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Scott Carney’s “The Wedge” helps explain why we love sauna and why it’s so good for us

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Many of us are familiar with Scott Carney as the man sent to debunk Wim Hof. After a week alongside Wim at his retreat center in Poland, Scott was transformed from skeptic to “sold” a he studied and learned Wim’s breathing practices and cold exposure exercises including cold plunges and shirtless hikes up icy cold mountains.

Where Scott was sent to debunk, instead, he left Poland with first hand experience of how we can control our autonomic nervous system through the power of the mind, thermoregulation, “renewing our lost evolutionary strength.” What’s more is Scott left with a deep bond and friendship with the Iceman, Wim Hof. Scott continued to train with Wim, and in 2016 they hiked Mount Kilimanjaro.

At 18,625 ft. Mt. Kilimanjaro can produce deadly altitude sickness. Most require 5-10 days to acclimate for the climb, whereas Wim, Scott and about 20 others who trained under Wim reached the summit in 28 hours, oh, and defying the bitter cold bare chested and without gear.

Scott Carney, left, and Dennis Bernaerts, right, with Wim Hof at Gilman’s Point on Mount Kilimajaro
Image: Supplied by Scribe Publications

Scott came down from the mountain and wrote “What Doesn’t Kill Us”, the seminal book that explains his conversion from sceptic to convert on the Wim Hof Method. The book dives deeply and clearly into the physiology and science of returning to our natural state. Wim himself, in the Foreword of the book:

Nature gave us the ability to heal ourselves. Conscious breathing and environmental conditioning are two tools that everyone can use to control their immune system, better their moods, and increase their energy. I believe that anyone can tap into these unconscious processes and eventually control their autonomic nervous system.

– Wim Hof, 2016, “What Doesn’t Kill Us”, Foreword.

Today we are treated to the launch of Scott’s new book, The Wedge.

Any powerful concept can be explained simply. And the Wedge is no different. The Wedge is the space we can create between stimulus and response.

As we sit on the sauna bench, taking in that blast of löly, we don’t rush for the door. We work our way through the steam. We create a Wedge. When we look at the hot room door and ask ourselves, are we ready to leave? More often, the answer is not yet, as we seek to build up to when “the idea of an ice cold lake plunge is about best idea we’ve ever heard.” The Wedge.

When we emerge from the sauna hot room and into our ice cold backyard shower, cold plunge, rushing stream or cold lake, we do so without a squeal, but with a quiet resolve. The Wedge.

After an extended cool down, the world comes into focus. Endorphins rushing, body tingling, and euphoria. By creating The Wedge between stimulus – hot steam, hot sauna, cold plunge, icy water, we are able to rewire our response.

Another way to explain the Wedge, as it relates to sauna, is that we are able to turn “ewwwwww” into “ahhhhhhh.” As many become more and more familiar with good sauna, really good sauna, we are able to not just find, but seek out the moments in the hot room when the heat, really good heat, penetrates deep and thorough. Scott calls these symbols. We all recognize that wonderful, familiar feeling when we first step into the hot room for our first sauna round. We have created a symbol. The stimulus of the heat has a place in our brain. Our brain recognizes that feeling. The symbol of good sauna heat is with our own saunas, understanding good heat through good sauna is a symbol. And we gain this understanding through experiencing good heat, a feedback loop.

The wedge helps us build not just tolerance to the heat and cold, but helps give us strength, fortitude, perseverance. The Finn’s call it sisu.

In The Wedge, the chapter Redline takes us through a centuries old sauna ritual that Scott and his wife experienced in Latvia. Two pirtnieks, shamans, sauna masters, guide them through multiple hot rounds and cool downs which include wisking, essences, and other “distractions” as Scott calls them, clever ways of creating a Wedge from the stimulus of intense heat. Distracting us (in a good way).

Scott details the razor’s edge of tolerance. From pleasurable to grueling, then back again. Distraction.

As we think about great authors, they have the ability to coin the right term at the right time. As we are all looking to live happier, healthier lives, reach higher performance, build our immune systems, we can’t help but appreciate how Scott Carney has brought the perfect term to help us explain to others why we sauna enthusiasts are so into the hot and the cold extremes.

Welcome, Scott, to a group of seminal writers and their seminal works:

  • Chris Anderson – The Long Tail.
  • Brene Brown – Vulnerability.
  • Ryan Holiday – Obstacle is the Way
  • Cal Newport – Deep Work.
  • Scott Carney – The Wedge.


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2 thoughts on “Scott Carney’s “The Wedge” helps explain why we love sauna and why it’s so good for us”

  1. Glenn,
    Greeting from Lake Tahoe.

    Thanks for all you do. I love the site, the content and all your insight into the benefits/building a sauna. I picked up your ebook last week and read it cover to cover. This week, I’m starting my own backyard sauna build and your book has been so valuable. I suggest everyone read it before lifting a finger. Candidly, when I committed to my own build months ago, given all the “free advise” online, I thought I didn’t need it. I realize I was wrong. You have a lot of good insight and you explain the logic behind design choices, building material and how to mentally approach the whole project. Thanks again, Glenn.

  2. Thanks Robert. Very kind words.

    Yes, i wrote the book as i’m just a yahoo like anybody else when it comes to building. I found a lot of folks in the trades, at lumber yards, etc., difficult to relate to, as they seem(ed) protective and often stubborn with their knowledge and experience. Yet like a good tennis match, we improve when the person on the other side of the court is better than we are, but are courteous enough to keep it in the court.

    These were the folks I was able to engage with over my many sauna builds. I was lucky enough to find craftsmen more experienced than me, and over time I got to realize that they put their pants on every morning no differently than you and me. And even better, through trial and error, I was able to hit back a few good shots (improvements) that have “one upped” experienced contractors.

    This is when I knew it was time to write the ebook. And i’m super happy that the book has helped you.

    Good sauna is what we’re all about, and i’m warmed to know that you’re on the right path for turning your authentic sauna goals into reality… I”m on your team, Robert!

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