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when going from hot to cold, many take a low bench layover

After about 10-15 minutes on the sauna bench, we start to take inventory of our situation. And a low bench layover may soon be in our future.

Sweat is surely flowing. We throw another good shot of water on the rocks and take in the löyly: “aaaaaahhh,” (and no better word for the feeling). We are fully in this moment, soft light, gentle penetrating dense peacefulness. The heat on our skin is only a beginning. Because we are in a sauna with good lämpömassa, we are experiencing dense penetrating heat, deep within our bodies. And this makes all the difference.

Being in the moment is also about being in the moment about planning for our next moment, especially while getting blasted on the sauna bench. If Eckart Tolli were with us, we could get his thoughts on when it’s time to leave the hot room. But buddy Clint says “the time to leave the hot room is when the idea of an ice cold lake plunge is about the best idea you’ve ever heard.”

Whatever our clean rinse cool down methods are, be it lake plunge, cold plunge tank, snow angel, bucket rinse or a combination thereof, for many of us, especially those of us north of 55 years old and the 45th parallel, it is important to keep ourselves on level ground when going from hot to cold.

The low bench layover

When it’s time to leave the hot room, we climb off the upper bench, and before exiting the hot room, we may sit on the low bench for a moment. It could be to adjust the fire in our sauna stove or to reach for our SaunaShoes. This layover serves another purpose, a mental purpose of collecting our thoughts and psyching ourselves up for the other temperature extreme awaiting us outside our sauna hot room door.

For some, the low bench layover is a time to partake in 5-10 Wim Hof breaths. “Fully in… let go.” For others, it is a body core check in.. “am I hot enough to make it all the way down to the lake for avanto?” Or “I’m going to sit in the ice bath for 3 minutes, am I ready?”

Scott Carney calls the space between stimulus and response “The Wedge.” A low bench layover puts us in position to expand the wedge.

It’s ok to be a Low Bench Larry. Good sauna is about listening to the core, not the skin. The low bench layover is a great way to ease into hot/cold thermogenical goodness, especially in winter, with big temperature extremes.

A low bench layover within a mobile sauna

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15 thoughts on “when going from hot to cold, many take a low bench layover”

  1. I downloaded the “e book”. After unzippng I have several folders and many files. Is there a recommended way to view the files or are you supposed to open them one at a time?

  2. there are folders representing each chapter, and the pdf: “complete ebook as a pdf” is good for folks wanting to print off the book. It is “ink friendly” with few photos within the copy. Wishing you good sauna, Jason!

  3. I’m using a sauna for medical reasons and have some questions for safety.

    I’m shooting for raising my body temp to 105.8 degrees for 1 hour as I’ve already reached 105 degrees without problems.

    1. What is the proper safe cooldown method? I usually just get out and lay on the floor.
    2. How much water do I drink before and during the session?
    3. With my current setup I can go from 97.3 degrees to 102.5 in 30-40 minutes. Is this too fast to heat my body up? I notice I get fairly dizzy but am unsure if that’s just the normal fever feeling or if I’m doing something wrong.
    4. Is there a way I can somehow slow my heart rate down or not notice it so much? Aside from dealing with the heat when my body temp starts to hit 100.5F the heart rate really makes it difficult to concentrate on anything and I just want to get out.

  4. Derrick,

    Like bike riding, mountain climbing, and eating a really good pizza, it’s best to get into sauna slowly, and get a feel.

    And like bike riding, mountain climbing, and eating a really good pizza, sauna should be something you want to do over and over.

  5. Hi Derrick, are you coordinating this with a medical doctor? Sauna typically raises core body temp by about 1-3°f at most. A 6.5°f increase seems quite risky.

    Dizziness and high heart rate may be a sign of poor ventilation (which seems very common in U.S. saunas) but could also simply be a result of what you are trying to do.

    If you are not already I would strongly encourage you to talk to a medical doctor about what you are doing.

  6. I’d welcome being a ‘Low Bench Larry’ but seems my sauna is just not getting as hot as I’d like!

    First off, I have very much appreciated all your content, thank you Glenn!

    I have nearly completed my dream back yard wood fired sauna, and have begun to enjoy my first sweats 😅

    I had a question about my stove, only partly related to this blog post, and it’s a lot to ask for your opinion but wasn’t sure who else to ask! You seem to be the preeminent Sauna guru of our time!

