Updated: Jan 2, 2020
I’m in a love/hate relationship with running. Getting out on the open road and knocking out a few miles is something I do from time to time. However, after my injury in 2017, I’ve been running a lot slower (24-minutes give or take a few seconds). It's been a goal of mine to clock a time under 20 minutes since I've picked up running again but its not easy and I become obsessed with hacking it. There's gotta be an easier way...right?
Well, while looking for ways to cut my 5k time I’ve stumbled onto sauna training or conditioning. I’m not going to lie I was actually searching around for PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs) and running hacks. If you Google “PED” you’re going to undoubtedly run into a few articles about Lance Armstrong, and if you know anything about Lance Armstrong, you know he used a drug called erythropoietin (EPO) to increase his blood volume. Anyways, without getting into the details of how it works and why it could increase your aerobic capacity. Sauna training is the legal and safer way of boost your blood volume naturally.
When I think back on it, getting faster while sitting on my ass seemed like a nutty idea. However looking around at some of the research behind sauna training, I figured it could work. The hypothesis, from my understanding is that while in the heat of the sauna, you sweat. As you sweat your blood becomes thicker because the water comes mainly from blood plasma. Which then makes it more difficult to pump the blood around. This then triggers the release of a natural hormone called erythropoietin, or EPO, which, in turn, stimulates red blood cell production and increases blood volume (Thornton 2019).
Anyways fast forward pass all the boring bits, and I decided to give it a shot. I put together a training plan for my Garmin and go to work. I gave myself a month to see if it would work and set up a 5k race at the end of the month.
Did it work? Well, I didn’t make the under 20 minute time, stumbling in at 21.57, however. I showed up to the race late, didn’t warm up, didn’t stretch. Just lined up and went. Would I consider sauna training a success? Will I continue?
Thornton, Jim. “Sauna Benefits: A Trigger for Natural EPO & More: Spartan Race.” Spartan Life, 8 Aug. 2019, https://life.spartan.com/post/sauna-benefits-for-performance.