In the Heat with Tory Grieves: How Benefits of Sauna Can Improve Running Performance
A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with one of our regulars and Sauna House sponsored runners, Tory Grieves. If you know anything about Tory, you know she is an avid runner, fierce competitor, and an all around inspiring human.
We got to meet Tory shortly after we opened our doors in 2019. At the time, she was training for long races and found that consistent sauna time helped immensely with recovery. Since then, she has competed in multiple long trail races, advancing her reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the sport of trail running.
How it Started
Tory has been a runner for most of her life. She ran both cross country and track and field in high school and in college. In her adult life, she moved to Kathmandu, Nepal, in 2014 and there found her love for trail running and ultra running.
“In Kathmandu, runners often travel outside of the city, to the foothills of the Himalayas, to escape the pollution. I would run out there on the weekends and ended up running a 50k race, my first trail ultramarathon. It was super hard and intense, but really rewarding. You could say I’ve been hooked on trail running ever since.”
The Road to Race
Tory ran her first race amid the pandemic in May 2021 in Georgia. The race is called the Cruel Jewel for its rigorous and unforgiving course. The race was 56 miles long with an elevation gain of 16,000 feet. She ended up finishing 1st out of all women participants with the 2nd fastest course time for a woman, and 3rd overall — an impressive feat to say the least.
As the fierce competitor she is, she saw that race as an opportunity to springboard to another goal: the USA Track and Field 50K Trail Championship in August 2021 in New Hampshire, where she finished 5th among some of the top trail runners in the country.
Training for Excellence
Tory’s training schedule is nothing short of demanding. Under the guidance of her coach, Aaron Saft, she typically runs six days a week, with three days of moderate-distance easy runs, two days of higher intensity workouts such as hill repeats or aerobic threshold intervals, and one long run. Each of her workouts is based on a set time frame and perceived effort exertion.
“I have a full-time job, so if I’ve had a long, stressful day at work, I may run for an hour at a perceived exertion level of 5, which is slower than a day when I’m well rested; then, that same perceived effort of 5 is usually faster. Training really depends on how your body feels, your environment, and how much overall stress you’re experiencing, both while training and in life overall.”
Image by: Andy Wickstrom
The Benefits of Sauna for Improved Performance
When it comes to running long distances and the physical toll of training and competing, Tory found that it was immensely helpful to have access to regular sauna sessions:
I have no doubt that time in the sauna has helped my performance, mainly because it’s so vital to the body’s recovery process. With my Sauna House sponsorship, I’ve had unlimited access to the bathhouse. During my race training, I tried to go twice a week to increase my red blood cell count. The combination of sauna and cold plunge promoted my circulation and also decreased inflammation in my body. All of that helped my body recover more completely and quickly, particularly during periods of high overall training intensity.
Andrew at Sauna House really helped me understand how and when to use the sauna and cold plunge, depending on my training schedule. For example, on hard workout days — maybe when I do uphill sprints and then do wall sits at home — I don’t use the cold plunge. Cold plunge can inhibit muscle fibers from regrowing, so I save the cold plunge for days when I haven’t deliberately stressed my muscles as much. For those hard workout days, I use the sauna for recovery.
Another reason why I love the sauna is that not only does it help your muscles recover, it also helps your body be able to adapt to heat and humidity. Race day in New Hampshire was shockingly humid, and I was really thankful for the time I’d spent in the sauna, because it made it much easier for me to run well in those conditions.
Sauna has helped my recovery and performance as a long distance trail runner, but I’d recommend it as part of any runner’s routine, particularly for those returning to running after some time away, recovering from an injury, increasing their training load, or even working toward a first ever race!
For me, the biggest part of adding sauna to my routine has been the recovery aspect. After I go to the sauna, I feel fresher and ready for my next run.
We are proud and honored to know Tory, spend time with her, and get to sponsor her as she continues to reach her race goals.
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Whether you’re an avid runner like Tory, a competitive athlete, or you just want to work on your health, see how the benefits of sauna can impact your life.
Cover image by: Rachel Veale