There are several benefits to running and if you can combine it with other health activities, it will significantly boost your health and sense of well-being.
You can use the sauna both before and after running. Prior usage helps stimulate blood flow and increase your heart rate. It gets you ready for your running session but it cannot replace warmup exercises. Post-running sauna usage helps relax your body and accelerates muscle recovery.
Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of using the sauna for runners and how to use the sauna to increase running performance.
Table of Contents
- Should You Sauna Before or After Running?
- Benefits of Using a Sauna For Runners
- How To Use a Sauna For Increased Running Performance
Should You Sauna Before or After Running?
While saunas have traditionally been used as a form of relaxation and recovery post-workout, using a sauna as a way to energize before a run can also have its benefits. Some recent evidence found through studies suggests that runners can use some time in the sauna before going on their run to initiate blood flow through the body.
The one thing that saunas can’t provide before a workout is any kind of muscle activation needed to ensure muscles are in good enough working condition to prevent injury. This is an important aspect of preparing for a run so it shouldn’t be neglected.
You should consider doing some stretching to get your muscles engaged before you go for your run in conjunction with using a sauna to stimulate blood flow and circulation. You also want to make sure you have a small healthy meal an hour beforehand and keep yourself properly hydrated so you have your best chance of maximizing your run with a pre-workout sauna session.
While there haven’t been a ton of long-term studies surrounding sauna use before and after running, the evidence that does exist suggests some really good reasons to add sauna use to your exercise regimen. Outside of the great things, saunas can do for your body, they are also great stress relievers and can have positive benefits for your mental health.
Benefits of Using a Sauna For Runners
For runners, saunas can offer a lot of physiological and mental benefits to promote optimal health and recovery. Of course, using a sauna isn’t without its risks, so it’s important to identify any potential reasons why a sauna might not be right for you before you enter one.
1. Stimulation of Blood Flow
Saunas help open up blood flow and blood vessels, helping to improve blood circulation. This can be a great thing before or after running. Having a strong, healthy heart is an important aspect of keeping up a good running regimen, and part of getting your heart and nervous system ready for a good run is getting that blood circulation and heat rate activated.
2. Post-Workout Recovery
One of the best reasons to cool down inside a sauna after a run is to help in your recovery. You need to give your muscles time to breathe and relax so they’re able to put what they’ve gained during exercise to good use. You also reduce the risk of injury the next time you go running when you let your muscles recover appropriately.
The heat from the sauna lets your muscles relax well enough to take in the much-needed oxygen and any nutrients you consume to help keep them healthy and strong. Additionally, there’s evidence that saunas can help keep your metabolism energized, which can help you increase the overall impact of your run in terms of calories burned.
3. Pain Reduction
Saunas also have a great way of helping to reduce any kind of muscle pain or soreness you might experience after running. Even if you don’t feel like your muscles are stiff, they likely are after a run. You don’t want to run the risk of over-exerting only to find yourself accidentally pulling something.
It’s found that those who engage in consistent exercise can drastically reduce the propensity of muscle soreness, pain, and stiffness when they make good use of a sauna after their chosen exercise. As a result, you might find that you’re not as sore and tired the next day after a long run.
4. Increased Capacity to Handle Heat
No matter what kind of weather you run in, you work up quite a sweat. Sweating is your body’s natural way of keeping your organs at the right temperature, and when your body is starting to overheat, it’s time to stop exerting yourself.
Healthy sauna use can help you slowly increase your body’s capacity to regulate itself when exposed to consistent heat, which over time, can help you increase how long you can run before you have to take a break.
Your body will also learn how to make better use of its natural cooling mechanisms, helping this part of your system work faster and more efficiently. The key is to stay hydrated or this won’t work.
How To Use a Sauna For Increased Running Performance
One of the key pieces to improving as a runner is not to neglect the importance of proper recovery and rest. Even just ten minutes inside a sauna after you train or run can be a good thing, especially if you’re still getting acclimated to the experience. You need to give your body the ability to rest and bring your heart rate down at a good pace.
Using saunas can also help runners decrease the amount of time it takes to recover after a run. This translates into the ability to continue to challenge your body when you want to increase running speed or endurance.
Some studies also find saunas help improve respiratory health, so you might even find yourself less winded as you continue running regularly.
No matter what type of sauna you use and when you use it, it’s absolutely essential to keep hydrated. You should be drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your sauna session. While working up a sweat is great, it’s not what’s giving you the benefits you’re seeking, so don’t let yourself sweat out to the point of dehydration.
Runners will see the most gain from using a sauna after running, but using one before a run can enhance your workout as well. As long as you make sure you’re stretching appropriately before your run, you’ll have a well-rounded pre-workout regimen in place that will only make you a more efficient runner.
Enjoying a sauna session after a run can aid in recovery, especially when you make it a habit. A lot of the physical benefits of a sauna, in conjunction with training and consistency, can actually help a runner become much better at their favorite pastime.