If nothing else it feels good...
March 14, 2013 5:28 AM   Subscribe

There is a steam room at my gym and I am considering putting it to use. Please tell me as much as you can because I have no fregging clue what I am supposed to be using it for or what I am supposed to do while I steam.

I work out every morning before work (5 days a week), doing cardio and strength training. This morning after my work out I went and sat in it for a bit for the very first time. It felt really nice and relaxing, especially after my big workout and since I'm coming off a pretty bad case of DOMS in my quads (damn you, squats!). The steam seemed to loosen things up and my legs are feeling pretty good, though that could just be from my workout. I am considering using the steam room more regularly. I don't know a whole lot about them, though.

1. What are their benefits?
2. What should I be careful/wary of?
3. How long should I spend in there?
4. How often should I do it? Is steaming after my workouts (5 days a week) okay?
5. Do you just sit and chill? Meditate? Count the tiles on the floor? What do people usually do while they steam? (Am I overthinking this?)
5. What are your personal experiences with them?

In case it matters, my gym recently built a brand new facility so everything is new. Even when we were still in the old building they were always very diligent in keeping everything is extremely clean, well maintained and they were/are really good about keeping things in excellent repair.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Do you just sit and chill? Meditate? Count the tiles on the floor? What do people usually do while they steam? (Am I overthinking this?)

Yes, you just sit and chill.

There's usually a warning sign on the door telling you that if you start feeling [foo] or [baz] while you're in there, it's time to get out, and also telling you that you shouldn't be in there for longer than [schmeh] minutes; pay attention to that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:47 AM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

A steam room can be a great therapeutic and social outlet. I suggest the following :

- initially no more than 10 minutes total. Safety.
- you could bring reading material but zoning out is in itself, therapeutic.
- you will surely realize guys use this time to socialize. Jump in, but notice who doesn't want to talk.
- since this is a sort of a "refuge" don't judge conversations among the guys
- cool off in a manner that best suits you : a swim, outdoor air, etc.
- and yes, wear a towel around your waist, always.

Too much heat is dangerous. In a stream room, a little goes along way. Enjoy.
posted by Kruger5 at 5:47 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You do just sit an chill in there. You may want to bring some water in with you to prevent dehydration. If there are other people in there, you can chat with them, or just sit quietly and schvitz.

I'd say about 10 minutes is the max you'd want to do (plus, don't you have to get to work?)

Wear a towel so that your naked bum isn't touching any surfaces.

Other than that, enjoy the thing, it's really great for you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:49 AM on March 14, 2013

If there is a dry sauna, you might consider alternating that and the steam room on different days too. The general etiquette is the same, except that you depart the sauna, cool off under water, then go back in and sweat some more. Repeat once or twice and you're good to go. Sit on the lower benches until you get used to the heat, and then maybe move up to the upper tier (where it's a helluva lot hotter).
posted by jquinby at 6:09 AM on March 14, 2013

[poster is a woman, FYI]
posted by barnone at 6:10 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, so it really is as straight forward as I though. I go sit in a hot room and chill out. Great. This actually sounds kind of awesome.

No one has said anything about the benefits aside from relaxation. Is that all it is good for?

And yes, as barnone pointed out, I am a woman. ha ha
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:17 AM on March 14, 2013

In that case, all my suggestions were on the basis you were a man. In the clubs I have been, this is a truly man's refuge, therefore I have no experience with what women do in them, and no current/past GFs have ever partook in the stream room experience that I can relate from either. My earlier post likely not relevant to you, and may in fact, cause you loss of steam room privileges.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:31 AM on March 14, 2013

Best answer: A good steam after a workout helps me relax my muscles, so I'm not so sore the next day.

I've also heard it's good for opening up your pores, though I don't know what the benefits are to open pores.
posted by xingcat at 6:36 AM on March 14, 2013

Best answer: Etiquette for women is about the same. Wear/sit on a towel, enjoy the relaxation. I haven't seen it be a big social scene; people might chat with friends/acquaintances (especially if they actually worked out together).
posted by maryrussell at 6:48 AM on March 14, 2013

Best answer: Based on the few times I have used a steam room (and I wish my gym had one!), the biggest benefit besides muscle relaxation is that it really hydrates my skin.
posted by DrGail at 7:00 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my gym the steam room is co/ed by the pool. It's not for conversation. People seem to be quietly meditating. I stretch.

So, I guess YMMV as to whether it's social.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:35 AM on March 14, 2013

You don't want to go in there barefoot. Make sure you are wearing flip flops or slippers or something. I got toenail fungus from the steam room at my old gym.
posted by cazoo at 7:40 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've also heard it's good for opening up your pores, though I don't know what the benefits are to open pores.

Yeah, I always feel better after I raise my body temperature, get them pores open, and flush out the crap that accumulates in them sebaceous areas; but I accomplish that just by exercising and showering, and I tend to dislike heat, so I avoid steam rooms.

BUT if you feel good in there, then man, STEAM IT UP, LADY
posted by Greg Nog at 8:33 AM on March 14, 2013

Best answer: Sit on a towel, but don't feel compelled to be wrapped up in one.

I find that the steam helps clear out my sinuses a little, but YMMV. Definitely helps my skin.

