheFloatSpot.com.
Cain: So getting over to www.TheFloatSpot.com – and obviously when we put out this podcast, there will be some pictures of the big floatation tank that looks like an egg that you lie in and just let yourself recover and mentally dump and come back out almost as if you were born again. Ray, I appreciate you making time here to be a guest on the podcast. To shift gears for a second, though, before I let you go, talk a little bit about just the mental game and the importance of the mental game from a baseball standpoint, just with your experience as a player and then also your son who is a high-level player as well.
Thoma: You and I have talked about it and it was one of your mentors, Harvey Dorfman, who was the first mind performance coach in professional sports. He was hired by the Oakland A’s. He came to spring training and some people actually went up to him and said, “hey, can you help that guy over there?” and he was pointing to me. He came up to me and he said, “what seems to be your problem?” and I started just twitching. I said, “I have a hard time, I can’t control myself, I start twitching and it’s hard to bat when I twitch.” He just busted out laughing. We formed a little bit of a relationship and one thing he told me is probably something that’s easy to say and not always to do, but he said as a professional athlete, you have to have the absolute worst memory for the present and the greatest memory from the past. That’s something that he preached and sometimes that’s a lot easier to say than do. You can’t control what just happened at that moment but you have to educate yourself on how you responded.
It’s embarrassing to say but when he was traveling with us, it was in Double-A in Huntsville, Alabama, and that was with Canseco and Maguire and all of them. I was in a 0-55 slump. Anybody that has ever been in a slump before, 0-4 is bad enough. 0-55 – and it wasn’t 0-55 where nothing was happening. It was 90% of the time line shots, guys making great catches. One time I hit a line, got an out, next time up I hit a little dribbler and got a base hit and everybody – the umpires called time out, they gave me the ball because everybody knew what was going on, and I came back to dugout and Harvey looked at me and said, “you see, if you had just swung the bat like that, you wouldn’t have been 0-55.” I looked at him and I just busted out laughing because it was the stupidest thing in the world to say.
As athletes we take ourselves too seriously. We somehow along the way, sometimes lose the fact that we started to do this as a kid and had fun doing it – then it became serious, it became a job. I think when we start putting ourselves back in the mindset of being that child where you’re out to have fun, everything else just falls into place.
Cain: Awesome. Ray, I appreciate your insight into the mental game, into recovery, and The Float Spot. Everybody make sure you get over to www.TheFloatSpot.com and check out Ray and what he’s got going on. If you’re down in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, if you attend a seminar we’re doing down here or come down for a Total Immersion Experience, we’ll make sure we get you over there so you get to experience this. Ray, thanks again for your time. I appreciate you.
Thoma: Thanks, Brian. Have a great night. Thanks, everybody.
Cain: You too. Thank you.
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