Spartans are used to getting sweaty. Whether you're training for a race or building strength in the gym, a side of sweat is just part of the gig. Recently, infrared saunas like Spartan-approved Clearlight Infrared Sauna — which Spartan CEO Joe De Sena uses as part of his regular training routine — have made a name for themselves as part of the recovery game, too.
There's real evidence that spending time in a sauna can naturally enhance performance, especially for endurance athletes. So, if you're looking to incorporate heated sessions into your training plan, let's start with how it works.
How Do Infrared Saunas Work?
Infrared saunas are typically set to a much lower temperature than your typical sauna. They typically come in around 110 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (around 50 degrees lower than traditional saunas), seeping through the surface of your skin and elevating your core temperature so that you sweat even more.
Since they essentially heat the body from within, infrared saunas are often more comfortable to sit in.
The Benefits of Infrared Saunas
The perks of infrared saunas don't end with their comfort factor. In fact, they've been credited for a number of health benefits.
1. Increased blood flow
2. Increased sweat rate (which means we clear metabolic waste more efficiently)
3. A reduced rate of muscle glycogen consumption
While the boosted blood flow and sweat rate help our body detox and recover, that decrease in our muscles' use of glycogen spells good news for our performance.
“This means that energy is used in the bloodstream at a less rapid rate, so you can potentially go for longer,” Greenberg says.
Plus, according to The Mayo Clinic, early research on infrared saunas shows some promise for a number of chronic health issues, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, congestive heart failure, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Infrared sauna sessions may also offer some relief from pain. In one study, for example, researchers from the Netherlands' Saxion University of Applied Science found that infrared sauna treatments can assist in reversing chronic pain.
Withstanding extremely high temperatures can also boost your overall sense of well-being. In another study, Japanese researchers discovered a positive correlation between sauna usage and mood, when used in combination with other holistic treatments.
How to Use an Infrared Sauna
While current research hasn't identified any risks or negative side effects associated with using infrared saunas, consult with a physical therapist or physician before regularly incorporating infrared sauna use into your routine.
Once you get the go-ahead, Greenberg recommends using a sauna two to three times per week for 45 to 60 minutes to support recovery and endurance (and reap its array of other health benefits).