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Is it time for bands to embrace saunas while on the road? 

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Is it time for bands to embrace saunas on the road? Guest post series continues. Please welcome Francesco (Frank) to SaunaTimes:

My name is Francesco Guidoccio. I am a Professional Musician, film editor and now a Sauna builder / activist. I recently completed building my own backyard sauna. I had come across Glenns excellent saunatimes site and was quickly obsessed with it. I spent hours dizzyingly reading through thoughtful advice and it became instrumental in helping build my own. I appreciated how Glenn wasn’t too precious about how sauna needs to be.There are different ways to enjoy and build saunas and I found that refreshing and encouraging. 

An almost Minneapolis meet up

When I was on tour recently with the Canadian rock band Sloan, they had a show in Minneapolis and I reached out to Glenn to invite him as a thank you. I explained to him how his website was part of the driving force that led me to complete my first sauna build. He seemed genuinely delighted by my build, and immediately invited us for a sauna when we arrived in town. Unfortunately the weather on our drive didn’t cooperate so our timing didn’t work out.

Regardless, I mentioned how much I missed my newly built sauna. How I was having daily sessions to now none and wow what a difference it was. If we were having saunas everyday, it would be a game changer on the road. We would sleep , feel and perform better, absolutely no doubt in my mind. I tested it. I was the lab rat. 30 days in a row with sauna and now 18 days without. Glenn suggested we co-write an article about the experience and topic and call it “Is it time for bands to embrace sauna on the road” hell ya and here we are! 

Sloan at Bowery NYC (Photo: Matthew Berlyant)
Sloan at Bowery NYC (Photo: Matthew Berlyant)

Frank’s sauna background

I was born in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario on the mighty shores of Lake superior. I’m fortunate to have been exposed to Canada’s four seasons that only northern Ontario can offer and with that, outdoor culture that embrace our varied seasons.We have winter distractions, people ski, hike, snowshoe, icefish, explore ice caves, my high school had snowmobile parking , anything to pass time through the long winters. I grew up playing with kids on my street that were Ojibway, German, Irish, Italians and luckily Finnish. The cold winters and being at the heart of what is considered an inland sea “lake superior” aka “the great lakes” lends itself to the discovery and celebration of the sauna experience. Some of my earliest memories as a kid were going to friends’ houses or camps that were scattered along the shoreline and hanging out in an outdoor wood-lined room called a sauna. I have vivid memories of trying to stay in till you couldn’t take it any more, running out, rolling in the snow, freaking out and then running back to this hot room. 

Sauna action was exhilarating, yet it was also shocking. It built youthful camaraderie yet also humbled us. As a teen I began to also recognize saunas other benefits, I seemed to fall asleep faster, was more relaxed and less sore afterwards as well. When I was in the sauna, it was all I was able to think about, it helped me focus. Trying to breathe, calm and not overheat. Trying to stay in as long as you could take, it was challenging, rewarding and because of that the environment conducive to great conversations, it brought everyone’s guard down and you would have great talks with family or friends.

Through my teens I discovered music, played bass and joined a band, during high school I sometimes played 7 nights a week three sets, every night with a Saturday matinee. When I finished high school. I jumped around a bit but finally landed in Toronto, Canada. It was this city that gave me a career, life and love. I got signed to MCA records with this cool band called “made”. We made a record, music videos and toured North America with bands like Matchbox 20 and the Cardigans, sold no records then got dropped. I continued on with other indie bands like memory bank and to this day with my rock quartet The Order of Good Cheer It was through music that I thankfully met a lot of inspired and interesting people, and learned about film editing when we made music videos, which would also become a career for me. 

My good friend at the time Martti was also from my hometown, a gifted visual artist / designer, who came to work for Autodesk. A 3d software company. He was also Finnish, who enthusiastically enjoyed saunas. We would solely get gym memberships to only use the sauna room, never lift weights, never swim, but just for sauna. We would meet after a night out, unwind, relax and detoxify the one too many cocktails and questionable food decisions after last call, I’m looking at you peppercorn steak at 2am.

Alright, that was just a little background, let’s jump in a time machine. Well before covid hit, I became very self aware of my mental and physical wellness. If I was physically healthy, it usually meant I felt mentally healthy. If I was unhealthy, it would affect my art, work and personal relationships in obvious negative ways. Through this discovery I fell in love with boxing and the vigorous nature of its craft, it’s the playing drums of sports. Did you know that Bo Diddley was a boxer before he became a musician? His three-beat/two-beat “da, da, DA, da, da doesn’t it sound kinda like a boxing cadence? From a deeper perspective, boxing like a sauna requires focus and concentration to succeed and leads to a deeper connection with the present moment, and a greater sense of self-awareness. 

Making backyard sauna build happen

This year I became determined to finally build my own backyard sauna in the city. I began doing research, came across Glenn’s website, SaunaTimes, and other sauna rabbit holes, to come up with the blueprints for my very own 5 x 7 sauna. I wanted to go electric , mainly because of logistics of wood delivery and maintaining that in downtown Toronto. My father Bruno was visiting and I decided to have him help me this past September with the sauna’s basic framing. Father and son vibes, there was some yelling too! He’s old school Italian “very dad strong.” It’s wild. We had the sauna framed and roofed in 2 days. I picked away and finished the rest of the build. I had an electrician come do my wiring for the 6 kilowatt Tylo sport and had my first sauna 1 month later.