When steaming, I try to remember to stretch out my feet. I'm good about stretching my other parts on the workout floor, but my feet are still in shoes at that point. And who likes foot cramps?
posted by cranberry_nut at 8:36 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My skin always looks amazing after I've steamed. Have a nice exfoliate in the shower and slather on some moisturiser afterwards.
posted by wwax at 8:43 AM on March 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

I read something a long time ago about cold viruses not being able to survive above a certain temperature, and people who steam regularly getting fewer colds. I've been using my gym steam room more frequently this past year and I feel like it has made a difference in the frequency of colds I come down with. I especially like to go in and use it after I've hung out with my little nephews when they're caughing and wiping snot all over me, and while I fully admit that the steam room process might just have a great placebo effect on me, I swear I haven't caught any colds from them when I do steam. I like to sit in there and breathe in deeply through my nose so all the little virus particles sitting inside there die.
posted by shornco at 9:05 AM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Does your gym offer massages? I steam or sauna before a massage because then my muscles are already like putty and the massage is even more relaxing.

I just sit in there and veg out naked with a towel under my butt.

Depending on your hair type, a steamroom could give you awesome waves (or horrible frizz). Dry saunas do not affect hairstyles (unless you sweat a lot from your scalp.

posted by WeekendJen at 9:30 AM on March 14, 2013

You can also slather on hair conditioner and wrap your head in a towel, too. And it's great for your skin, but not too much if you have roseacea.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:13 AM on March 14, 2013

Also, it's wonderful when you have a cold.
posted by Rash at 11:18 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This may be obvious, but don't bring any electronics in there. One of my friends destroyed her iPod by bringing it into a Steam Room. I felt bad for her, but...yeah. Steam is moisture, moisture hurts electronics!

Also, if you're bringing in reading material, prepare for it to get all crinkly from the moisture. Don't bring your library books into the Steam Room or your friendly neighborhood librarian will get ticked at you.
posted by Elly Vortex at 12:23 PM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I steam after a workout, do some light stretching, and practice slow breathing. just relax and enjoy!
posted by honey badger at 9:24 PM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am mainly answering for the first question.

1. What are their benefits?

The steam room is mostly for the fast-twitch types who do the lactate producing workouts. They are trying to recover and it makes a difference for them, helping with their circulation, etc. I am more of a slow-twitch guy so the steam room doesn't do a whole lot for me.

2. What should I be careful/wary of?

Tripping/slipping hazards, unsanitary conditions, accidentally walking in on amorous couplings, etc.

3. How long should I spend in there?

I'd say ten minutes or one cycle. Some people wet down in the shower and come back for second and third rounds.

4. How often should I do it? Is steaming after my workouts (5 days a week) okay?

The sprinters and explosive power types do it every time, maybe skipping on the recovery or long aerobic days. Conversely, I might do it one day a week following my only "power" workout.

5. Do you just sit and chill? Meditate? Count the tiles on the floor? What do people usually do while they steam? (Am I overthinking this?)

People usually complain, sing (I wish I was kidding), or argue about stuff. You can't really bring electronics or reading material in there. It is very dark and humid.

5 (again). What are your personal experiences with them?

Physically I think they can be useful for the fast-twitch people. Most people just like the mental aspect, but it's not really my style for relaxation. And I never liked the smell of eucalyptus.
posted by 99percentfake at 11:08 PM on March 14, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the info everyone! It sounds like steam rooms vary quite I bit between places. I can't imagine having them scent the steam! That would be gross, plus it would violate my gym's fairly strict "Scent Free" policy. Ours is just water, no scent, and it is brightly lit and all tiled and pretty comfortable, all things considered. I don't think many in my gym use it, or at least not in the mornings, so there has never been anyone else in there with me. I went this morning after my work out and just sat and chilled out, doing some light stretching, but mostly just relaxing and focusing on my breathing like you guys suggested. It felt great. I'm a pretty high strung excitable person, and having that time this morning to just sweat and breathe... it was very very nice. It is weird to me how pleasure sweating profusely in a hot humid room is, but it really is pleasurable.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:46 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

People have mentioned stretching and breathing a few times so I want to suggest Bikram Yoga. It is not for me, but locally it seems very popular with the Crossfit enthusiasts and other HIT types.
posted by 99percentfake at 8:30 AM on March 15, 2013

Scent? Yeah, certain guys would put eucalyptus oil into the steamer at a gym I went to. Made me angry, ruins the experience for me, and when I complained they acted like I was nuts.
posted by Rash at 8:43 AM on March 15, 2013

Only thing I have to add: A steam room is the perfect place to read trashy magazines, because who cares if they get all funky.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 9:58 AM on March 15, 2013

Best answer: Wear flip-flops, bring a towel to sit on. No need to cover up in there. Depending on the size of the steam room and whether it's peak gym time, people sometimes lie down on their towels, which is what I like to do and just chill.

I also like to stay in for 5-10 minutes and go out and quickly get under a very cold shower and go back in and I do this for a few cycles. Feels amazing! Some steam rooms have shower heads in them for this purpose, but it brings down the temperature of the room, so don't do it if there's other people in there with you and instead just step out.

The eucalyptus: I happen to love this. Some steam rooms will have a spray bottle mixed with eucalyptus oil and water. You spray this in the direction of the steam nozzle. It opens up your respiratory passages and is antibacterial. Supposedly.

In general, I incorporated steaming after every workout when I could, as a method of relaxation. The alternating hot/cold cycling I picked up from a Scandinavian, who said this was "very good for the circulation."

What people aren't supposed to do is shave in there, slough, or do any exfoliation. If you see that happening, tell the attendants. Ew.
posted by vivzan at 1:54 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

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