Saunas are an ancient, tried-and-true form of relaxation. Nothing beats a day at the spa or pool, followed by letting off some steam in a sauna. Heat sessions are fun, but they also have many health benefits like muscle and joint recovery. This is great for anyone who has a physically demanding job or an active lifestyle.
However, a sauna, especially an outdoor sauna, is especially beneficial if you are an athlete. Athletes put an extreme amount of strain on their muscles as a part of rigorous training for intense competition. With that being said, recovery and injury prevention treatments are just as important as training so you can perform your best.
Here are some of the main ways that using a sauna is advantageous for athletes:
Muscles and Joints
While there are many types of saunas, infrared saunas may be the best to help with muscle and joint recovery. This kind of sauna works to heat your body from the inside out, helping to loosen muscles. Many athletes do this before an intense workout. Saunas also aid in the release of endorphins which can reduce arthritis pain and muscle soreness.
Some athletes go as far as to have barrel saunas installed in their homes — these are stylish and provide easy access to a nice heat session if they're needed regularly!
Harmful toxins from what we eat, pollution, illnesses, and more can affect athletic performance if allowed to build up over time. Luckily, deep sweating in a sauna can dramatically reduce the amounts of lead, copper, zinc, and mercury in your body.
A deep sweat can also help with clearing bacteria from the skin and sweat ducts so, as a bonus, sauna users can enjoy healthier, better-looking skin.
Lactic Acid Build-up
As well as reducing muscle tension, saunas can help with lactic acid build-up issues. Lactic acid is produced in muscles during exercise and continues to build as workouts increase. For athletes who keep a serious workout regimen, the lactic acid build-up can lead to especially sore muscles.
Saunas are fantastic at releasing this kind of build-up. Heat causes blood vessels to dilate, in turn increasing blood flow which allows for the fast removal of metabolic waste, including lactic acid build-up in the muscles.
Saunas are great for boosting blood circulation. As the heat increases and your heart rate rises, your blood vessels dilate and the amount of blood flow to the skin will increase.
Another circulation benefit of using a sauna is that your sympathetic nervous system becomes more active to maintain your body temperature as it adjusts to the heat session. Your body reacts and you become less receptive to pain, reducing any soreness and strain from an intense training stint.
As we said earlier, the main use of a sauna is for relaxation. As an athlete, the focus is always going to be on muscle gain and recovery — but you need to relax, too. People use saunas to feel refreshed and reinvigorated after leaving.
Saunas are known to reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being. It’s important to take time to relax and de-stress so you can keep your body and head in the game.
The Bottom Line
Athletes need to take the recovery of their bodies just as important as training. Saunas are great at aiding in recovery and can even help with injury prevention. If you’re still not convinced, many training centers have saunas because physical therapists know of their health benefits.
For example, the U.S. Ski Team’s training facility has a massive sauna that is used regularly to aid in the training of the best athletes. If you don't have access to a huge training center like this one, locate your nearest leisure center or even have an outdoor barrel sauna installed in your home!
Be your best athletic self by caring for your muscles using a sauna.