Do you need to workout in a sauna for magic benefits, or even at all? Absolut not. Saunas are a thousand year-old health and wellness tool everyone can benefit from, the point is to sit there and use it!
Do you need to use it everyday? You certainly can. But Dr. Cohen personally uses his sauna 3 times a week and notes that is enough for the majority of its benefits. Or, instead of working out in a sauna, try the infrared sauna in combination with red light therapy, it provides additional healing and cellular rejuvenation benefits; just lay back and relax.
Consider also a full spectrum sauna for near infrared.
Consider using at night right before bed for an amazing sleep benefit.
Consider getting a bit bigger sauna so you and your partner can spend some quality time together.
What about the cold bath afterwards? Research does point to it having additional recovery, mood, and longevity benefits, so it may be worth a try if you can handle it.
Let's start with why I choose to use the sauna so friggin' much.
-Enhance endurance by increasing nutrient delivery to muscles thereby reducing the depletion of glycogen stores.
-Reducing heart rate and reducing core temperature during workload.
-Increase muscle hypertrophy by preventing protein degradation.
-Cause induction of heat shock proteins and a hormetic response (which has also been shown to increase longevity in lower organisms).
-Cause a massive release of growth hormone.
-Improving insulin sensitivity.
-Increases the storage and release of norepinephrine, which improves attention and focus.
-Increases prolactin, which causes your brain to function faster by enhancing myelination and helps to repair damaged neurons.
-Increases BDNF, which causes the growth of new brain cells, improves the ability for you to retain new information, and ameliorates certain types of depression and anxiety.
-Causes a robust increase in dynorphin, which results in your body becoming more sensitive to the ensuing endorphins.
So if you're not already hitting a sauna at least once a week, you should be. And I'm really not joking, I'm now using the sauna every single day of the week for thirty minutes. But rather than staring at the wall or reading magazines, I get the most bang for the buck out of my sauna routine by doing the workout you're about to discover.
Every morning I wake up, check my heart rate variability for five minutes while I journal and read, then I get out of bed, wander downstairs to the kitchen, and put on the coffee on. While the coffee is brewing, I do some easy stretching and foam rolling. I then drink my cup of coffee while reading blog posts, research articles and anything else relatively non-stressful, then I go down to the basement and turn on the sauna to pre-heat it. While the sauna is pre-heating, I use the restroom.
Then, I perform the following three times through, either doing deep nasal breathing or using an elevation training mask for the entire routine:
When completed three times through, all the steps above take approximately thirty minutes. To hyperoxygenate my body and get a final dump of blood vessel expanding nitric oxide into my system, I finish with fifty deep, rapid, hyperoxygenation breaths (described in detail here) and a five to ten minute cold shower or cold pool soak.
So that's it.
When I finish this morning sauna routine, my body feels mobile, pain-free, full of energy, and “charged up” for the day.
A few questions came through in the comments section below which I think may benefit from addressed here, so here we go:
Q. Why not a wet sauna/steam room?
A. Here's why I don't use a steam room: I can never be sure of the quality of the water I'm sucking in. As I delve into in this post on “The Scary Facts About Gyms“, a wet sauna ensures you are breathing in flouride, chlorine, birth control pills, pharmaceuticals and anything else that happens to be in the water supply of the gym unless they are using a very good central water filter in that gym, which is usually not the case. However, if you put one in your own house and you can control any mold or fungi, it's not a bad option (although you do miss out on all the benefits of infrared).
Q. Do you take a cold shower after?
A. Yep, I take an icy cold shower or (if I can find the time) a 5-10 minute soak in the cold pool outside my house.
Q. For those without access to a sauna, how many/how much of these benefits could come with simply overdressing?
A. If you can get pretty darn hot while exercising, then you can definitely reap the benefits of heat shock protein production, blood flow, nitric oxide production, etc., but here's the issue (and why I choose the sauna): that can be far more stressful and conducive to overtraining than a relaxing (albeit hot) sauna session.
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