Sauna Before or After Swimming?

Woman enjoying in swimming pool after procedures

The question of whether it is better to use a sauna before or after a swimming session has been circling around the gym and spa community for a while now. It seems that no one is really sure which strategy is better, but everybody also seems to have their own insights into the benefits and downsides of either. There is no doubt that sauna has numerous benefits for a human body and mind, but it is also no secret that if it’s not being used correctly, it might cause some problems. Therefore, we have decided to a more thorough look and finally conclude which one is better; sauna before, or after swimming?

Sauna Before Swimming

It looks like one of the main reasons people use the sauna before swimming is to prevent muscle strain and injury during their swimming session. The heat and humidity in the sauna actually tend to loosen up muscles, warm-up the body and increase one’s metabolism and heart rate. For some people, swimming after a sauna session means a great way to cool down and wake oneself up. For example, in Finland people tend to use the sauna first, and then go for a swim. This seems to affect people in a great way, both body and mind-wise. However, people in Finland, and Baltic countries as well, use more of the natural waters, rivers, and lakes to go for a quick swim since the water is usually very cold. They also tend to mix thing up, doing both, the sauna and the swimming intermittently; but they always start with the sauna. Even though there are many benefits of using the sauna before swimming, in order to see whether it is better than using the sauna after swimming, we must look at the downsides

Downsides

–        Muscles can get too relaxed

As mentioned before, using the sauna before swimming can relax muscles and prevent muscle strain and injury. However, the sauna can get your muscles to be too relaxed and loose prior to the swimming session. This can actually increase your chances of an injury and muscle strain.

–        Loss of energy

One of the main risks of using the sauna before swimming is the fact that heat and humidity can actually lower your energy. Because saunas are usually used to relax, both physically and mentally, your energy levels tend to lower naturally. This means that your body and mind won’t be altered before the actual swimming session, which is very important if you want to stay motivated and focused to complete the session successfully.

–        Dehydration and overheating

In the sauna, you will start to sweat very much, which means that you’ll be losing your body’s hydration even before you started swimming. Saunas are known to cause overheating and dehydration, which can make one feel nauseous and lightheaded. Therefore, it is important to hydrate before and after the sauna, as well as before and after swimming. Swimming takes a lot of energy, and by straining your body prior to  swimming, you might cause certain health problems.

Sauna After Swimming

One of the main reasons people use the sauna after a swimming session is to help their muscles and body recover. During swimming, every muscle in your body works hard to keep you on the surface. This causes the muscles to form tears, which are not a big deal. However, they can definitely cause inflammation, which can result in muscle soreness, tightness, muscle sensitivity, and cramps. After these tears heal, they actually make the muscles stronger. By using the sauna after swimming, you are helping your muscles heal and recover faster, as the increased blood circulation transfers oxygen to oxygen-depleted muscles. Moreover, the majority of people using a sauna after swimming claim that the heat helps them warm-up, as it increases their blood flow and makes their body more relaxed and less tense. This allows the warmth to spread throughout the body evenly. But, no matter how beneficial using the sauna after swimming is, there seem to be some downsides to this strategy as well;

Downsides

–        Possible body over-exertion

Because you’ve been swimming, your body is already tired and exhausted. That is why it is important not to stay in the sauna for too long after swimming, as it might over-exert your body. After swimming, you should be in the sauna no longer than 20 minutes, or you could start with even smaller intervals, and over time increase your stay at the sauna. Either way, staying in the sauna for too long after swimming can cause lightheadedness, nausea, and headaches.

–        Overheating and dehydration

After the swimming session, it is important to drink water, which means that you’ll be hydrated for your session in the sauna. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids after the sauna as well. If you don’t stay hydrated, you might experience overheating and dehydration. It is also important to cool down appropriately after the sauna, to get plenty of rest and, of course, plenty of water.

Conclusion

Just like with everything in this world, this decision too is up to you. Many would agree that the answer to the question of which strategy is better depends largely on what people are looking to get out of each experience. If someone is looking to achieve great performance during the swimming, then they should use the sauna after swimming. On the other hand, if someone is more interested in the relaxing and long sauna sessions, then it should be better for them to either mix things up or use the sauna before swimming. On the whole, the best method seems to be the one where you do both, the sauna and the swimming, intermittently, as the people of Finland do. Either way, it is important to remember that everything should be done according to one’s personal pace, abilities, and need

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