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Washington lawyers are as infamous for their marathon workdays as for the prominent clients they represent. Perhaps that’s why many of these professionals, when they crave an escape from the high-stakes maneuvering of the legal world, turn to spas. But even when hard-charging attorneys seek out relaxation in the soothing environment of a spa, they expect the same thing they aim to deliver to their demanding clients — rapid-fire results — so they can return to their overscheduled lives. The spas that cater to Washington’s executives are well aware of this and are working not just to bring in corporate clients but also to lure them into treating themselves to longer spa sessions, offering everything from traditional deep-tissue massages to holistic Eastern remedies such as acupuncture to body wraps with luxurious oils and champagne essence. As Caitlin Garrett, spa director at the Four Seasons Spa, points out, D.C. businesspeople, who make up about 70 percent of the spa’s clientele, come in for their appointments “with the weight of the world on their shoulders.” This is why it is critical for spa therapists to “show them that this is the place they can let their guard down, and you have to let your guard down — you can’t be [stressed] all the time; it’s just not healthy.” Indeed, the idea that the more time you put into relaxation, the more you get out of it is, well, stressed at Washington’s top spas. Spa director Penny Kriel of the Spa at Mandarin Oriental says the spa tries to educate guests about the benefits of taking more time for relaxing treatments in order to derive long-lasting results. Thus, clients are encouraged to arrive at least 45 minutes before their appointment to use relaxation facilities such as the “vitality pool,” which has hydrotherapy jets to help with muscle relaxation; the “experience shower,” with alternating hot and cold settings to aid circulation; and an ice fountain, a bowl of crushed ice that guests slather on their skin for an instant cooling effect after the steam room. And though busy professionals sometimes seem reluctant to devote too much time to spas, Kriel notes, “What I have seen is that when we give them the total time ritual and the whole experience, they do need that, and they tend to come back for it.” One executive, she recalls, wouldn’t veer from the one hour he allowed himself at the spa until finally he tried the full three hours. He hasn’t cut back from that since. THE MASCULINE EFFECT Actually, the sharp rise in male clients is one of the biggest trends spas are seeing, with men now comprising 40 percent of their business. Thanks to the ingenuity of cosmetics companies, which have introduced a plethora of products with more masculine, sportier designs, and the educating campaigns of men’s magazines, which now often preach about the mental- and physical-health benefits of massages and skin-exfoliating treatments, these relaxation retreats that were once a haven for high-maintenance women now attract men in droves. And spas have responded by designing separate relaxation rooms for men and women and reception areas and treatment rooms that look more unisex, as well as by creating their own lines of men’s skin-care products. As Heather Levy, spa director for Splash at the Sports Club/L.A. in the D.C. Ritz-Carlton, observes: “People are now becoming more aware that if they have a knot or tension, that you go to a spa. It’s for health and well-being, for your body and mind; it’s not something that’s just for pampering.” One overworked male attorney from Colorado agrees. A patent attorney at a large national firm, he runs off his stress by competing in triathlons. But it was his wife who “got me hooked” on another method of relaxation by treating him to his first massage. Now, he says, he’s a regular patron of the Spa at Mandarin Oriental, dropping in every couple of months for a sports massage when he’s in Washington on business. The attorney — who’s not quite relaxed enough to give out his name or that of his firm — notes that the cost in time pays off in serenity: “It just relaxes you, gives you a couple of hours where you don’t have to think about anything. It forces you to get away from your cell phone.” Splash emphasizes the importance of professionals taking extra time after their treatments instead of going straight back to the office. This is why guests are provided robes and slippers to wear in the relaxation rooms, where they can enjoy hot tea, water, and fruit, says Levy. As a tension buster, Splash offers the “De-stress Ocean Stone Massage and Body Cocoon,” which Levy says is “for people who are more stressed out — they want to relax; they need a lot of time to refocus.” The guest first unwinds with a cup of herbal tea and then selects the aromatherapy oil that best suits her needs, such as lavender to calm down or lemon grass to perk up. She then receives a body exfoliation and a hot-stone massage, which involves the therapist putting hot stones on the guest instead of kneading out her stress with his hands. Finally, the client is “cocooned” in an aloe-based gel and treated to a scalp massage while lying in it. For those with back pain, Levy recommends a Thai or shiatsu massage. “People hold a lot of tension in their upper back or in their lower back,” she observes. “Some people are sitting in their chairs all day.” In a Thai massage the therapist pulls a person’s arms and legs through rotations, strengthening the body and increasing flexibility. Acting as a battery recharger for the body is the shiatsu, meaning “finger pressure,” which is what the therapist applies to specific points along lines in the body. This Oriental technique, Levy says, releases energy in areas where it is blocked and restores energy to areas where it has been sapped. For a slightly different take on relaxation, the Four Seasons Spa offers the “Cherry Blossom Champagne Treatment.” The guest receives a body brushing to increase the blood circulation, then soaks in a tub for 20 minutes. Next he is treated to a body scrub infused with champagne essence and is slathered all over with champagne butter before being wrapped in a heated pad. After resting for a while, the client showers off and is rubbed down with lotion containing champagne essence. SHORT AND SWEET Although spas prefer that their corporate guests allot as much time for their spa sessions as for their business meetings, they do offer shorter sessions. The Four Seasons Spa has some that are as quick as 15 minutes for treatments such as the deep-tissue massage. And the Mandarin Oriental spa will provide spa breaks to executives who hold meetings at the hotel. Attorneys can unwind with a scalp or pressure-point massage or a group stretching session led by a spa therapist. The spa also allows business travelers staying at the hotel to take advantage of a new program called “A Taste of Spa,” which includes five 50-minute body treatments and an express manicure and pedicure. Speedy service is also a priority at Splash. One service that is particularly popular is the “Jet Lag Reviver,” a combination of a massage, a body wrap, and a facial. The package takes an hour and a half, as opposed to the normal two or three hours. The Sports Club/L.A., meanwhile, has a corporate membership program just for attorneys, which about 35 area firms have joined. Employees can work out at the health club for a reduced rate and receive a discount on spa services. The program provides on-site service, too, making therapists available to go to participating law firms’ offices once per quarter to give “lunch-and-learn seminars” on topics such as nutrition and how to stay fit while traveling for business. The Four Seasons Spa also caters to the corporate crowd with its “Energize Executive” package, which allows guests staying in the D.C. area for business to have their spa treatments built into their room rate at a discount. ALL WORK, NO PLAY But what is the biggest case spa directors make for why law professionals should take a brief break when they’ve got volumes to write before an imminent trial? “Mental well-being,” Levy insists. “You can get so wrapped up in a day that you’ve been working 10, 11 hours and you forget you’ve been working that whole time.” Kriel agrees: “We don’t have healthy diets; it’s all about getting the job done. But we need to have that healthy balance of getting it done but finding time for yourself, as well.” “When you do stop and relax, you realize, Wow, I was holding on to so much tension that didn’t need to be there, and you really do feel like a weight has been lifted off of you after you come into a spa,” Levy notes. And the aftereffects spa professionals see in their clients prove her point. Many professionals, she observes, “come in and they’re clenching their jaw or they have tight eyebrows. A lot of times you see people grinding teeth before treatment.” But as they prepare to leave, trading in their spa robes and slippers for suit jackets and wingtips, their countenance is radically different. “The client will come out from a massage and they’ll just have this kind of glazed look,” Levy says. “After the treatment it’s just a smile on their face; they’re very relaxed.”
Kim Ferraro is chief copy editor of Legal Times .

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