Usage procedure for steam room /sauna
February 7, 2007 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Having recently joined "the gym" I'm curious about the funny sauna facilities they have. There's the steam room, the sauna, and then a whirpool tub. What's the proper usage procedure for these things? What's the point?

As far as I can tell they're all intended for old, fat men to sit around naked and stare at the wall. But I assume there's actually some health benefit here, so I'm wondering how to use these things to my benefit. (Like, how long, what frequency, what's the diff?)
posted by sfluke20 to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm pretty sure they're there pretty much to relax after a workout. So they benefit your health insofar as relaxation benefits your health. The hot tub could also be used to ease soreness, I suppose.

So as far as proper usage, well, take a bit of time after your workout to relax. Also, make sure you stay hydrated, because all three of those could easily dehydrate you, which is decidedly bad for your health. And finally, I'm pretty sure icing is actually better for soreness than a hot tub. But someone who knows more about it is free to correct me.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 5:45 PM on February 7, 2007

Some people believe that the sauna and steam rooms are good for you because they make you sweat and so clean your pores. Some people think the steam is good for your lungs, clears out the mucus. Some people think that the heat is good for you because it relaxes your muscles and increases your circulation.

The truth is that working out for fifteen minutes and hanging out in the whirlpool or sauna for 45 minutes is easier and feels better than working out an hour.
posted by Osmanthus at 6:40 PM on February 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

Saunas & hot tubs are relaxing. I LOVED it when the gym I go to had them. Unfortunately due to the Americans with Disabilities Act and a hint of a complaint, they were all removed permanently. But when we did have them, I'd work out for an hour and then kick back in the hot tub for a half hour.
Sometimes when it was cold out, I'd go down there and use the sauna or the hot tub.

It's generally safe to use a hot tub a few times a week, but according to the placards that were on the wall you shouldn't exceed 30 minutes in a sitting.
posted by drstein at 6:58 PM on February 7, 2007

I'm pretty sure icing is actually better for soreness than a hot tub.

More or less, yes.

But a hot tub just feels good, which is its own kind of therapy.
posted by frogan at 7:20 PM on February 7, 2007

I've been in saunas and steam rooms and found them very enjoyable. I therefore submit that they're there because people like using them. I don't know that there's any specific health benefit (though lots of people will probably tell you there is).
posted by !Jim at 8:11 PM on February 7, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone.

Ok, so, for example: the steam room. Various places on the web say that a 5-15 minute stay is all you should do. But after you leave, should you take a cool shower right away, or let yourself cool down first? If you cool down, can you go back in and "relax" some more? Or would you totally blow out your system or something? (Assuming appropriate re-hydration.)
posted by sfluke20 at 9:02 PM on February 7, 2007

Saunas in sport facilities are usually next to useless. A sauna should be hot, very hot, around 90 degrees Celsius, 190 F. But because the air is dry the sweat you produce has a cooling effect and you can actually endure that heat for a minute or ten, fifteen. After that you should cool down by taking a plunge in cold water or taking a cold shower. The cooling down is important. Wait half an hour, then get your circulation going again by taking a hot foot bath. Having good circulation is important because it enables your body to cool. Then you can do another round of sauna and cooling down. Repeat, lather, rinse.

If you can stay in a sauna for half an hour, the sauna is not hot enough. Also sports facilities usually lack a place where you can properly cool down.

Saunas are originally Finnish and there the cooling down is done by jumping nekkid into a frozen lake or rolling in the snow. A very nice experience that surely makes you feel alive!
posted by maremare at 9:22 PM on February 7, 2007

You don't have to let yourself cool down. Basically, these things are spa fixtures put into the gym. I used to go to this spa and was hooked on the steam room/cold plunge combo: you sit in the steam for 5 minutes, then jump into cold water. It feels amazing. (Obviously, you shouldn't stay in the steam room for hours, but don't overthink relaxation.)
posted by sfkiddo at 9:35 PM on February 7, 2007

On rereading: "You don't have to let yourself cool down prior to taking a cool shower". As maremare says, the colder the better for cool down (I need to try the snow thing sometime).
posted by sfkiddo at 9:39 PM on February 7, 2007

I like to do my after workout streching in there.
posted by BoscosMom at 12:08 AM on February 8, 2007

My dad has degenerative arthritis, and one of the only things that helps him cope with the physical demands of his job is a good soak in the hot tub each morning.

Having spent a lot of time at the Russian baths in the East Village, I still am not sure exactly what it is that drastic changes of body temperature do to someone, but after a couple hours of searing heat and freezing pools, my body feels like it has been running miles, without the exhaustion. Best $25 anyone could ever spend in this city.
posted by hermitosis at 7:17 AM on February 8, 2007

I've never seen it outside of super-pricey spas, but sometimes there's an inhalation room along with the steam rooms. Basically the same thing, but they pump menthol or eucalyptus into the room with the steam. Clears the lungs out nicely if you're congested.
posted by o2b at 8:38 AM on February 8, 2007

The whirlpool is for cruising, and the steamroom is for having sex. Nobody uses the sauna.
posted by La Cieca at 8:43 AM on February 8, 2007

I believe Sinatra and The Rat Pack used to hang out in the steam room to sweat out all the booze they drank the night before.

I personally love grabbing a huge jug of ice cold water to drink, and hopping in the steam room for as long as I can take it. I always feel a little less toxic afterwards.
posted by kaizen at 10:39 AM on February 8, 2007

When I was new to "the gym" I also wondered about the sauna and the steam. And it's true, the older guys tend to prefer these facilities. Now I've become one of them, and a post-workout roasting has become the carrot reward for the stick of my exercises.

For me, either will do, and the sauna is preferred bacause you can read in there (newspapers, preferably; anything else will also fall apart but the newspaper is temporary so that's okay). The steam room, on the other hand, is nirvana when you have a cold (but reading inside's impossible). Some people expect and insist on throwing water on the sauna's rocks to make it hotter (but also steamy), the legality of this practice depends on the club.

Some patrons alternate short stays inside either hot room with cold showers -- I think they're nuts. Some clubs have rules about wearing shorts inside these rooms -- an expectation if they're co-ed, but it's an absurd American abomination, to be forced to wear anything at all in the steam or the sauna.
posted by Rash at 2:15 PM on February 8, 2007

I pretty much perfected my hot-water game plan in Korea, whatwith the amazing JimJilBangs everywhere. Pretty much they're expansive versions of this combination. This would be my routine:
Go to hot tub for 5 minutes and then a cool shower. Then the dry sauna for 5 minutes or as long as possible and the coldest shower you can handle (the cold water tub is best, but lacking in your case), then steam room, making sure to take deep breaths and rubbing your skin to help sweating etc (probably doesn't do anything, but that's what all the old guys do); follow up with your normal, final shower on cool temp. After you dry off, hang out for 5 or 10 minutes to thwart the dreaded post-steam-room sweat after you leave the building.
Also, regardless of what other people are doing (unless it's co-ed, of course) leave your inhibitions and clothing in the locker. Naked is the way to go.
posted by shokod at 3:25 AM on February 9, 2007

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