Now I realize that this step may just be the hardest sell of all. That’s alright: it’s also the most important. Well, perhaps I don’t mean most important. If one doesn’t hydrate properly, after all, nothing else will help. What I mean, I think, is that the four mile run is the most transformative. This will be the definitive exorcism of your hangover, the death blow. Everything after this will be victorious denouement.
I won’t go into great detail here about all the ways in which running transforms your state, as I’ve already waxed rhapsodic on the subject here. I’ve said it before, but just to recap, running is magic. And if you really intend to vanquish your hangover for good and all, you’ll need precisely this magic. So don’t just sit there in your pit of suffering and regret, even if it may feel it more fitting. Don’t listen to the lingering spectres of self-flagellation. Get up, and transform your world.
Prepare your ritual objects: lace up the shoes, paint your face and limbs with the ceremonial sunscreen. (I recommend the zinc-based stuff to avoid overheating, as it reflects instead of absorbing key elements of the brutal sun’s rays). And then dance your way through the binary choreography, the paean of restoration, measured out by the accelerating metronome of your own two feet striking the earth, and launching it, ever so slightly away from you and behind you, till it falls back to balance on the ball of your next foot. At the end of this corridor, this succession of footfalls and moments, you will emerge, transformed.
Now, some of you are surely expert distance runners, for whom tossing off a four miler requires little more effort than thought. But I know that others are probably thinking at this very moment, “I wouldn’t be caught running four miles while in a state of perfect vigor and cheer, let alone while hungover.” You might be saying, as a friend once said to me, “if you ever see me running, call the police.”
It’s been well noted that no pastime or exercise, however tedious or cruel, has so many passionate opponents as does running; probably not even attending elementary school piccolo recitals, solving differential equations, or cow-tipping (unless one counts the cows, which one really ought to). For a hilarious and insightful exploration of this mystery, by the way, check out the new green podcast ”Running Sucks.”
It has also been observed, though, that those who overcome the considerable hurdle of acquiring a love for running often end up with an equally passionate ardor for the experience. For evidence, witness my own ecstatic ramblings.
However, if you’ve never been willing to undertake so much as a couch to 5k, and if the thought of a mere jog around the block fills you with waves of ennui and dread, I don’t expect that you’ll be persuaded to try it while convalescing after an evening spent “in all nature’s embrace”(1). If this describes your state, fear not. There are a few other exercises that will offer similar, though I would argue, lesser, relief. A good hard swim may be its equal, although in my experience, the benefits are achieved more slowly, as it is typically a less intense exercise. It may just be too easy to move in water. Then again, maybe that’s what your predisposition wants today.
I’m not sure how much is physical and how much psychological, but there is something truly regenerative about passing through the water. As I’ve said before, the baptism trope, whether as religious ceremony or convention of cinema, or as personal care, works for a reason, and I’d like to put my finger on exactly why. I’m sure it has something to do with our physical makeup, and reliance on the stuff, but perhaps also with the origins of our species, which would make sense if there really is some sort of atavistic or genetic “memory” in operation (another can of worms for another fishing trip). Beyond this, I personally suspect it relates to the overall spatial/sensory nature of consciousness and memory, as observed in the “doorway effect.”
For a modern celebration of water’s vital mythic status, enjoy this.
A note of caution: by no means should you attempt step 4 if you find yourself still even slightly dizzy or nauseous or dehydrated. Steps 1 through 3 have been designed to pry you out of such unhappy states, and hopefully, they have succeeded in doing so. As in all ailments though, some cases are far more serious than others. If you haven’t yet escaped these tiers of the spiral of recovery, please return to the more cautious, gentle methods. Continue to hydrate, rest, and generally coddle yourself until something resembling a steady picture begins to emerge.
Why four? Your mileage may vary (literally), but I find there’s something conclusive about four miles. More may be better, but fewer definitely leaves me wanting. Maybe it’s a full flush of the old fluids, a reset on some part of the endocrine system, or perhaps it’s merely the watershed moment of having achieved adequate endorphin saturation. For whatever reason, I find the difference palpable. How about you?
Up Next, Step 5: Comida Mas Rico!
(or return to Step 3).