Disclaimer: Heat can lead to hyperthermia, tachycardia or fainting. Consult with your doctor before entering a sweat lodge or otherwise hot environment. When taking any type of medication, or if you have any pre-existing illness or condition, you must check with your doctor first before attempting heat therapy.
Heat therapy has many benefits that can assist your fitness. It can be easily incorporated in your regular fitness programming. Even if you don’t have a regular fitness routine, it is still of benefit to your overall health and can easily fit into your weekly routine.
You don’t need access to state of the art fitness facilities to experience heat therapy. Your local recreation center might have a sauna, pool, hot tub or steam room. While the shower can be turned to hot, it is harder to get a full body immersion than it is with a tub. Below is a relatively inexpensive option for the home that can still go plenty hot for the effects we want.
As part of recovery at Modern Samurai I use heat therapy. There are so many reasons to incorporate heat therapy as a recovery tool into your regular fitness regimen. It produces many full body benefits. Due to the heat, heat shock proteins (HSPs) are released in the body. HSPs help the proteins in our body. It also releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is associated with the birth of new neurons. Most notably, we sweat, and sweating helps clean the skin and can release toxins from the body.
There are many ways to achieve this experience on your own. Saunas, pools, hot tubs and steam rooms are good places to start. What to do if you don’t have any of these facilities at home, your gym or a nearby recreational center?
1. Get a tent
We want something that is large enough to hold yourself, and keep enough air in and circulating so we can keep breathing in the heat. At the same time we want it small so that we don’t have to heat a large volume of air.
After some browsing I came across a double walled, self-standing, 2-second tent. Self-standing so you don’t have to fasten cords, or put hooks in the ground. Double walled to have an air pocket assist in insulating the hot insides. 2-seconds so that it will be quick to set up or put away. This is very important. The bigger the barrier, the less likely you are to use it or keep it up after a few tries.
2. Get a heater
Our heat source has to be safe but mustn’t cut off so soon that we don’t reach our desired temperature.
I found a small electrical heater that works just fine. It also has an internal cut off if things were to get out of hand. Luckily this is above the temperatures I’m aiming for.
3. Get extra isolation for the tent
To keep as much heat in as possible I needed some extra insulation. It couldn’t be heavy, like a wool blanket, because that would collapse the ten. So I went for something designed to keep heat in: emergency blankets. When wrapping the tent, make sure to keep enough openings to get fresh air circulating for breathing. Breathing and staying awake is more important than reaching steam sauna peaks in temperature.
4. Get a thermometer
I found a plant thermometer to do the job of measuring how hot I was making it. It was the first one I found that had a scale that went high enough. Pick one and go. Don’t overthink this.
I like to keep it simple while still receiving the benefits, or at least the bulk of them. Let’s face it, we’re not Olympic athletes looking for every edge. Here’s the protocol:
- Unfold the tent.
- Put the heater inside.
- Lay down a towel to sit on. It will soak up the sweat that drips down, and you have something to dip off with.
- Start the heater. Heat up the inside until you reach 41°C. It will be next to impossible to control this down to the degree. Aim to stay at a minimum of 41°C. Keep your maximum well below tolerable levels of yourself and your equipment (tent, heater…).
- Get in. Sit in the heat for 30min. Note: Do NOT push or force yourself. It is perfectly fine to start for a shorter amount of time and then work your way up.
- Get out. When ready to come out of the tent, remember to get out slowly and hold on to a solid support. If you have a friend with you, he can help you get out of the tent.
Remember: If at any time during the procedure, from getting in to getting out, you feel something is wrong, then stop what you are doing. You may need to consult a doctor before attempting another sweat.
There you have it. You now have your own sweat lodge at home.