Posts Tagged “sweat”
Posted on November 17th, 2011 by Chris in Guides, How to, news, tags: body prints, etiquette, guide, How to, locker room, sauna, saunas, steam bath, Steam room, sweat, top ten list
Photo of the Kotiharju Public Sauna in Helsinki. Image by Sami Oinonen via Flickr
A reader wrote us this question:
I’m going to a resort with some friends this weekend. In the spa area, they have a sauna. I’ve never used one before. There is one in my gym locker room and I don’t use it because it intimidates me. I don’t want to make a sauna faux-pas.
What is the etiquette for using a public sauna or a steam room like this?
You shouldn’t get anxious about the sauna. It is a place to relax and do what is comfortable. Yes, it is a new experience for a lot of people, but as long as you remember the golden rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – you’ll be just fine.
If you are looking for some more specific rules, here is our top ten list of the most important etiquette rules consider when using a public sauna or steam bath:
10. Close the door.
Nothing upsets me more than when I am getting a good sweat on and someone else gets up to leave and does not close the door behind them. Nearly as bad is when someone is on their way in, and stops to chat with someone else while holding the door open.
When the sauna door is open, it does not take long for the heat to spill out of the sauna. It’s even worse in a steam room. If your gym or resort was stingy while sizing their sauna heater, it may take ten minutes or more for the sauna to recover from the door being open for just a minute.
If you are going in or out, please do it quickly, and make sure the door closes firmly behind you.
9. Sit on a towel.
Nothing is worse than walking into a sauna and having to find a spot to sit among the sweaty body prints others have left on the sauna bench. Saunas are not hot enough to kill germs, and in a high-use area like a public sauna, there may be a sealant or a protective barrier of gunk that neutralizes the disinfecting properties of wood.
Bring a towel in the sauna or steam room that is large enough to make a barrier between your body and the benches. If you’re sitting upright, a hand towel is big enough. If you’re going to lay down, you probably need a beach towel. It will protect you from what others have left behind, and keep you from leaving things behind.
Make sure you have a second towel that you leave outside the sauna to dry off with afterwards. You won’t want to use a sauna towel, and you can’t use a steam room towel to dry off after you’re done.
8. The sauna is not a clothes dryer.
There is a person at my gym who believes that the sauna is his personal clothes dryer. He does cardio, then goes for a swim. He brings in his sweaty clothes, wet bathing suit and towel and hangs them on the railing around the sauna stove to dry while he showers. Please, whatever you do, don’t do this.
7. Silence is golden.
I use the sauna as my place for relaxation and introspection. If you are going to talk, please do it quietly. Of course, if it is your own sauna, or you have the sauna to yourself, you can yak it up if you want. Just respect that in a public place, other people may want quiet.
6. If it’s in a locker room, it’s OK to got naked.
It seems like Tobias Fünke wrote most sauna etiquette guides. Most begin with a rant against seeing other people’s naked bodies in locker rooms. I’m going to rant the other way: It’s a locker room. You’re supposed to change clothes in there, which means you need to get naked in there. Until the early 1970′s, many high school and YMCA swimming pools throughout the US and Canada expected men to swim naked. Now, proper decorum says we aren’t supposed to show our bodies to anyone. This ad is indecent (but not this one).
They call it a sauna bath for a reason. You wouldn’t complain about people being naked in the shower, would you? So if the sauna is in an area where you can be naked, then go naked in the sauna! It’s more hygienic and better for you too.
By the way, a sweat suit or a sauna suit is never appropriate attire for the sauna. If you don’t want to get naked, see our post on what to wear in the sauna.
5. Keep your hands and eyes to yourself.
I may sauna naked, or with very little clothing. That does not mean that I amshowing off for anyone else. The Finns have a saying, “behave in a sauna like you would in church.” I’ve been in a number of saunas and seen some things that definitely aren’t church-like.
My attitude is, that if someone is coming on to someone else in the sauna, it isn’t hot enough. I go looking for the thermostat to turn up the heat. In a proper sauna, you can’t think about anything except “can I stay in here another minute?”
4. Leave your electronics outside.
The sauna isn’t good for your electronics, but electronics also aren’t good for the sauna. The heat and humidity (yes, even if it’s a dry sauna) in the sauna will damage your phone, iPod or other gizmo. The etiquette problem is nearly every device has a camera these days. I don’t know if you are just browsing through your music collection or if you’re taking photos of me. I’d rather not have to ask. The other problem is your music. Yes, you’re listening to it on earphones, but if it is quiet in the sauna, I’m probably going to hear most of it. And really, if that phone call is so important, why are you taking it in the sauna?
