Home / All News / Sauna Training: The Basics
Sauna Training: The Basics

Sauna Training: The Basics

Unless you live somewhere hot – really hot – the chances are that you’ll prepare for your extreme running events in the sauna as well as on the road. But what can you actually do in there that will help? And how do you stay safe?

.

I’ve been training in the sauna for around six years, so I’ll divide this article into two parts: beginning your sauna training, and steadily advancing it. Skip to the link at the bottom if you’re in the second category. Also note that in this article I’m discussing dry saunas, not steam rooms. But before I begin, let me offer you three cardinal rules.

.

  1. Stay hydrated.
  2. If you feel dizzy, leave. Now.
  3. Tell someone what you’re doing if you’re doing something more challenging than usual.

.

Beginning your sauna training.

.

Saunas are hot. If you need me to tell you that, read another website. The fact is that most people can only stand 5-10 minutes in there when they first start out. That’s natural – training for the sauna is like training for anything else. You need to start easy and work up.

.

Initially your goal is simply to get used to the extreme heat – usually around 160 to 180 degrees in most gym saunas. It may take a couple of weeks to begin to build up a tolerance; don’t be impatient. There’s nothing gained by hurting yourself, and it will be to the detriment of your training elsewhere.

.

A word on hydration: do. In extreme cases I’ve walked (barely) out of the sauna having dropped six or seven pounds. Since it’s all water, salt and minerals, you’re going to need to drink often. My personal preference is for regular swigs from a one-quart plastic bottle, without gulping. If you’re not drinking a little every five minutes, you’ll pay for it with stiff muscles, dizziness, fatigue and – if you’re silly about it – serious danger. If you really are one of those crazy type who is going to go beyond their limits, do yourself a favor and make sure that someone’s in there with you, or that someone knows to check on you at a certain time. Inexperience plus over-confidence can and will lead to a bad situation.

.

Visit as often as you can – five times a week is really the bare minimum. Try to increase the length of time you spend in the sauna by five minutes per week. You’re looking to get to 45 minutes eventually. Assuming you start at 10 minutes, it will only take eight weeks to achieve this goal.

.

When in the sauna, I strongly recommend that you relax and take your mind off the heat by chatting or listening to music. I last ten minutes less when I’m merely concentrating on the heat. However, don’t take a book in – the heat melts the binding glue. Magazines are fine. If music is your thing, bear two things in mind: first, that if you lie down the sweat will pool in your ears and rapidly destroy your headphones. Second, that other people may find the sounds that escape rather irritating if they’re trying to relax – it’s very quiet in there usually. I wear a hat (see the next section for the real reasons) which muffles the sounds and generally makes things better for everyone. I imagine that ear muffs would do the same thing.

.

Once you’ve established a reasonable tolerance, it’s time to begin some light exercise. I suggest beginning with nothing more than a regular running warm-up – a few stretches, maybe lunges. Don’t be discouraged if even this light work takes a few minutes off the time you can stand – your body simply isn’t used to the increase in heart rate that it will cause. Once again, be courteous; drawing attention to your exercises can result in management asking you to stop completely. I always, always ask permission of other users before working out – and even if they come in after I’ve started, I make a point of checking that they don’t mind.

.

One suggestion I would make is that you don’t try to artificially raise the temperature by soaking the sauna unit (they’re invariably electric in gyms and you’ll blow it up) or placing a wet towel on the temperature sensor. It’s inconsiderate of others and will result in a far shorter experience. As an extreme runner or athlete, stamina is key; I haven’t yet heard of any hot weather sprinters.

.

For more information, please see the article on Advanced Sauna Training.

.

Please remember, this post is not intended to offer medical advice; I strongly recommend seeing your doctor before undertaking any kind of sauna training.

.

.

Jon Rice
Keep up!

Jon Rice

Jon is a highly-experienced runner who adopted the sport of heat running in 1996. He visits Death Valley every year to participate in his bizarre creation, The Darth Valley Challenge - a one-mile charge through the desert in the height of summer, dressed as Darth Vader.

To prepare for such silliness he takes extraordinary precautions. He trains year-round in the sauna, runs countless miles in extreme temperatures, and has crewed the Badwater Ultramarathon twice.

Jon's only request as you read this site is that you prepare carefully, tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back, and take more water than you think you'll need.
Jon Rice
Keep up!

Latest posts by Jon Rice (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Scroll To Top