Saunas and steam rooms are helpful devices to use when working out. Heat and steam rejuvenate your body, improve blood flow, boost performance, and aid in recovery. Many gyms today have saunas and steam rooms in them which are often used by gym-goers before or after their workout thanks to their numerous benefits.
However, if it’s your first time using a sauna or steam room in the gym you might be somewhat curious as to how they work and what the etiquette is.
This article will explore how to use a steam room at the gym, and go over everything you need to know!
What is a Steam Room Sauna?
A sauna is a small room that is heated to a high temperature through various means. Depending on the type of heat, the air will be either dry or wet. This moisture level can change the experience significantly, and plays a big role in the sauna environment.
The heat and moisture from the sauna is meant to encourage your body to sweat buckets of sweat. Rivers of sweat, ideally! Sweating, in return, offers numerous health benefits, such as relaxation and weight loss.
A sauna will vary in its temperatures with most ranging anywhere from 158-200+ degrees Fahrenheit (though most commercial saunas in the US stay below 200′).
Types of Saunas and Steam Rooms
There are a few different types of saunas and steam rooms that gym-goers might find in their local gym. That link goes into great detail, but we’ve distilled it down to the basics here so you can get oriented.
As its name suggests, electric saunas run on electricity and feature an electric sauna stove that is either placed on the floor or on the wall. The sauna’s temperature can be controlled with a remote. Typically these stoves will have lava rocks placed on top. The air will be very dry, but if you want to add steam, you pour water over the lava rocks. Through this mechanism, you can control the amount of steam you get.
Wood-burning saunas are the most traditional type of sauna, and are often found in barrel sauna kits. These are designed with a wood-burning stove that heats the room up. Similar to an electric sauna, these heaters will have sauna stones on top of the heater. You can pour water on the stones for steam, and adjust the humidity as needed.
Steam saunas are known for their intense humidity despite the temperatures being a little lower compared to other sauna types. The temperature inside this sauna can be adjusted with a dial. Sometimes these are built into showers, as in a home steam shower. These units only produce moist heat, and their primary target is steam, not heat.
They’re great for those with congestion.
Infrared saunas have taken the world by storm over the last 10 or so years, due to their ease of use, inexpensive operation, and effectiveness. They run at lower temperatures than other types of saunas, and the heat is dry. These typically do not have lava rocks, and they don’t have a way to create steam for moisture.
Infrared saunas are usually ideal for those looking to soothe certain areas on their body, such as their arms or legs, for a more customizable session.
How to Use a Steam Room at the Gym
Using a sauna in a gym is very easy, though there are a few logistical and etiquette issues to keep in mind.
All you need to do is step inside the room and sit down on one of its benches. Sit inside for about 10-15 minutes before stepping out for a break. Once you’ve cooled off a bit, go back inside if you like for another session.
You can use the sauna before or after your workout, depending on what your goals are.
Depending on the type of sauna you’re in, you’ll potentially have the ability to add as much steam as you like. If there is a water bucket/ladle present, and a stove with lava rocks, you’re good! Steam away. Simply pour a ladle full of water over the sauna stones, and soothing steam will fill the room. As it dissipates, you can add more water/steam as needed.
Don’t flood the stove by constantly pouring water over the rocks. But you can get the room nice and steamy as needed.
If there are other people in the sauna with you, it’s a good idea to check in with them before you radically change the humidity of the room.
Clothing and Towels
As for clothing, you don’t want to wear anything too heavy or tight-fitting. This will make the room uncomfortably hot and hard for you to wear clothing when you step outside as it will be drenched in sweat.
You aren’t going to want to go naked in a public sauna. You should plan to bring a towel with you to sit on, and another to cover your body.
Other tips for using a sauna include showering before entering to help remove any sweat from your workout and to prevent germs from spreading around to others. And remember to enter and exit the sauna quickly. Every second that the door is open means hot air leaving the sauna, bringing the overall temperature down.
Most gyms will keep some sort of notice outside the steam room for etiquette, but here is a quick guide to public sauna etiquette.
The Benefits of Using a Sauna
You’ll find that saunas and steam rooms come with many benefits, a few of which are listed below.
They Increase Circulation
Another benefit of using a sauna is that it increases your circulation. Because of the high heat in the sauna, it makes your blood vessels dilate. This eventually increases blood flow which helps your body to produce more oxygen and have healthy cell growth. All of this can lead to your body growing stronger which can help you to have better workouts in the future. There is even evidence that traditional steam sauna use can increase lifespan!
They Can Prevent Illnesses
Keeping your body healthy is crucial when it comes to preventing illnesses, and some might be surprised to learn that saunas can aid in this as well. Saunas can boost your immune system in various ways which can prevent illnesses and keep your body healthy.
They Prevent Muscle and Joint Pain
When you work out, your body is putting extra strain on your muscles and joints. Because of this, you might feel soreness in them afterward. Using a sauna helps to prevent muscle and joint pain because it reduces inflammation. In this way, steam room and sauna use can aid in workout recovery.
Besides this, a sauna also works to release endorphins in your body which can reduce any pain you might have.
They Remove Toxins from Your Body
Saunas and steam rooms make you sweat, which will help remove toxins from your body. Of course, if you actually have a high level of toxins (as opposed to “toxins”) in your body, you should go to a doctor, not a sauna!
They Encourage Weight Loss
Many people often go to the gym to lose weight. While working out is always beneficial for dropping a few pounds, sitting in a sauna for a few minutes can be just as effective. This is because when sitting in one, your body starts to sweat. This reduces water weight in your body which can help you to quickly lose weight.
Keep in mind, though, that the sauna will make you lose water weight, not fat.
Other Things to Keep in Mind When Using a Sauna at a Gym
While a sauna is generally safe to use before or after working out, there are a few things you should keep in mind. One of the biggest risks to watch out for is dehydration. Saunas increase your body temperature which encourages it to sweat.
Due to this, if you use the sauna before or after a workout, you might feel extra sluggish, extremely thirsty, have a headache, or feel lightheaded.
To help prevent this from happening, it’s vital that you drink plenty of fluids, especially those with electrolytes, to ensure your body stays hydrated.
If you do use a sauna before your workout, it’s best to start out with mild exercise once you exit. This way, your body will get used to the room temperature again and won’t feel overwhelmed with the sudden change and exertion from an intense workout.
Steam rooms and saunas are a great tool to use either before and after workouts at the gym. While you need to make sure to always stay hydrated when using one, they are a simple way to not only encourage you to stay fit, but healthy as well.