T Nation

To sauna or not to sauna...

Fellow T-Men, I am reading Dr. Frederick Hatfield’s book, HARDCORE BODYBUILDING; A SCIENTIFIC APPROACH. Dr. Squat recommends sitting in a sauna for about twenty minutes after working out. Benefits he lists, among others; Producing pronounced thermogenic response, toxin excretion, pain relief, speeds healing of sprains, strains, etc., and promotes Gh release from anterior pituitary gland which promotes pronounced anabolic effect in the body. I have access to a sauna in the gym at my work place. I have never used one and wonder if anyone else has found it beneficial and what you guys think of the idea. Seems like if it really worked I would have heard more about it by now. Thanks.

Just to complicate matters more, Ian King wrote in his column once that the first thing you should do is cool off with a cool shower after training!

Are you talking dry sauna or a steam room? The gym I used to train at had both. I would spend five mins in the dry sauna before training to break a sweat and more importantly, warm up on cold winter days. It certainly help loosen up the muscles. As far as after training, don’t know. I doubt it could be all that harmful anyway.

Bompa wrote in “Theory and Methodology of Training,” that 20 mins in a suana is equivalent to two hours of sleep as far as recovery is concerned. But I’m not sure how great it would be immediately after training. You might want to warm down and stretch out before getting in the sauna. Personally I like the sauna and have found using them as a recuperative tool helps me recover.

I know old man Hatfield reccomended some sort of “laser light” sauna, or something to the effect. He claimed it was all around better for you, and you could stay in it longer as it did not increase body temp. to dangerously high levels. I’ve never even seen one of these, though… I personally, enjoy taking a big jug of cold water into my gym’s steam sauna for about 30…

I usually go in the sauna after my shower to dry myself, because it’s very cold in the winter time. I looked at the thermometer today and it was 85 degree Celsius inside the sauna. For your information, water boils at 100C. I don’t know how someone can last 20 minutes in there without melting his lungs. Is there a real benefit, fat loss wise, to torture ourselves in a sauna? My friend swears it does…

Steve, I’m assuming he means the dry one. Guys, for those of you that use the sauna after your workout do you wait to have your post workout shake?

I’m from Finland and we go to sauna every day here. Usually it’s 90-110 degrees of celsius in there, and no … that doesn’t kill you. It’s just hilarious to read all these comments of sauna because for us Fins it’s an everyday thing like shower.

I tried the sauna last night after my workout after reading the posts here. It’s a dry sauna but there is a water pan with a dipper so you can pour water on the rocks of the heater. The moisture sure conducts the heat to your body faster!
I took my protein shake in with me and spent about 10-12 minutes in there. I worked up a good sweat, but it made my heart race! Is that normal? My heart rate stayed elevated for at least 10 minutes after getting out and taking a lukewarm shower. I felt worn out the remainder of the night.

yeah, sounds like a good enough idea. i agree with a post from earlier that said you shouldn’t get in right after you are done lifting. wait a little bit (they mentioned stretch–this sounds like a good idea) and then go in. the theories of dr. hatfield sound like they could hold some weight, but if nothing else the relaxation you experience after pushing your body to its limits are worth it in itself!

Thanks for your replies. I am going to use your suggestions and give it a shot. (BTW, it is the dry heat type of sauna I have access to.)

“Old Man” Hatfield (first man to ever squat 1000lbs in competition) is right ON.YES,it improves recovery rates dramatically = workout more often = bigger,faster gains! Contrast showers are great also but they’re for the “hardcore only” - not the most enjoyable thing to do, but they speed recovery. I stretch after my w/o,cool down, drink post-w/o meal, then it’s time to hit the shower or sauna.Oh, recovery starts as soon as you drop the weight- stretching between sets helps also!

Hey Nylo, do you think you might have been dehydrated? that can cause an increase in heart rate. Also how hot was it in there? I know that people with fevers have higher heart rates maybe this was related to the temp.

today was supposed to be an off day for me so instead of working out i went to the gym and did 10 minutes of light cardio followed by 15 minutes or so of stretching. then i got in the steam room for about 15 mintutes and after that i dried off and sat in the dry sauna for 15 minutes. i then took a cold shower and DAMN! i don’t think i have ever felt that good coming out of the gym in a while. you guys have to try it. it is extremely relaxing. if it wasn’t for the fact that they charge $1 per minute for message therapy at my gym i would have considered that too. i think i am going to start doing this regularly on the days that i don’t work out. i would try it after i work out but i usually rush home right after my workout to drink a postworkout shake.

Virago, it’s possible. I drink a BCAA/Glutamine mixture in 16oz of water during my workouts. Any more water on top upsets my stomach, especially during lower body/ab day, I guess from all the ab contractions.
Perhaps I’ll try quaffing the protein shake immediately, as usual, then taking water with me into the sauna. Today is leg day, so perhaps I’ll try it again and take note of the temperature.

My massage therapist once told me the best thing to do after a workout is to take a cold shower. Ian King also recommends this post-workout. Charlie Francis suggests hydrotherapy, which involves the sequential use of hot and cold water. Hot shower for 3 minutes and cold shower for about 30 seconds.

I had a significantly better experience last night. After reading a comment in one of the back issues, I had tried cold showers in the past. Sounds terrible, I know, but you start warm and gradually turn down the heat. It really does give you an energized mental feeling. I don’t know what happens physically and hormonally, but it does feel good.

Last night, I made sure I was well hydrated before starting my lower body workout. I downed 16 oz water prior and 16 oz during (with BCAA’s) during my workout. I had to stop halfway through to urinate, so I was sure I was fully hydrated.
Immediately after finishing, I downed my protein shake as usual, with some liquid carbs, 12 oz liquid. I refilled my container with 16 oz of cool water.
I took a lukewarm shower rinse and went into the sauna. My heart rate going in was 120.
I stayed in there about 10-12 minutes, on the upper bench, where the temp was about 210-215 degrees dry heat (I put no water on the rocks).
During this time, I drank all the water and my heart rate rose to 150. I was sweating profusely, but felt very good and relaxed. I used the time to do some hamstring stretches.

Upon exiting the sauna, I took a lukewarm shower, gradually reducing the temperature to cool my body core temp. My measure of when to stop is when my nuts start to recede. This is no joke, it’s the body’s normal reaction to falling core temp. Actually, it feels great as long as you stay acclimated by keeping the shower stream on your head regularly.
By the time I got dressed and back to the car, my heart rate had dropped back to about 115. I felt physically relaxed, mentally very focused and alert. In short, I felt very good, and plan to use this routine more often.