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Sauna is a celebration of temperature extremes.

light steam graphic

clint jumping in snow after sauna roundThere are many, many millions of people who don’t relate well nor seek out temperature extremes.

The walk from their air conditioned car to their air conditioned office is enough of a temperature trauma for one day.  Thankfully for them, their health club temperature is carefully regulated and monitored.  The shopping mall?  Safe there too.  Checking in at Applebees:  “would you like to sit outside or inside?”  Now the tropical fish squirms because outside is always:

  • too hot
  • too cold
  • too sunny
  • too ….

jogging around the lake in winter before a sauna

We sauna enthusiasts embrace temperature extremes.

Either because of sauna or because we are wired differently, we smile like children when we:

  • make snow angels between sauna rounds.
  • jog without a shirt after a fresh snow.
  • jump into Lake Superior (38 degrees f.) with a smile.

People think we’re crazy.  What is crazy?

  • Crazy is hiding from nature.
  • Crazy is limiting one’s life so as to be only be comfortable at 68-72 degrees f.
  • Crazy is thinking a shopping mall is a safe place.

Sauna’s are made to be used.  Sauna is a celebration of nature, of temperature extremes.

nICE mug’s are made to be used.  nICE mug is a celebration of nature, of temperature extremes.

Sauna fire.



nIC mug ice.
nICE mug ice.


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4 thoughts on “Sauna is a celebration of temperature extremes.”

  1. Well said Glenn! From my own experience, my wife and I would often do a sauna session in the middle of the summer in the heat of the day. Even though it was sweltering outside we still loved the sauna experience. Cooling off in the shade was always blissful and left us better able to cope with and enjoy the heat of the summer. Cross-culturally, Native Americans continue doing sweat lodges throughout the summer even in Arizona. Anthropologists hypothesize that sweat rituals help people do just as you stated – they help people better cope with extremes in climate – hot and cold. As a runner I think sauna has helped me cope with summer runs and I have seen reports that other professional runners do the same. Of course it goes without saying that sauna enthusiasts rejoice in the outdoors during the dark frigid winters while most people are hibernating inside their homes.

  2. As a Finn, let me begin by ranting a little more about the American ideals of temperature – at least in Minnesota. Not only do people first heat their houses half the year, only to start cooling them for nearly the other half. People idolize the summer heat and talk fondly of the 90-degree plus days, but everyone is inside air-conditioned to the point of having to wear a sweater. It’s way too hot outside…to actually be there doing anything. Especially restaurants and other establishments crank the AC to an intolerable temperature. Why not set the temperature to 75, which is actually pleasant. There’s no middle-ground, which is very American. But hey, energy is cheap here!

    To comment on the sauna temperature extremes, I have some first-hand experience. Most Finns who go to the sauna actually don’t incorporate huge temperature extremes to their experience. As a weekly routine for the duration of your life, people tend to get any excitement stripped away. It’s almost as trivial as making a sandwich. The biggest extreme is the high temperature of the sauna, then a shower or a swim in the lake followed by a good break sitting on the bench, all in a normal room temperature. This is repeated once or twice usually. The main risk by not having a particularly cool extreme temperature is that the pores of the skin stay open for quite a while until the body reaches normalcy. This means that you can very easily develop an after-sweat (jälkihiki in Finnish) if you put your clothes on too soon without a proper cooling on the bench. To cool off after the sauna and last shower, it could easily take 30 minutes or more before one should put any clothes on (other than underpants maybe). My dad accomplishes this by laying down after the sauna for no less than an hour.

    But of course there are people who do things a little more extreme. The most common (and not very extreme) way to expedite the above cooling process is by first getting out of the sauna, then take a short cooling shower (or better yet, a swim) then cool off for a while and finally take a final shower. If you are in a hurry and can’t do all those things, then you can just take a cold shower. Since water is something like 23 times better at transferring heat than air, a one minute cold shower should – with conventional wisdom – reduce the cooling time by twenty minutes or so, depending on how cold the water is of course. While the cold shower feels cold, your body still has a lot of heat from the sauna. The surface of the skin just thinks it’s cold so it sends signals to your brain, which is good because it means you are still alive. Toughing it out for two three minutes is a good start. After that, your body heat will equalize and you’re just fine. Still, be careful not to rush into any activity right away – or the perils of jälkihiki will become apparent.

    The most extreme method of cooling is immersion in water – but not summertime. Quite simply, you make a hole in the ice of a lake or pond – anything that fits at least one human being. Most people want it fairly close to the sauna, although geography doesn’t always accommodate that. It should be within a five-minute walk for sure. Don’t do any of this if you have a heart condition or otherwise don’t feel healthy, this is very extreme for your body and could be dangerous. Also, NEVER do this alone, you have to always have a second person with you. First you go to the sauna, then you go in the lake. This is what takes a little practice. The first time you do it, your body is – again – alarming you that whatever you’re up to is not looking like a good idea. You just have to override your body with intellect (or insanity) for a few times and just do it. The more hesitation there is, the more difficult it gets. Don’t immerse your head, that can be dangerous. Most hardcore ice-swimmers wear a wool cap throughout sauna and swim, as it balances the huge temperature changes. Your head loses the most heat in your body. Once you’re in the water, it feels like a thousand needles are stuck through your skin. Your body tells you to get out. Listen to your body until you get more comfortable. The first times last no more than the time it takes to get in water up to your neck and whatever time it takes for you to get out of the water, normally a total of 15 seconds or less. Your body is very motivated to do everything it can to help you out of the water. When you’re back on land, your body still feels the panic mode for a few seconds. But then, the real treat: better sit down soon after you got out of the water, as you will experience something akin to getting high. Most people spend the first few minutes outside because after the water bath, the outside air is pleasant. Again listen to your body and seek warmth when you feel like it. Once you sit down for the first time after the swim, you feel great and if you close your eyes or just sit back, you may feel a little dizziness and very likely a euphoric rush in your head. Wearing sandals is a good idea as your feet start protesting first about the snow under them. Even in Finland, the majority thinks people like this are sort of crazy.

    With ice-swimming, the time spent between the sauna and water are longer as the temperature changes are so extreme. Going immediately from the sauna to the water can be too much of a shock, so a minute or so before entering the water is a good idea. After the swim, spending 10-15 minutes in the dressing room is also sufficient to prepare for the next round. So this is not really a cooling method, but a way of enjoying sauna. Doing this on a weekly basis has proven to help people alleviate all sorts of symptoms from various diseases and a stronger immune system. But many people without any such ailments also enjoy it – including myself.

    So what is crazy? It’s crazy to get so alienated from reality. It’s crazy that people only go for a walk with the intention to exercise, not just for the walk.

  3. Variety is the spice of life, whether it is musical selections, cuisine choices, routes to work or preferred Farenheit readings.

  4. Great piece, Glenn. I have enjoyed a sauna and swim in Lake Superior, every month of the year. Most winters it’s too difficult in February and March to get in, but there have been years it’s worked out and with the help of an old pair of canvas ‘tennis shoes’ and a sturdy ledge we have accomplished it. The feeling is very invigorating. Anyway, I thought I’d add that our Phoenix sauna dealers have had success with sauna by it somehow making the “HOT” days more bearable. It doesn’t hurt that a sauna in Phoenix allows one to enjoy their swimming pool year round versus most of them using them less than half the year.

    The nice part of owning your own sauna is you get to decide how to use it. Hot and dry. Cool and wet or most likely somewhere in between. And, it doesn’t have to be a “macho” thing or a “whimpy” thing. Just use it how it feels best to you. The sauna is still the only heat bath where the bather gets to choose the temperature and the humidity, both.

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