    Of the big decision was which stove to buy, and sadly I hadn’t discovered your content yet and decided to go with a Harvia GreenFlame. It’s a beautiful stove, but it is taking a couple hours to heat my sauna and after three hours I managed to get it up to 180, not as much upper end or speed as I’d hoped. Wood is seasoned fir and birch, so should have enough juice!

    Not sure if you’re familiar with the Harvia
    https://www.sauna.ca/product/harvia-legend-greenflame/
    So I’m wondering if the medium or even large Kuuma would make a difference?

    Size of my sauna is approx 10x8x8 with larger cedar beams for the structure, all sealed with tongue and groove with insulated 2×6 walls – it’ll soon have a green roof garden which I imagine will only increase the thermal mass even though it’s well insulated between the ceiling and garden.

    Any perspective would be appreciated, and no worries if you don’t have time for a response.

    Thank you!

  7. Hi Ryan,

    Happy to comment/respond and try to help with your long time to heat up and low heat situation.

    1. Firewood. When I hear that you’re using seasoned birch, well, that’s about the best sauna wood there is, so that’s surely not your problem.
    2. Walls. When I hear 2×6 insulated, well, again, you’re well built there, so that’s not it.
    3. Size. Here’s the thing. 10x8x8 is YMCA camp size hot room. You have lots of cubic feet to contend with here. It’s almost not fair me suggesting you frame out for, say, an outside storage area and de mass the hot room to be 8x8x8, but that is an option, and just sayin’.
    4. Stove. Well, I haven’t experienced this stove first hand. And in full disclosure, as you know, I’m a nut for the Kuuma. It is the benchmark for good heat in N. America. We use it in Minnesota where stretches of winter don’t get above 0°f. And the Kuuma fights back effortlessly, and sends you outside after a hot round, with a bayonet pointing in your back, as you seek out the hole in the ice. The Kuuma is over twice the weight of the stove you have. It has firebrick throughout the firebox. There is no green washing with the Kuuma. My Kuumas fire up and run with zero smoke. This means all of the BTUs are being extracted from the burn (smoke turning to gas).

    And another thing. Just because a sauna stove can take a shit ton of rock in the cage, doesn’t mean that those sauna stones are good contributors to lämpömassa. A “thermal whisperer” will acknowledge that there is an optimal ratio of sauna stones/heat production. And this ratio is a contributing factor to temperature. Not enough sauna stones/heat production and the hot room is like a toaster oven and the löyly is biting. Too many stones/heat production and the hot room is like lipstick on a pig, and the thermometer struggles and the löyly is like a wet blanket.

    Ryan, sorry, but you got me all fired up. Ok, I’m back down to earth here.

    You probably spent around $2k on your current sauna stove. And a medium or large Kuuma will be that again. To advise you to jump over to Kuuma may sound like the mechanic telling you that your broken timing belt means you need a brand new engine, but Ryan, you built a beautiful sauna and you deserve to get knocked on your ass while sitting on your upper bench.

    So, for that, my diagnosis for you is a “new engine.”

    We build our saunas one time, and get to enjoy them the rest of our lives.

    I know above is “tough love” for good heat, and i’ll email you separately, as I feel your pain and want to help you along the Kuuma trail, if this is where you want to go. Others may have other thoughts,

  8. Hello there,

    I helped Ryan build the sauna and it truly is a marvel of creative genius. The one thing that doesn’t make sense to me is that the manufacturer specs say this size stove has an output suitable for 10-24cubic meter range and we are 12.5… we are at the low end of the range and so thought we would be able to roast on the top bench! If all this is true and we need a new ‘engine’, I will be very disappointed with Harvia!

  9. Hey glen,

    great article. i watched the PBS doc “making it” last night and saw you on there too! My wife and I are working with a campground up in Tofino, BC and Ucluelet, British Columbia, Canada and are trying to bring the heat/cold therapy (ocean dunking with our beach front mobile sauna fleet) to the pacific northwest!

    I was curious to know if you would share some content to help us make a presence in preparation for our spring/summer/fall sauna season. We’d be after any info to share via our website (its’ all over yours!!) and photos.

