Working up a good sweat in a sauna is a well-loved method for unwinding and decompressing, serving as an excellent complement to your exercise routine, whether you want to spend time in the sauna before or after workout. However, what’s the link between saunas and physical fitness, and when should you incorporate a sauna session into your exercise regimen? Continue reading to discover the answers.
Health Benefits of Using a Sauna
When you think about saunas, you might picture relaxation and cucumber slices on your eyes. But saunas offer many potential health benefits.
For thousands of years, people worldwide have used saunas as therapy. Sauna sessions raise your skin temperature, improving blood flow and circulation. They can also activate your body’s sympathetic nervous system, which reduces pain and makes you feel blissful.
Some people believe saunas can help with:
- Weight loss
- Skin rejuvenation
- Stress relief
- Better sleep, stress management, and relaxation
- Cardiovascular health
The top benefit of saunas is that the heat can relax and ease sore muscles, making it ideal for workout recovery. While warming up before exercise is crucial, saunas don’t replace stretching and can cause overheating before your workout begins.
How to Use a Sauna at the Gym
If you want to know how to use the sauna at the gym, there are some things you should remember to learn if using the sauna before your workout is best or post-workout is better.
In reality, the benefits of sauna bathing are available to you at any time, and while some individuals opt to kickstart their exercise routine with a sauna session to warm up their muscles, using the sauna post-workout, when you’re still somewhat dehydrated, might yield even more favorable results.
When you’re slightly dehydrated, your body’s blood volume decreases. Stepping into a sauna triggers your body’s response to the elevated temperature by diverting blood to your skin, facilitating sweat production and preventing overheating.
Given the finite amount of blood circulating in your system, reduced blood flow and oxygen reach your vital organs. This prompts your kidneys to boost the production of erythropoietin (EPO) and plasma volume, thereby enhancing your overall blood volume and, consequently, your performance.
How Long Should You Sit in a Sauna Before Workout?
If you prefer using the sauna before your workout, the appropriate duration for a pre-workout sauna session is contingent upon your level of familiarity with saunas.
For those new to sauna use, it’s advisable to keep your session brief, typically around 5 to 10 minutes. As you acclimate to the sauna environment and its heat, gradually extending your time to 15 to 20 minutes can be appropriate.
However, it’s crucial to exercise caution and adhere to these timeframes. Prolonged stays in the sauna beyond the recommended limits can lead to dehydration and overheating. Additionally, it’s imperative to stay attuned to your body’s responses to the heat; if you sense that you are becoming excessively overheated, it’s best to exit the sauna promptly.
How to Use the Sauna to Maximize Its Benefits
To get the best results, aim to use the sauna for seven days straight. On the first day, you might only manage 5 to 10 minutes, but by the seventh day, you should be able to stay in for 25 to 30 minutes, according to Sims.
For women, especially, it can be helpful to try a “heat primer” when getting used to the sauna. This is because women have different heat tolerance due to their hormonal cycles. Start with 5 to 10 minutes in the sauna, then take a 5-minute break, and finally, go back in for the remainder of your session, up to that 30-minute mark.
While you’re in the sauna, your heart rate will be high, around 140 beats per minute. So, it’s a good idea to plan less intense workouts for that week. Focus on recovery or endurance to avoid overtraining, says Sims.
Try to use the sauna within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. During this time, it’s best not to drink, except for your protein recovery drink. Some dehydration is important for the benefits of this technique, according to Sims. If you need to cool off, you can pour some water over your neck.
After your sauna session, take your time to rehydrate over two to three hours. Drinking a lot of fluid quickly after using the sauna can counteract its benefits on your kidneys. If you decide to shower, make it a warm one, or if you prefer a cold shower, wait at least 10 minutes. Rapid changes in temperature can make you feel lightheaded.
Some Sauna Etiquettes at the Gym
If you’re new to the sauna experience, it’s perfectly normal to feel uncertain about what to anticipate. To ensure that both you and fellow sauna-goers derive the maximum benefits from your sauna visit, here are some handy tips:
- Freshen Up: Before entering the sauna, it’s a good practice to rinse off any dirt, so you step into the sauna with a clean feeling.
- Mind the Space: Be conscious of the space you occupy in the sauna. If someone new arrives, ensure there’s enough room for everyone to sit comfortably without overcrowding.
- Appropriate Attire: In a gym sauna, it’s best to wear bathing attire rather than going au naturel. Sweaty gym clothes and shoes should also be left outside.
- Leave Electronics Behind: Avoid bringing electronic devices into the sauna, as the heat and humidity can be damaging to them.
- Maintain Quiet: Saunas are designed for relaxation, so try to keep noise levels to a minimum to preserve the tranquil atmosphere.
- Mind the Clock: To allow others to enjoy the gym sauna as well, try to limit your session to no more than 20 minutes.
- No Workouts: While it may seem obvious, the sauna is not the place for a workout. It’s not suitable for lifting weights or performing squats.
- Meditative Moments: Make the most of your sauna time by engaging in mindful meditation. If you’re uncertain how to begin, you can explore our meditation guide for assistance.
Sauna Before and After Workout for Excellent Results
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned sauna enthusiast, learn how to integrate this age-old practice into your fitness routine for maximum advantage. From relaxation and detoxification to enhanced performance and muscle recovery, saunas offer a multitude of advantages. Follow our expert tips on timing, session duration, and sauna etiquette to make the most of your experience. Elevate your fitness journey, promote well-being, and explore the transformative power of saunas today.