Use your gizmo while you’re working out, but leave it in your locker when you take a sauna.
3. No spitting on the rocks.
I’ve seen this happen before. I shouldn’t have to write it. Just don’t do it.
2. Shower before you sauna.
Reading through other sauna etiquette posts on the internet, it is amazing how many people see nudity as dirty, but don’t see dirt as dirty. I’ve seen it at my gym too: people remove their sweaty workout clothes to reveal a sweaty swimsuit underneath and head straight for the sauna. Or someone comes right out of the pool and heads straight into the sauna.
If you’ve been swimming, there is chlorine on your body that will volatilize in the sauna and can irritate everyone’s eyes and lungs who shares the sauna with you. If you have been out in public, your perfume or some other smell you picked up throughout your day will become stronger and more pungent in the sauna.
Be considerate to the others who use the sauna with you: Take a shower first. If you’re wearing a swimsuit or some other clothing in the sauna, take it off while you shower.
Don’t forget to take at least a quick rinse off after you sauna before you get into the pool.
1. Remember to ask first before you do anything that affects me.
This is a public sauna, and I’m going to share it with you. I may like what you want to do, like splashing water on the rocks, or using that secret trick that sends the heater into overdrive. I may not care about others, like if you prepare some secret skin rub that you’re going to use or if you’re going to exercise in the sauna. Or, I may not want to stay, and may ask you to wait until I leave before you start.
This is a public place. I have as much right to enjoy the sauna the way I want to as you do. If they conflict, let’s talk about it and find a way we both can live with. Everyone will be better off that way.
Keep in mind, these are the general rules for a public sauna. If you are lucky enough to have your own, you can make your own rules. If you are a guest in someone else’s sauna, then you should ask them what their rules are before making assumptions.
What is your opinion of sauna etiquette in your gym’s locker room? Take our poll and let us know!
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Posted on October 21st, 2011 by Chris in How to, Humor, tags: bench, body oils, butt prints, Clothing, Finnish sauna, gyms, How to, infrared sauna, InfraredSauna, naked, nudity, Perspiration, sauna, Steam room, sweat, Swimsuit
Photo by colorblindPICASO on Flickr
There is a sauna in the locker room in my gym. Just like you see on the workout floor, there is a huge variety of what people wear in the sauna. Many believe there are no wrong ways to use a sauna, but there are definitely some wrong things to wear into the sauna.
This list applies no matter what kind of sauna you are going in: infrared sauna, Finnish sauna, portable sauna, and even a steam room.
Here is our list of what to wear in the sauna from best to worst.
Best Sauna Attire: Nothing
We’ve said it here many times before. The sauna is a bath. It is a way to clean and exercise your skin. The best way to sauna is naked with all of your skin exposed to the heat. As you are in there, you don’t have to worry about any clothing getting soaked with sweat, and when you get out, you don’t need to worry about your clothes holding heat.
Of course, don’t forget you still need a towel to sit or lay on while you are in the sauna. Unless it’s your own personal sauna, you don’t want to leave your sweaty butt prints on someone else’s sauna benches. (Worse still, you don’t want to pick something up from a sweaty butt print someone else left on the sauna bench). Even if it is your own sauna, protecting the wood from your body oils will help make your sauna benches last longer.
If you are modest, you can wrap yourself in a towel or sarong while in the sauna. Although we find that trying to keep a towel properly positioned, especially those too-small ones gyms like to give out, while you get in and out of the sauna is more embarrassing than just letting it all hang out.
Second Place: A Swimsuit
In many parts of the world, nudity is expected in the sauna. However, there are times, like at a hotel or club, where the sauna is poolside, in a mixed public area. At other times, the bath house or spa with your sauna is coed and they need coverage. This is especially true at saunas in the English-speaking parts of the world. Since you’ll be sweating profusely in the sauna, a swimsuit is a good compromise when you have to wear something.
An older bathing suit where the fabric has started to lose its elasticity is a good choice for the sauna. This way it’s a little loose, and you won’t mind getting it sweaty. Another advantage with old swimwear is that there is a pretty good chance you’ve proven it is colorfast and won’t lose its colors when you jump in the shower, pool or hot tub after your sauna.
If you are going to wear a swimsuit in the sauna, don’t wear it under your clothes. You want to change into it there, preferably just before you use the sauna. All of pollutants you’ve picked up from the environment can travel into your skin once you start sweating in the sauna.
Also, rinse off between the pool and the sauna. You don’t want to leave a sweat slick in the pool, and you don’t want to release chlorine vapors in the sauna! If you can, it is best if you take off your suit while you shower.
