Does your gym offer a sauna? Then you are among the luckiest gym clients, and you probably know it already. There’s nothing more relaxing after a tough day at work than a sweating session, helping you get all the toxins and stress out of the organism. Plus, if you mix it with an engaging exercise routine, you will not only feel more energized and relaxed but gain serious points in the health section.
Regular sweating sessions can offer you relief for pain caused by old injuries or intense training. The muscles relax under direct heat exposure, especially inside an infrared sauna, where the IR waves don’t target the walls but the body, penetrating the skin and acting directly upon them. These models are fairly common in gyms, although you can still encounter plenty of centers that offer the experience of a traditional sauna.
But, here comes a question that troubles all gym members who decide to combine sauna with exercise. Should the sweating session happen before or after the training? If you do a quick search on the internet or ask around the gym, you will find out that the opinions are divided. Nevertheless, one side seams to make more sense than the other, so let’s break it apart and get to the bottom of this subject.
How Does Sauna Affect Your Body?
There’s no way to assess this subject before knowing how your body behaves when exposed to high heat and variable humidity, which can be low if you are using an infrared model, or extremely high if you decide to pour water on the rocks in a traditional model.
So, here’s what happens to your body when you enter a sweat room:
- It gets hotter – There’s no secret that the exterior temperature influences the body temperature, so you should expect it to increase. The first sign you are getting hot is that you start sweating. This is the body’s way to maintain the temperature within normal limits and keep you from overheating.
- Your heart rate increases – Just like in the middle of moderate exercise, your heart will begin beating faster and speed up the blood circulation. Thus, the pressure in your blood vessels decreases. Sauna is an excellent therapy for users with high blood pressure but it can be problematic for those with low blood pressure, who can experience dizziness, nausea, and even fainting.
- Your brain gets more focused on the heat – This means that it gets distracted from the torment of chronic pain or daily worries. Moreover, your endocrine glands start functioning at a higher level, giving you a feeling of relief and relaxation. If you are using an infrared model, the IR waves penetrate your skin and warm your muscles and joints directly, reducing the pain even more.
- You can get dehydrated – You are sweating a lot, therefore the electrolyte balance in your body may get disturbed. This is why it is recommended to drink lots of water before, during, and after each session. You can also consider eating something salty afterward, as salt can restore the balance.
Should You Use Sauna Before or After Workout?
It must be clear by now that the sauna has more relaxing properties, and a session before the training will not have the ability to prepare you for an hour of intense workout. It may make you want to take a nap or read a good book, but certainly not sweat again on a treadmill. Therefore, the specialists recommend to begin your exercise routine fresh and energized and then complete it with a moment of relaxation, which can be shorter or longer, depending on your needs and time.
On the other hand, some people use it for five minutes before the training as a supplementary means to get the muscles warm-up and ready for the exercises. Nevertheless, nobody is jumping directly to lifting weights without doing proper warm-up exercises, so this is why some people see this practice as a waste of time. But if you feel that a few minutes of heat can prepare you better for your routine, go for it. Your body will let you know if it is the right practice for you.
What Are the Risks of Using the Sauna Before Exercising?
If you are just jumping in for a few minutes, as we have described, there’s no risk at all. The problems appear when you decide to take a full sweating session before training. Fifteen minutes in a hot room are more than enough to change your body’s initial stage, and you could deal with the following problems:
- Dehydration – You have already lost a lot of water in a passive session, so when you need your body to be balanced the most, you realize that it is already too dry, to put it this way. You will need to stop multiple times and drink lots of water. This will eventually reflect upon your performance.
- Body and mind relaxation – This is the purpose of a sauna, but if this happens before you start training, your energy levels will be already too low. Plus, you need to focus during your training, otherwise, you may get injured, so you don’t want your mind to be too relaxed while using a reformer or other machines.
- Body preheating – No one is performant in a hot environment, although it does increase sweat levels. However, you go to the gym to stay active, and you need to feel comfortable for the best results. If you are already hot, you won’t be up for hard and effective training.
What Are the Benefits of Using It Afterward?
Things can look a bit different when the hard part has passed. You’ve done your routine, ran the treadmill, lifted weights, done your Pilates, or your Yoga. Now it’s time to get all the pressure of your muscles and bones and receive the nice effects of heat.
Here are the gains of using the sweat room when you are done training:
- It helps you eliminate toxins – When you are training, you are mainly sweating out water and salts, so the exercise won’t help you get rid of the harmful substances. Sauna, on the other hand, increases the heat and makes your blood flow faster, stimulating your body to get rid of toxins.
- It helps you recover faster – You may not feel it on the spot but we all know what expects us the following day. These effects can be diminished if you expose your body to heat after a workout and allow the muscles to relax.
- It makes you feel amazing – There’s nothing better than a nice reward that comes after intense effort. And this is exactly what a sauna session is. You went through hell, and now it’s time to delight with the pleasures of heaven. Who would have thought that it will be hot in there?
- It increases endurance – Studies have shown that people who take regular sauna sessions, can execute longer and more difficult routines. The study was performed on male athletes, who were able to improve their running performance in only three weeks of using the hot room. If you are trying to get in shape fast, combining the sauna with exercise is an excellent idea.
How Long Should You Sit In a Sauna?
If you are a beginner, it is recommended to start with short five to ten minutes sessions then get out and chill. You can return if you feel up to it and repeat this cycle for about three times. As you get more accustomed to the atmosphere, you can gradually increase the time spent inside, which can reach a maximum of 15 minutes per session. Once again, if you alternate sweating time with cooling time, you can reach up to 45 minutes of sauna per day.
When you use it after exercising, an important aspect you need to consider is the time you need to wait before getting inside the room. The specialists recommend to take 10 minutes and allow your body to lower its heart rate and decrease its temperature. At the same time, you should take advantage of this window to take a short shower and prepare yourself for the sauna. This would include changing your clothes and drinking plenty of water.
Physical exercise helps you stay fit and healthy, but a sauna helps you stay sane and pain-free, so there’s no wonder people chose to combine them. The trick here, however, is to know the right order, which, if you think for a moment, isn’t even that hard to figure out. The principle here is that work needs to be followed by a reward. First, you do the hard things, challenge your muscles, get the fat out of the way, and only after, get yourself a nice and comfy seat on the wooden bench where you can have a chat with your gym colleagues or get lost in some beautiful reveries.