Some people may question the idea of building a personal sauna in the city, but I don’t. It’s like I have my own tiny cottage in my backyard. It’s a magical oasis in this loud urban environment in the middle of winter or any season. I enjoy the time I get to spend there. I sauna everyday, mostly in the morning post workout. I really find it helps me start my day well adjusted. It’s a reset, a great equalizer. It’s meditative, challenging and relaxing, part of my daily morning routine. I lined my sauna with tongue and groove western red cedar. This species is exotic to me because in North Ontario we have a lot of white cedar and pine. The sauna is modest but an affected 5 x 7 footprint. There are two removable benches that can accommodate 4 people sitting across the top or 1 person lying down per bench. Myself, friends and family now get to enjoy the sauna any day we want, it’s a wonderful experience be it solo or socially. 

Frank in front of his Toronto home sauna
Frank in front of his Toronto home sauna

Keeping the bus moving with Sloan

It was not long after building my sauna that my friend Mike Nelson, manager of the Legendary Canadian rock band SLOAN asked me to join them on the road as a guitar – tech. I knew about Sloan when I lived in the Soo. I had their albums. Years later we became friends when I moved to Toronto, connecting through the music scene, neighbourhood and mutual friends. They are all original members which is nearly impossible and are currently touring their 13th studio album “steady.” A fantastic band, with an incredible wealth of perfect songs that all share the songwriting equally. 

The tour started on the west coast. That morning before heading to the airport, I took what would be my last sauna for 18 days. The band and crew would fly into Vancouver to meet up with the bus, TM and trailer there. We would take the ferry to Victoria first, and then backtrack to Vancouver for the weekend before starting our way towards the USA. It was a show a day basically with 2 days in one place at the beginning and end of the tour. We would arrive in a new place at 10am, grab showers or not at a hotel near the venue, then a quick lunch or not…. then to the venue to load in.

We would sound check at 4pm then hopefully a sitting meal break with an 8 pm performance start time of two 50 minute sets. Immediately after the show, we would break down all the gear, load and board the bus. Departure time for the bus was at 1am for the next city. Rinse and repeat. It’s like the movie Groundhog Day. You may be asking why not crash for the night, stay at the hotel. Well because that all costs money. It’s expensive to keep a group of people on a bus moving, on tour, and pay for all the expenses it takes to do that. So you keep the bus moving. 

Sloan are fortunate to have a bus to tour on, a lot of artists and bands do van touring which is a whole other beast. We have the benefit of going to bed and waking up in the next city. I use the word sleep loosely, sleeping in a bus presents its own challenges, bumpy roads, traffic lights, the bus has to navigate weather and obstacles constantly which affect the gravity of objects and people on the bus. If we make a sharp turn (which never happens, thank you Ian) or stop abruptly, it certainly moves you around. Simple things like making coffee become a system of balance, gravity, and patience. The bus would usually park at the venue or the local hotel we may have for a night or simply use it for a shower / day room. Thankfully even if we’re not staying at a hotel, we would usually get a day room for proper showers and also so the bus driver could actually sleep.

Tour bus parked at Salmon Arm, without sauna. (photo: Sarah Sargent)
Tour bus parked at Salmon Arm, without sauna. (photo: Sarah Sargent)

Sauna dreaming for bands on tour

I couldn’t help but think what the experience would be like with a sauna in the cycle of a tour. I went from having a daily sauna to jumping on a bus with none. Back home, I was literally all things sauna: the books and science, the build, then everyday day sessions. It was a daily routine for me. Now, being on the road, it was flipped on its head. I immediately became aware of it. I was actually sleeping better than I thought I would. I was also staying fit with lifting gear, using hotel gyms and pools but it was hard to stretch, relax when you’re in a rolling hotel room, a foot away from 8 other people. It’s also impossible no matter what you do, if someone gets a cold, WE all get a cold. 

When the opportunity presents itself we take it. Hot springs or hot tubs, dodgy saunas at hotels that rarely have them. And when they do, these saunas are barely functional. The reality is it’s hard to make time for saunas when traveling because of timing and real-world obstacles like weather or bus mechanical issues. Just figuring out the route path with a bus to the venue can be a challenge.

Practical sauna benefits

What was really interesting to me was we were presented with moments where if we had been traveling with a sauna, a lot of the obstacles would be potentially easier to navigate. For example simple things like showering / cleaning after gigs before bed / bus call, we would rush to the hotel and shower, put on fresh clothes, then run back to the bus. Had we been traveling with a sauna, that all could have happened in a parking lot in Portland. 

