If you are a member of a gym, you have probably seen a sauna near the locker room. It’s not just a luxury amenity to turn your gym visit into a spa day, there are actually many health benefits to using a sauna after a workout. Muscle soreness, fatigue, and drops in performance are all issues that a sauna can help improve. If nothing else, it’ll help your grueling trip to the gym end on a relaxing note, leaving you ready to take on the rest of the day!
Gym Sauna Etiquette
First things first, if you’re using a sauna at the gym, it’s important to be aware of proper gym sauna etiquette. Just as there are rules and common courtesies you follow at the gym, such as wiping down equipment after use or using headphones to listen to music, there are dos and don’ts of using a public sauna:
- Do shower before entering. You’ll want to wash off any sweat, odors, and germs from your workout, which will make for a better experience for all involved.
- Don’t go in the nude. Either wear a towel or bathing suit in to the sauna to keep things decent and sanitary for other users. If using a towel, bring extra to sit or lay on in case wrapping one isn’t enough coverage.
- Do be quiet. Don’t strike up conversation, groan with relaxation, or listen to music. A sauna is a time to unwind and relax, and that means silence! Try some meditation in the sauna to help quiet your mind instead.
- Don’t bring electronics. Your phone may not fare well in the extreme heat, and other sauna users may be annoyed if you’re texting or playing games in their relaxing space.
- Do be quick. This applies both to the amount of time you spend in the sauna (we recommend no more than 20 minutes) and how quickly you enter or exit the sauna – you don’t want to let too much heat escape.
- Don’t exercise in the sauna. While hot yoga is a wonderful practice for mind and body, it doesn’t belong in a public sauna where you are sharing a small space. Instead, find a hot yoga studio or practice it in your home.
Benefits of Sauna After a Workout
Muscle Recovery Process
After working out, you’re sure to feel sore in the muscles you’ve worked. During exercise, your muscles are worked harder than they are accustomed to, which causes them to form microscopic tears. These tears cause inflammation and can result in muscle soreness, tightness, cramps, and sensitivity. Your body then heals these tears to make your muscles stronger. Using a sauna enhances the muscle recovery process by increasing blood circulation and carrying oxygen-rich blood to oxygen-depleted muscle. Heat also allows muscles to relax better, thus relieving muscle tension.
Benefits of Sweating
Sweating during your workout helps cool you down, but it also helps release toxins in your body. You can prolong the benefits of sweating well past your gym session by sweating it out in a sauna. This helps remove harmful elements such as toxic metals, alcohol, nicotine, and more. By purging your body of these toxins, you are more likely to feel better post-workout. Just be sure to stay hydrated, as you’ll be losing more fluids in a sauna than you’ll be taking in.
Sauna Weight Loss Benefits
For many, weight loss is a big goal for putting together an exercise plan. Luckily, there are many sauna weight loss studies showing the correlation between sauna use and losing weight. Saunas boost your cardiovascular, immune, and lymphatic systems to help detox the body. Additionally, infrared heat can slightly increase human growth hormone (HGH) production and lower cortisol levels to promote more weight loss. Overall, sitting in a sauna can help boost muscle recovery, improve well-being, and decrease body fat – all things helpful in a weight loss journey.
Safe Post-Workout Sauna Use
Your body is already more worn down after a workout, so it’s best to keep it short and sweet in your post-gym sauna session. Plan to stay in the sauna no longer than 20 minutes to avoid over-exerting your body. If you have never used a sauna before or are new to the practice, start with smaller intervals of time. Your body will tell you if you’re spending too long in the sauna post-workout. Look out for signs such as lightheadedness, dizziness, and headaches, as they might be signs that you are dehydrated or overheating.
After exiting the sauna, drink 2 to 4 glasses of water to stay hydrated and help flush toxins from your body, as you’ll be sweating quite a bit. Once you leave the gym, continue to keep activity light. Mild exercise like walking or swimming can increase blood circulation to your muscles to aid recovery, but more activity can disrupt the recovery process. At the end of the day, to reap all the benefits of sauna after a workout, be sure to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated!
Should I Use a Sauna Before Workout Sessions?
After reviewing all the benefits of using a sauna after a workout, you may be wondering if the same sauna benefits apply to your pre-workout routine. The simple answer: No. Using a sauna before your workout can lead to a number of risks during your workout. Some of the pre-workout sauna risks include:
- Relaxed muscles. While relaxed muscles are one of the benefits of sauna after a workout, they can be detrimental going in to your exercises. Damage and injury are more likely to happen to muscles that are too relaxed and loose prior to intensive activity. Instead, save the relaxation as a reward to yourself after your hard work.
- Lower energy. Again, this risk is a benefit when applied to after your workout. However, being mentally relaxed before hitting the gym can mean lower energy levels, resulting in a lackluster workout. Keep your mind alert prior to working out so you can focus on your technique and maintain motivation.
- Dehydration and overheating. Not only will the heat in a sauna kick off unnecessary sweating before you even start your first exercise, it will also increase your chances of becoming dehydrated. Avoid the risk of overheating and becoming lightheaded by saving the sauna for after your workout – and always remember to hydrate!
With responsible and safe use, adding a trip to the sauna after working out can make your fitness efforts even more worthwhile. Not only will your muscles heal quicker, but you’ll also feel more rejuvenated and extend the benefits of exercising well past your workout. Whether it’s in your home sauna or at the gym, be sure to schedule time to use a sauna after working out!