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How to Prepare for a Sauna Session and Maximize Its Benefits

by Max
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How to Prepare for a Sauna Session and Maximize Its Benefits

How hard could it be? Preparing for a sauna may sound like nothing more than getting your hand ready to open the door to the sauna itself but there is a whole world of sauna prep worth knowing about that could heighten your overall experience. No matter if you use the sauna to generally relax or cool down after a workout, there are universal steps that every person should take to prepare before jumping into a sauna that won’t simply maximize the benefits that could come about from spending time in the hot halls but could also make your body ready to get even more out of future visits.

How to Prepare for a Sauna Session

Let’s lay out a best-case scenario of someone getting into a sauna. From deciding you’d like to get into the sauna all the way to taking a seat on the warm bench, here are the things you ought to test out before getting in. Consider this a “things to do before you sauna” checklist.

Drink Lots of Water

Let’s start with the most simple thing to prepare for the sauna: Drinking water! Spending time in the sauna makes our bodies sweat, and not just a little bit. The body gives off a serious amount of water even after just a few minutes in the heat of a sauna or steam room. it is, then, essential that you drink a good amount of water before getting into the sauna to account for the water your body most certainly is going to shed. The right amount of water is different for everybody but a good rule of thumb is to drink one or two reasonable glasses of water at least 20 minutes before getting into the sauna. This both replenishes the amount of water you could possibly give off in the sauna and gives your body enough time to distribute that water where it’s most needed.

When dealing with water and the sauna, be certain to always listen to your body. Your body will always be the best indicator as to when you do or don’t need more water. There is no shame, for example, in stepping out of the sauna in the middle of a session to get a quick drink. Your health ought to come first, especially when dealing with extreme heat like you’ll find in a sauna. No health benefit that could come about in the sauna is more important than your immediate comfort.

Consider Some Basic Stretches

Like the moments before a good workout, it’s a great idea to integrate some basic stretches into your sauna prep routine. The logic goes like this: spending time in the sauna makes our heart rate increase. At the same time, our blood is aerating our muscles at a rate higher than when we are sedentary. And by stretching your muscles ahead of time, you are giving your body a great head start on aerating your key systems. Especially if you make stretching before the sauna a long-standing habit, you may even notice that your muscles feel more springy after your sessions. So prepare for your sauna session by doing some basic stretches!

The best kind of stretches to do before a sauna is those that aerate your biggest muscle groups. Or better yet, if you use certain muscles a lot during the day, such as your back or triceps, those are certainly the places you should pay special attention to.

While you may not feel a major impact from your stretches after your first few sauna sessions, the longer you stick with your routine, the bigger your returns are likely going to end up being!

Workout Before the Sauna

One of the best ways to both insulate your health and get the best value out of your trip to the sauna is to pair your sauna time with a good, sweaty, aerobic workout beforehand. Sauans and working out actually have a stronger connection than you may guess at first. Put simply, both working out and taking a sauna make our body’s heart rate rise in a healthy way. Pushing your body to the limit for an extended time during a workout, of course, will likely lead to a higher heart rate than simply chilling out in the sauna. But this actually works to the benefit of most sauna goers. By heading to the sauna after a good workout, you actually have the chance to extend the time that your body has a heightened heart rate. In function, this means that you can extend the value of your workout just by taking a relaxing sauna. Of course, the caloric gains you’ll make in the sauna aren’t substantial enough to count as a workout on their own. Plus, be mindful that taking a shower in between your workout and sauna visit is highly recommended both for the cleanliness of your sauna and for the sake of courteousness for the people sharing the facility with you.

When choosing the best workout to pair with your trip to the sauna, there’s luckily nothing to sweat over there! It’s a silly joke but it’s still true: as long as your heart rate is up and you’ve got a good sweat going, consider that a workout worthy of a good sauna pairing.

Think Over Your Wardrobe Choice

An important step to take before getting into a sauna is making sure that you have all of the proper clothes you could possibly need. Depending on the type of sauna you are using or where you are using it in the world, there may be completely different expectations as to what you should wear in a sauna.

A smart first grab is a towel. If you are using a public facility to sauna, there is a good chance these will be complimentary. A towel is a good universal standard for fully permitted sauna attire. Things start to get dicey when swim trunks are involved. There are many saunas across the world that don’t allow swim trunks because (even if thoroughly washed) they can cause bacterial growth that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Even the cleanest person in the world still has bacteria on their swim trunks like it or not. And the sauna is a bacterial breeding ground. The hot air of a sauna mixed with the rising and falling humidity makes the hot halls of the sauna just as comfortable for you as it is for bacteria.

There are many parts of the world that will expect you to sauna fully nude, as that is the most traditional way to use the sauna. The further you go into Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, the more likely clothing won’t just be optional it will be outright not allowed. This is another good reason to make sure that you have a towel handy! If you are indeed using a sauna that allows swim trunks, it helps to have the trunks dry. Bacteria are the most likely to grow and reproduce on wet surfaces.

Decide What Kind of Sauna Best Suits Your Needs

There are near-infinite reasons why someone would want to take a sauna and based on your own reasoning, there may be a type of sauna that makes more sense for you to use compared to another. For example, if you have any kind of congestion or cold symptoms, you may actually find more relief in a steam room rather than a sauna. This is because the humidity of steam rooms actually coats your sinuses. This helps release all kinds of phlegm and other build-ups that happen especially when we are sick. Figuring out which sauna is best for you is an essential step to prepare for your session.

