Incorporating regular infrared sauna use into your routine is not only great for the recovery of sore, tired and worn-out muscles, but can also be hugely beneficial for both endurance and performance. As far as recovery goes, the gentle infrared heat penetrates your muscles deeply, increasing blood circulation and assisting with muscle repair. Infrared heat also helps to decrease the production of lactic acid, which allows tense, tight and over-worked muscles to relax. A recent study from Finland concluded that the deep penetration of infrared heat during infrared sauna use appears to be beneficial for the recovery of the neuromuscular system after strength and endurance sessions. (1)
The relationship between regular sauna use and improved athletic performance is one that I find quite interesting. Dr. Rhonda Patrick (a Wildfire fave - if you haven’t heard of her check out her podcast FoundMyFitness for
some seriously well-researched and mind-blowing stuff!) says “increasing your core temperature for short bursts is not only healthful, it can also dramatically improve performance. Hyperthermic conditioning optimises blood flow to the heart, skeletal muscles, skin and other tissues because it increases plasma volume. This leads to endurance enhancements in your next workout or race when your body temperature is once again elevated”.
In other words, preconditioning your body to heat stress by using the sauna makes it easier for you to perform when your body temperature is elevated during exercise. In a related study, participants who indulged in a 30 minute post-workout sauna twice a week were able to run for 30% longer before exhaustion than those who did not sauna. (2)
From a personal perspective, if you haven’t tried infrared sauna post-workout you are missing out! Now I’m no athlete, so performance enhancing benefits aside, a post-workout sauna leaves you feeling incredibly relaxed and rejuvenated. The infrared heat really gets your blood pumping, limbers up your body and relieves that muscle soreness that comes with being subjected to E-Lab’s 9 Week Challenge!
(1) Mero, A., Tornberg, J.,Mantykoski, M & Puurtinen, R. (2015). Effects of far-infrared sauna bathing on recovery from strength and endurance training sessions in men. Springerplus: 4(321).
(2) Scoon, G., Hopkins, W., Mayhew, S & Cotter, J. (2006). Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport: 10(4).