I’ve used the sauna to stay in shape when I was injured, but now it’s apart of my training. The clickbait title sounds too good to be true? Well, Kinda, Sorta, you’re still going to suffer, like most things in life, what's good for you comes with a little bit of suffering. If you are unfamiliar with saunas and sauna bathing, it is a form of thermotherapy that has been around for thousands of years in many parts of the world. There are many uses of the sauna but we are going to focus on sports recovery and performance training, in the hopes of getting faster, stronger, and even a little lighter.
The type of sauna we will be using is the Finnish style ones you see at most gyms. Most of the scientific studies to date generally involve short exposures of 5−20 minutes at temperatures of 80°C–100°C with dry air before exiting to record results. Our exposure will be a bit longer, 45-60 mins of exposure to the heat with very little water and rest in between.
Before or After the Workout?
Should you use the sauna before or after your workout routines? That depends on your routine. I use the sauna almost daily as part of my ending routine. I find that it helps with recovery. However, some people find it helps them warm up, and they use it before their workouts.
There are times I will substitute a “long-run session” with 1 hr session in the sauna. I find that the long exposure of heat helps reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, also an increased NO (nitric oxide), increased insulin sensitivity, by just sitting on my ass. I don’t bring in water, and only leaving the room when it becomes unbearable however quickly return before you cool off too much to finish my session.
Sauna Versus Spin Bike
These are just sample results from a very non scientific guy trying to make a point. As you can see calories burned are nearly the same. Disclaimer, the calories is an estimation done by my Garmin based off my weight, age, and heart rate. The total time on the spin bike was 1:24 but 24 mins but 20 mins of it was just a cool down. 681 Calories burned compared with 485 is quite impressive for doing nothing.
How Temperature effects your Heart Rate
Looking at the chart below it shows my heart rate as the temperature climbs. We can see its getting a bit harder as the minutes slowly go by. Around 45 mins I just couldn't take anymore and had to take a break. Who knew I needed to taking a break from sitting on my ass.
The chart below is where the temperature is nice and cool but I'm working really hard, and I mean really hard. I'm pedaling about 150 -300 watts at intervals of 10 secs hard 50 secs rest for the 30 mins then steady a 150 watts for 30 mins. This also felt like death but in a good way, but the amount of effort its much higher than just sitting in the heat.
I love high effort exercising, so I'm not saying one is better than the other. However if you're injured I would recommend the Sauna.
Time in heart rate zone
The graphic above is from my bike session. As you can see I send the nearly the entire hour pedaling like crazy to maintain Zone 3 the 139-157bpm (beats per min) , and it hurts for the whole time.
The graphic below is from the sauna session. As you can see my heart goes up in each zone slowly. Everything starts off comfortable until it becomes unbearable. I get to Zone 3 and hang out in that zone burning calories from just fighting the heat.
Why does time in a particular zone matter. Well this is where you can focus on your growth. It is also important to understand this is when you are actually working/training/burning a majority of your calories. Once you start hitting the higher zones, you body does something else which we will discuss in a future post.
Do I recommend this to everyone, hell yes! Go for it. Especially if you can't run due to injuries. Is it uncomfortable, yeah, but after a while , you will find yourself craving the heat. I use the sauna nearly everyday because I like and the added benefits of sports performance doesn't hurt either.
What other excuses do you have to go workout now that you can just sit on your ass?
If you're curious what I used to record my stats
GARMIN FENIX HR 3
I freaking love my Garmin Fenix 3 HR , I've had it for about 5 years now, and its been on my wrist almost everyday.
I got it when it was like $1000 bucks :( , but you can find them on Amazon pretty cheap now, but also the newest version 6 is pretty sexy too, but I'm happy with mine. The Heart monitor is built in and is very accurate.
This what I use when I'm running, it was bundled with my watch which was probably why everything was over a $1000 bucks. It provides a higher degree of accuracy for the heart rate.
Anyways there ya go get yourself one, its worth it if you do any type of serious training.