    Please let me know if this would work, we are gettting the Sowna out there! Literally.

  10. Good day Glenn!

    Just thought I’d send along a short update – managed two more experiments.

    For one I wanted to see just how hot my sauna was capable of – and after six hours, and loads of wood, my thermometer hit close to 200, which is the heat I was hoping for, though as an extreme kind of guy I always welcome more 😜 In terms of insulation, I think I’m good as the heat stayed within the Sauna temp range for four hours after the last of the wood had burnt out.

    I haven’t tried removing rock quantity yet either (thanks for that suggestion), that’s the next test to see if I can reduce heating time – but certainly not holding my breath. I’m doing the rock test last as I had painstakingly placed the rocks like an artistic Tetris game meditation!

    I’m wondering how long it takes your Kuuma, and perhaps the average Kuuma sauna to heat up to that upper end heat just so I have a gauge for my expectations. My hope was around the 90 minutes – not 6 hours!

    Thanks again!

  11. Hi Ryan,

    My Minneapolis backyard sauna with Kuuma takes 45 mins. to get up to serving temp. Only a few more minutes than this in sub freezing temps.
    Small Kuuma.
    2003 purchase (and may outlive me).
    6’4 x 6’4″ x 7″ hot room.
    Wood mix: lots of ash, some birch and oak, oh also some silver maple.
    2×4 framing with R13 and foil. R38 in ceiling. (double R19 action).

  12. Hi Glenn,

    Our prefabricated barrel sauna arrived in January and I have been using it a lot. Is there such a thing as over doing it? My routine is turn it on at 5 am. Enter at 6am temp if 160f and climbing. After 20 minutes I get out enter the hot tub and let the jets blast my neck and shoulders, another 15-20 minutes before returning to the sauna which is now at 175f. I sauna for another 20 minutes rolling my neck out on a sauna log. Back in the hot tub for another round. Then I enter the sauna for my last round and again it’s a 20 minute session . By the end I am pouring sweat. The final thing that I do is enter my shower and take a 5 to 7 minute cold shower.

    I have never felt better in my life.

    It my concern is over doing it. I was repeating this before bedtime as well and was doing this 5 to 6 times weekly! I have since backed off, but long for the sauna on days that I do not do it…..any advice?

  13. Mike,

    I sauna 3x a week, and I too appreciate non sauna days as a way to gear up for my sauna days. My Grandmother used to say “everything in moderation.” And she lived to 105 yrs. old.

    As you’ve never felt better in your life, I’d say that the last thing you probably need is any advice.

    That said, as you know:
    1) hydration. It’s not just water, but be mindful of minerals. Potassium, sodium, zinc specifically. In preparation for and replenishment of – key.
    2) hot/cold. Good to hear that you’re cold showering. There is something about the body equalization that, as you are experiencing, is a mega contributor to your wellbeing.
    3) mental action. Converting dopamine to serotonin… or as the Jamaicans say…”feeling irie.”

  14. Hi Glenn

    Love your site and work. I just ordered my clear T&G cedar from Canada, so my sauna adventure is officially under way in sunny Colorado. I have a question about the topic of this post if you don’t mind…

    My outdoor room is 7.3′ x 5.5′. The door will go on the long wall. This is an existing structure, so I can’t change those dimensions, I can only shift the door a little from the center a foot or so. My original thought about design was to put the heater opposite the door on the long wall, then have benches on either side facing each other. I thought this would be a nice symmetrical and sociable layout. However, I don’t have the room on either side of the heater or door for both low and high benches. There’s only 31″ on each side of the 26″ wide door frame (if it goes in the middle), so your recommended 24″ bench width with low bench inset of 4″ (total 44″) wouldn’t work.

    This may be sacrilege, but how about high benches as you describe (44-46″ from roof, 24″ wide), then a couple of cedar stools as the “low bench”, which can stow under the high benches? These would be used to step up onto the high bench and as stools to sit lower to rest.

    The alternative is to forget benches facing each other, put the heater at one end, then only benches at the other end exactly as you describe. Any thoughts would be very much appreciated.

  15. I’d build your sauna, then before building benches, begin simulating some scenarios with off the shelf stools and picnic benches. It’s how I think/roll as it’s so much more “real” than drawings and blueprints. Hope this helps.

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