Don’t forget to sit on a towel when you are in the sauna. Your bare skin should not touch the wood of the sauna benches.
For men, any pair of loose-fitting swim trunks is good to wear in the sauna. If you can find them, a swimsuit made from a natural fiber like bamboo or cotton are the best choices. If not, look for something made from a non-stretchy synthetic like nylon or microfiber. The heat from the sauna can damage elastic fibers.
Finding a good women’s swimsuit for the sauna is a more difficult challenge. Most women’s suits are designed as form-fitting and are made with lots of Lycra or other stretchy synthetics. The heat from the sauna will damage these fibers and cause them to lose their elasticity, leaving you with a baggy suit. You also should be careful about the dyes used in women’s suits: There are stories of women who went in the sauna with a colored suit, then afterwards went for a swim and ended up with a white suit! The heat of the sauna caused the dye to release.
When wearing a swimsuit in the sauna, try to avoid suits that have slimming panels or racing suits. The compression of these are going to restrict your breathing and make your time in the sauna very uncomfortable. Definitely avoid any suit with an underwire. The metal in the underwire will heat up quickly in any sauna and can burn you. Yikes!
For women, a bikini top with a pair of men’s style bottoms is your best bet. This gives you the least amount skin of coverage, and the best chance of finding a suit with little stretch to it. Of course, not every woman feels comfortable in a bikini. If you feel you need more coverage, look for a suit that at least has a liner made from bamboo or another natural material.
Honorable Mention: Cotton Clothes
A cotton tee-shirt and shorts are the norm in the coed areas of a Korean sauna. Others prefer a cotton sarong or other body wrap. While it is not the best for getting wet, clean, cotton clothes will allow your skin to breathe easily while you are in the sauna, and will not get damaged or evolve toxic compounds in the heat of the sauna. For those concerned about modesty, a longer legged short or even a pair of yoga pants could be a good choice.
Any clothing you plan to wear in the sauna should be clean, so you shouldn’t have worn them all day. If you are using the sauna correctly, you are going to get sweaty and you won’t want to wear those clothes anyway when you are done. Bring them with you and change into them when you are ready to sauna. Don’t wear any underwear in the sauna: Underwear tends to be constricting, and you want to be able to breathe easily. Ladies, don’t wear your bra in the sauna: They are constricting, usually made from synthetic materials and trust us, you don’t want an underwire in the sauna.
There are a lot of things that we have seen people wear in the sauna that are not acceptable for sauna use. We’ve seen and heard of some strange ones over the years, so it’s going to be hard to list them all, but we’ll try to at least cover some of the most common ones.
- Shoes: This is probably one of the worst offenses. There is all kinds of junk you pick up walking around all day. Bringing that into the sauna is a bad thing, plus the heat of the sauna when it lingers in your shoe is just going to make you susceptible to athlete’s foot. If you wear shower sandals when walking through the gym, make sure you leave them on the floor when you step on the benches.
- Sauna Suits: It is our opinion that sauna suits should not be worn by anyone, ever. Especially in a sauna. Covering your whole body with plastic insulates your body from the heat of the sauna, eliminating most of the effects. Most sauna suits are made of PVC, which has a melting point lower than many saunas. PVC sauna suits give off toxic fumes and leaches toxic liquids for years after it was manufactured. You don’t want those compounds touching your skin, and you really don’t want to be breathing them in while you are in the sauna.
- Sweat Suits: During wrestling season, we see a lot of young people going in the sauna wearing a full sweat suit with the hood pulled up. My guess is they are trying to cut weight before their next match. It does not do them any good. In the sauna, that sweat suit is going to act as an insulator from the heat of the sauna. It slows the progress of heat, so it’s going to take a lot longer in the sauna before they start to sweat, which is what they really want. If you’re going to cut weight in the sauna, go in naked, then put on your sweat suit when you can’t stand it anymore to slow your cool down.
- Workout Clothes: You got all sweaty on the treadmill, and now you’re coming into the sauna with those same clothes on? Please.
- Street Clothes: This is probably the worst offense. The fabric of your clothing picks up all sorts of chemical and biological compounds during the day. When you come into the sauna wearing these, you releasing them to everyone who is in there with you. Your modesty is not that sacred. Please get changed.
This article would not be complete without a discussion of how to clean what you wore into the sauna. Many commercial laundry detergents are loaded with things like optical brighteners, foaming agents, perfumes and fabric sizing chemicals that you don’t want touching your body when you are in a sauna. Your best bet is to use an ultra gentle detergent meant for baby clothes, or even no detergent, just plain vinegar. Give everything an extra rinse to make sure as much soap is out as possible, and then dry everything normally.