Traditional wood-burning saunas on the other hand are known to be better for overall heart health and are able to fight off muscle soreness better than steam rooms. This is because wood-burning saunas are actually considerably hotter than steam rooms and this means that your body has to work harder to maintain homeostasis. Your blood will pump throughout the body faster and by extension, your muscles will be aerated with fresh red blood cells even faster.

And there are indeed several reasons why infrared saunas may end up as your preferred sauna locale. Infrared saunas offer all of the benefits of a traditional wood-burning sauna but take up considerably less space and are usually built for one person. This means that if you are already sick and don’t want to risk spreading a disease to other sauna goers, an infrared sauna in a private place is a great choice.

Luckily, no matter what kind of sauna you end up using, you can be certain that the central benefit of all saunas will be fully available to you: and that’s sweat!

Study the Rules of Your Sauna!

As lightly stated above, every sauna in the world has its own set of rules. From private saunas all the way to the mega facilities at spas or sports clubs, it is essential that you both understand and follow the rules for your sauna. Some rules to expect to include occupancy limits, whether or not cell phones are allowed, whether or not swim trunks are allowed, and whether or not talking is allowed; you’d be surprised how many saunas in the world enforce that last one!

While public saunas are certainly going to list their rules in visible places, if you are using a private sauna owned by a friend, be sure to ask them directly exactly how they prefer people to use their sauna. Saunas are cultural objects of genuine value to the people who use them, and especially the people who own them! So, respect the sauna and be certain to ask the owner of each and every sauna you use about their preferred rules.

Things to Avoid When Preparing for a Sauna

While there are certainly several things that a person can do to prepare and boost their sauna experience and value, there are just about as many things that a person can do that could do just the opposite. Be mindful of these activities and habits to avoid when getting ready for a trip to the sauna.

Don’t Drink Alcohol Excessively Before a Sauna

While you should drink plenty to prepare for the sauna, you should definitely stick to water. You likely noticed the word “excessive” in the title above this section. If you’ve researched topics like this before, you’ve probably seen a hard stop saying that alcohol of any kind should be avoided when using the sauna. While this is true from a health standpoint, it’s unavoidable that saunas have been closely tied to alcohol for genuinely thousands of years.

The Finnish are the masters of all things wood-burning saunas and we’ll defer to their traditions when talking about alcohol and the sauna. It is very common for people to not only have a good pint before getting into the sauna but there are many who live and die by the belief that a pint of beer or even some harder stuff in the sauna heightens the experience. And this is likely true if you are using a private sauna with a close group of friends. The big thing to avoid, in this case, is going overboard.

The sauna is a dangerous place to be under the influence. With the potential of slippery surfaces and the certainty of a hot stove, it’s just not smart to be drunk in the sauna. Further, by drinking alcohol and not keeping up with your water intake, you’re actually at higher risk of getting dehydrated. In the same way as coffee, alcohol actually makes your body use up its available clean water faster, meaning that the more alcohol you drink, the more water you’ll have to drink in the future to get your system back up to peak levels.

So like any other time in life, drink responsibly! But be doubly careful not only of your motor skills but also your hydration level when drinking alcohol in the sauna.

Maybe Leave Your Smart Devices Behind

While more and more people today are seemingly welded to their smart devices, the sauna ought to be one of the few places where even the most phone-dedicated people should try to leave them behind. While there are certainly some useful functions on today’s smart devices such as smartphones and smartwatches that could give you some interesting info and data about your sauna visit, ask yourself if data about the exact beats per minute of your heart is more valuable than the rare peace that you can find in a sauna. Especially in the world of today where everyone is on-call at all times, even a 15 or 20-minute break in the sauna can be a momentary bliss. And even better, if you are using a public sauna, take that time to socialize with your fellow sauna bathers!

Another big consideration when it comes to smart devices is that bringing them into the sauna may lead to some serious damage or an unintentional shutdown. Many cell phone and smartwatch manufacturers warn that spending too long in an environment above 80 degrees Celsius could be dangerous for the life of your smart device. While steam rooms and infrared saunas are unable to reach temperatures like this, traditional wood-burning saunas are more than capable of breaking 80 or even 90 degrees Celsius. Of course, modern devices are also built with fail-safes to protect the user from any kind of harm but always think twice about whether or not it’s worth the risk to bring your smart devices into the sauna with you. To make things simple, just prepare for your sauna session by leaving your smart devices behind.

Try to Avoid a Large Meal Before Getting Into the Sauna

The best state for your body to be in when getting ready for a sauna is light but not too light. This means that you should avoid any kind of overly-heavy activity and this includes having too large of a meal. Anyone who has stepped into a sauna after a feast knows that the heat of the sauna makes undigested food sit like a rock. This is largely because the body is working harder to maintain homeostasis while you are in the sauna. Part of maintaining homeostasis, actually, is digestion. So the body will actually work to process the food in your stomach a bit faster than you may be used to. This is why eating a big meal before the sauna can quickly lead to a disrupted stomach ache. Therefore, prepare for your sauna session by not eating too much.

Conclusions on Preparing for a Sauna Session

A person could get tongue-tied thinking of all of the ways to get prepared for a trip to the sauna. The good news is, no matter how much or how little you stretch, ponder your wardrobe, or drink, you will still likely have a great experience in your sauna. But when you prepare for your sauna trip, be certain to stay mindful of the objects on this list worth avoiding. Overindulging in a meal or a bit too much to drink could make your sauna trip a bit less fun. The trick is, saunas are incredibly good for the body under normal circumstances. So this means that by adding a bit of exercise or stretching to your routine, you only have things to gain!

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