Sauna Benefits for Athletes and Runners to Boost Performance
Saunas have long been utilized for their ability to promote overall health and wellness. They’re an incredible asset to relax and rejuvenate both the mind and body.
Saunas are typically heated between 158-212 degrees Fahrenheit with an accompanied humidity level between 10 and 20 percent. The added heat and humidity stimulates circulation, reduces stress, and improves cardiovascular function. These amazing benefits of sauna support overall health and wellness, while also easing the general aches and pains of life. They can also be used intentionally by athletes, or by those with specific wellness goals, to create physiological changes to improve performance and recovery.
If you’re a runner, here’s what you’ll find.
Sauna Time Prepares You for Training in High Temperatures
When you spend time in the sauna, you’re breathing in hot air which has multiple bodily benefits. The heat makes your heart rate and sweat production increase and makes blood flow to the skin rise.
If you run in a hot climate, you’ll find you experience the same kind of bodily responses. Sessions in the sauna gives your body time to adapt to heat so you’re more equipped for training or competitive running in hot places.
Let’s talk about heat acclimation. It’s a process that spans over several weeks, so if you have a race in South Florida in May for example, we recommend starting to incorporate time in the sauna by at least early April. This gives your body time to get used to higher temperatures.
Being acclimated to heat can reduce strain on your heart and other organs. Your body will also train it’s sweating patterns to cool your body more quickly which will better prepare you for performance in the heat. Just make sure you’re staying well hydrated.
Increased Lung Capacity
For running, lung capacity is everything. Luckily, time in the sauna can help with that as well.
In a review done in 1988, three researchers in Helsinki recorded that lung capacity increased by about 10% in the sauna.
Time in the sauna can also help clear build up in the lungs along with improved breathing for people with respiratory conditions. People who regularly spend time in the sauna may also experience fewer common colds and flus which suggests that the sauna can help the body’s immune response. If you’re feeling any type of congestion during training or before a race or you just need a health boost, a sauna session is a must.
Better Running Performance
If you run competitively, being able to boost performance and beat personal best times stay at the top of the priority list. If you’re looking for a way to do that, we recommend adding sauna time to your routine.
A 2006 study, done by Guy SM. Scoon and some additional researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand, studied the effects of post workout sauna time on treadmill running performance when pushed to the point of exhaustion.
During the nine-week study, six male runners participated in three-week training blocks. One block included a 30-minute sauna session after training, a “washout” session (where no other type of treatment was used after training) to eliminate potential confounding variables, and a control session without sauna use.
At the end of each training block, participants finished a run to exhaustion on a treadmill at 5k personal-record pace. Consistent sauna use showed a 30% increase in time to exhaustion, meaning a 2% improvement in performance time in a race.
So if you want to work on endurance or beating your personal best, a little time in the sauna could go a long way.
Sauna for Recovery
The day after a competitive run, whether it’s a 10k, a half marathon, or a marathon, leg muscles take a beating. If you race on a regular basis, you know recovery matters to make sure your muscles stay healthy and are in top condition. While some people focus on nutrition to recover — and that’s certainly important — there’s more that goes into recovery.
Muscles recover even better in the sauna, because high temperature exposure releases heat shock proteins and HGH. It dilates blood vessels, increasing the amount of oxygen rich blood that flows into the muscles, and speeds up the natural healing process. Running can also cause that unpleasant lactic acid build-up, but sauna use can help flush it out. For these reasons, time in the sauna after cardio is extremely valuable.
But we can’t forget sauna’s role in muscle relaxation either. Sauna promotes true relaxation, letting your body slip into a parasympathetic state where you are able to fully rest and heal. After all, muscles need their down time too.
A Session at Sauna House in Asheville
Whether you’ve just completed a race or you want to work on improving your running performance, the benefits of sauna might be exactly what you need.
With the training process or with recovery, consistency is key. We recommend routine sauna sessions to help your body adapt to rigorous training or to protect your muscles. Try it for yourself, and see if you feel the difference.
At Sauna House, we have three different sauna options so you can choose the experience that works best for you.
We look forward to seeing you soon!