However, if you’re going with the quick rinse in the sink method, don’t use the sauna as your dryer!
Even if you don’t use the sauna, if you wash your swimsuits this way, you will find that they last longer.
What do you prefer to wear in the sauna? Let us know in our poll.
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Posted on October 5th, 2011 by Chris in Guides, Saunas, tags: Finnish sauna, heat, Perspiration, russian banya, sauna, sauna room, saunas, Steam room, sweat, sweat bath, sweat lodge
Image via Wikipedia
A sauna, at its simplest, is a hot air bath. The word sauna has its origins in Finnish, but in English it has become a generalization that describes a number of different ways to take in the heat that were developed by cultures throughout the world, including the Finnish sauna, Russian banya, Japanese mushi-buro, North American sweat lodge, South American temezcal, Korean jjim jil bang, Roman caldarium, and the Arabic hammam.
All of these have a rich history dating back thousands of years. Today, most fitness centers, many hotels, and several public sauna businesses all have saunas available for their patrons to use. What is a sauna and why has it been so popular?
What is a sauna?
A sauna is a hot air bath or sweat bath. You take a sauna in a special, insulated room that keeps the air still and heat in. There is a heat source in the room to transfer heat to your body: The heat in a sauna comes from rocks heated in a fire, stove, or an infrared radiator. The heat source may only heat the air, or it may also produce steam which makes it feel hotter.
In the sauna your skin gets heated well above its normal temperature. In response, your body begins sweating profusely to keep yourself cool. To get the feeling of heat all over your body and to prevent clothes from being soaked with sweat, the sauna is typically used nude, or with as little clothing as practical.
It is a type of bath. Many cultures, notably the Finns and the Russians, will have a tank of heated water inside of their sauna which they will use to wash themselves while in the heat. The Russian platza and Arabic hammam are elaborate cleansing rituals that take place while in the hot room. Other cultures wash outside of the sauna room, but use the sauna’s heat to release dirt and toxins from deep in their skin.
When you look at all the different people throughout the world who came up with the idea of a sauna, there must be a common thread. There is: We humans have several features which makes us unique from any other creature on Earth.
First of all, we are naked. Unlike other mammals, we have very little hair on our bodies that protects us from the elements. When it gets cold or wet outside, we need to wrap ourselves in clothing of some kind to protect us from the cold, wind and rain. When it gets really cold, we need an external heat source, like a fire to keep us warm.
It does not take much imagination to think about our ancestors, covered in wet clothes from a day of surviving, returning home to their hut, burrow or cave and stoking their fire to create a lot of heat, then shedding those wet clothes to feel warm again. As their clothes dried next to them, the steam released, made the warmth of the fire much more pleasant.
The ancient Greek, Roman, and Arabic cultures also had sauna baths. These were typically enjoyed in the middle of the day, when it was hottest. In the summertime, many of these places are close to the temperature in a sauna. Why would these cultures enjoy bathing in the heat?
Sauna as a sweat bath:
We humans have another unique feature: We sweat to cool our bodies. As you can remember from your teenage years, there are lots of problems that can develop with your sweat glands if they aren’t kept clean.
Without modern soaps, one of the few ways to clean your personal cooling system was to get really sweaty, then rinse off your body. The Romans have a well described history of the process at their baths. Like a modern fitness center of today, they began by exercising in the courtyard of the baths to work up a sweat. Then they covered their bodies with oil and dust, then scraped them off. With the oil and dust came all of the other dirt and grime they had picked up on their bodies since their last bath. After that, they entered the baths proper, where they alternated between hot and cold rooms and pools to finish the cleansing process.
So what is the modern sauna?
The modern sauna that is in your gym locker room, or if you’re really lucky, your backyard is a combination of all these historical baths. The room is typically lined with wood. The open fire is gone, replaced with a sealed stove that is safe to use indoors. Some sauna stoves are still filled with stones. They help keep the temperature even inside the sauna, and allow you to splash water on them to make steam. Others do away with the stones, and use infrared panels to heat your body directly.
Modern medicine is coming to discover that the sauna can help with a number of ailments like heart problems and high blood pressure. Regular sauna baths help improve your endurance and heat tolerance and can help remove metabolic wastes post-workout. It also has psychological benefits: Regular sauna users have more energy, are happier, sleep better, and can maintain a healthy weight. It is also one of the few exercises for your skin — your body’s largest organ.
What is the sauna to you? Is it a sacred space? A place to recover from your last workout? Part of your beauty regimen? Or is it just a place to get away from your clothes and the modern world for a while? Let us know in the comments.
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