While some might think of a sauna as a luxury or an indulgence, it actually has tangible benefits that can help you perform at your best on tour. I would argue it has more value on the road than a day room with a shower. A proper sauna would have a shower, so you can rinse off and or do hot / cold cycles. The day room is just that, yes it has a bed, but it’s barely used. We book day rooms for freshening up mostly, so why not with a real sauna instead? There is scientific evidence that regular sauna use can have health benefits for a range of occupations, including musicians. Let’s take a look at why it’s time for bands to embrace sauna on the road. 

Sauna health benefits

Let’s start with the obvious – saunas are incredibly relaxing. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics found that regular sauna use reduced stress and anxiety levels in healthy adults which can be beneficial for musicians who may experience stage-fright or performance-related stress.The sauna session also creates a collaborative spirit, like a hockey team discussing strategy, it builds camaraderie in discussion or can be used meditative when having a solo session. 

Regular sauna use has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. Musicians, like many other individuals, spend long periods of time on a bus or plane sitting or standing during performances, which can negatively impact their cardiovascular health. Sauna is also beneficial for musicians who may experience inflammation-related pain or discomfort from playing. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics found that regular sauna use reduced markers of inflammation. This is important for musicians who may experience muscle fatigue or soreness from playing for extended periods.

Touring musicians are constantly on the move, which means they’re exposed to all kinds of germs and bacteria. Imagine 10 people with 1 shared washroom in a bus after performing in a concert hall with hundreds, thousands of people. This germ immersion can take a toll on one’s immune system and leave us all vulnerable to illness. If one person gets a cold, WE all get a cold. Sauna could help protect against infection and illness and a 2013 study published in the Journal of Human Stress found Sauna use can help boost immune function by increasing the production of white blood cells. 

Of course when you’re on tour, it’s easy to fall into unhealthy habits. Late nights, fast food, and alcohol can all take a toll on your body. However, regular sauna sessions can help to detoxify your body and flush out any toxins. The heat from the sauna can cause you to sweat, which helps to remove impurities from your skin and can improve your overall health. 

Physical fatigue while on the road

Finally, touring can be exhausting, 22 hours of hustle for 2 hours of glory. Getting a good night’s sleep can be tough when you’re constantly on the move. However, regular sauna sessions can actually improve your sleep quality. When you use a sauna, your body temperature rises, and then drops when you leave. This drop in body temperature can help to regulate your circadian rhythm, which can help you fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer. Improved sleep quality means more energy for your performances, and a better overall experience on tour. 

Harris and Frank on the tour bus
Harris and Frank on the tour bus

Final Thoughts and next steps

What does this all mean? I’m not sure. The reality is that sauna on the road is a luxury mostly out of reach logistically and financially. It shouldn’t be because it would be a game changer. Can you imagine venues like Red Rocks or the Budweiser Stage in Toronto with a backstage sauna? It wasn’t too long ago that massage therapists began popping up at music festivals and backstage, why can’t sauna be part of that equation? 

I do realize there are mobile saunas companies, but no one that specializes in true Finnish style saunas for touring bands or music festivals with their unique logistics. Unless you’re Willie Nelson or Iron Maiden, saunas for most artists remain out of reach. So how can we change that? When I was on tour with SLOAN and invited Glenn to the show in Minneapolis, we began riffing on this idea of touring saunas and how much bands would truly benefit from it. I’m obviously passionate about sauna and its amazing benefits and I love sharing that passion with others. So here we are. 

We therefore propose a call to steamy arms. Could there be a non-profit organization that helps, supply, provide logistics or get access to proper sauna for traveling artists? A mobile sauna on wheels organization could prove a valuable addition to the music industry. By providing touring artists and musicians the help to improve their overall well-being and promote a culture of self-care within the music community. We could be cheeky and call it “the rolling saunas” it would make the best t-shirts!

As a non-profit organization, our primary goal is not to make a profit but rather to cover our expenses and generate enough revenue to sustain our operations. The band would benefit from the sauna, shower, and a basic washroom eliminating the need for pricey day rooms. We could seek out partnerships with companies that share our values of health, wellness, and sauna culture! Corporate sponsors would provide a sponsorship program in each city, providing a platform for co-branding opportunities and sauna education, a wellness campaign. An artist would arrive in town, and the rolling saunas would be delivered to the bus and set up on location! That’s the great thing, saunas can feel amazing in the middle of nowhere even in a parking lot in Minneapolis. That’s the magic.

There you have it, who’s in? 

The campaign starts here, let’s go! 

@therollingsaunas

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1 Comments

1 thought on “Is it time for bands to embrace saunas while on the road? ”

  1. How fantastic would it be to see a tour bus rolling down the Interstate with a sauna in tow? The companies that rent the busses could add mobile saunas to their fleets and the tours could add that as an option for not a whole lot more than the bus costs. Those busses cost, what, $750,000? What’s another $50k for a dope-ass mobile sauna? Voyageur, Cedar and Stone: get on it! Build a trailer for the smaller bus tours that is 1/2 band gear haulage and 1/2 mobile sauna. The big groups could hire me to be their traveling saunameister.

    Francesco thanks for this story. I’m sure you noticed the Public Sauna Map on this site. I hope that would be a great resource when you’re on the road and you’d let us know about any other saunas you find that should be added.

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