Back in July I wrote about the possible benefits in regular sauna use, in reference to Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s claim that “Hyperthermic Conditioning” may have very significant physical and even mental advantages. Then I set myself to a regime of regular sauna, even investing in a portable sauna for the apartment. Twice a week was my sauna goal, and I usually hit it. I write about my experience of using it below the video. At the time several people expressed interest in the portable sauna, so I thought I’d update everyone, and even post a video of setting it up so you could have a sense of just how easy and quickly you can have a sauna going.
My Experience of the Benefits
It’s been my aim to use my sauna once every three days (two days between sessions) and my regularity has been interrupted at times, but I have been using it enough to note clear benefits from its use. I generally use the sauna at night, after dinner, and before bed. On a few occasions I’ve used it on my day off and experimented with shorter time in the sauna but multiple sessions in one day – so instead of 30 minutes once I’ll do two 20 minute sessions.
In the main I’ve found that the sauna before bed helps me sleep better throughout the night. Often I wake up during the night but after a sauna I don’t wake as frequently. I’ll definitely be more tired in the morning – there’s no leaping out of bed feeling fresh the morning after – but my muscles are more relaxed and feel more “available” in my running and training during the day after a sauna. Often when I first wake up in the morning or even after a nap, my muscles are very stiff and I kind of hobble through the apartment for the first few minutes of movement. I have not awoken with stiff muscles after a sauna at all, although I don’t think that it’s enough of an issue to warrant doing a sauna every night as a way to never wake up stiff.
I also reckon that my body is pretty much in a constant state of stress and breaking down. Not in a dramatic way – I’m not damaging myself – but working as hard and consistently as I do certainly puts stress on my body, even while making it stronger. I feel that the 30 minutes of heat and then a cool shower afterwards does something to flush my muscles of inflammation and toxins. I have no proof of this, it’s just a feeling; what you would call “Bro Science,” using personal experience as evidence for a non-scientifically tested conclusion. On the days when I’ve tried out multiple, shorter sessions, I’ve felt awesome the next day. Much less the “difficult to rise” fatigue upon first waking up and definitely more relaxed and less sore in the muscles the next day. More flexible, too. I’m very inflexible in general and I’m not suddenly able to bend in ways I couldn’t before, but when I first start shadowboxing and bring my knees up in high blocks, usually there’s some resistance for the first 40 or so of these movements, whereas after the shorter, double saunas I’ll not feel any muscle resistance even on the first blocks. Note: I train pretty hard and have done so for more than two years straight, as you can read in my Myth of Overtraining post – in that post I argue that it is very important to take active rest, and regular sauna has been that for me.
Anything longer than 30 minutes of sauna feels draining. I haven’t done it enough to have any kind of patterned experience of how it feels the next day – if I’m more tired or even if it’s beneficial in some way. But the “holy hell, get me out of this heat,” that I feel at the 30 minute mark has generally led me to the overall conclusion that I don’t need or want more than that amount of time in a given session. Maybe the more I do it the longer I’ll be able to stay in and I can play with it a bit. I definitely am not feeling as drained as I used to at the 30 minute mark, so I’ll keep testing it and see how it develops.
If you liked this post you may like:
Hyperthermic Conditioning – Sauna and the Possible Thai Advantage of Heat Training
The Myth of Overtraining – Endurance, Physical and Mental for Muay Thai