I first had the pleasure meeting Jarmo Lehtola, then President of Finnish Sauna Society, about four years ago at Mikkel Aaland’s Sweat Summit in San Francisco.
Mikkel Aaland’s Sauna Talk podcast episode is here.
Yet today, i’m overjoyed to share with you my conversation with Jarmo Lehtola, who greeted me at the Helsinki airport upon my arrival to Finland. He was my guide during my first day, whisking me off for a day of sauna.
Jarmo’s guide work is well tuned. He effortlessly walked me onto Metro trains, trams, buses, and around corners all over Helsinki today as we partook in a couple different saunas.
Is there a better way to get over jetlag? No!
Jarmo is a pro. He brought for me a Battery energy drink. 12 oz. can popular all over Finland. Jarmo knew that i’d need a boost/kick for my first day. Also, Jarmo brought for me my first of many bottles of Estonian Mineral water, which turned out to be critical for me throughout my trip.
Mineral balance is critical for intense sauna action, or intense sweating action of any kind. Mineral replenishment is a critical component of hydration, and more on this later and within this episode of Sauna Talk.
Sompasauna was our first stop. What first popped up as a radical anti establishment sauna squat, sompasauna has gained awareness and legitimacy. Set on Government land, just along the urban sea side seawall, we have two wood fired saunas ready for us this Monday mid day.
Lots of apartment buildings in the shadows of Sompasauna, yet God love the Finns, allowing this free sauna set up to exist. Even construction workers come to Sompasauna after work.
All volunteer. Lots of firewood, most is reclaimed from busted up pallets and miscellaneous dimensional lumber, straight off the work grounds adjacent.
Jarmo has been busy lately, hosting banya trips to Russia.
It is important to have specific measurements in sauna. Two fists above your head to the ceiling. It is important for Finns to have this “cold water element” as part of sauna.
We learn 99% of the good for you sauna elements. Your own time. Do it properly or don’t do it all. Sauna is in our DNA. 4 hours is quite normal.
We stay in the sauna as long as it feels good
20 cubic meters: optimal sauna size. Seats 8 persons.
Big gap along hot room door. 10-15 cm.
Sauna is as much a state of mind as it is a physical place.
Hydration: it is really important to drink before sauna. 0.5 liter before. 1 liter of water for each hour of sauna. 3.5 – 4 liters of plain water. Magnesium and zinc. Something else besides tap water.
Never alcohol during a sauna session. Water is the best.
The mental path to sauna
Body condition helps one sweat sooner and faster. A conditioned response. A good sauna person has marathon experience, so they know about drinking and hydrating.
If you don’t drink, you cannot sweat, if you don’t sweat, you cannot stay in the sauna. Simple.
In Finland, you don’t need any timers. Every person is different. We cannot have timers and rules and behavior. It doesn’t belong to sauna culture.
Rules: You need to behave in a Finnish sauna as you would behave in a church. The basic guideline is that you should be quiet in a sauna.
When people come and go, it is polite to ask if people would like to have water on the rocks, to create more loyly.
Then we were off to Hermanni Sauna
A very small yet historic public sauna. Pay 12 euros at the door. Men to the left, 30 men’s lockers, women to the right, 15 women’s lockers.
Separate Men’s and women’s saunas. Iki tall cylindrical electro
Stove. Compared to the fresh breezes of the seaside Sompasauna, Hermanni felt a bit stuffy until Jarmo expertly cracked the changing room window, which created good air flow throughout the lower level sauna space. Hermanni sauna has been in operation since 1950, set below ground under a 6 story apartment building in a just about residential neighborhood yet still in Helsinki proper.
No tourists here, and was not very busy during our sauna visit.
Jarmo joined me a few days later in Tampere, Finland, “Sauna Capital of The World” Here I am showing you two totally awesome public saunas by the lakeside in Tampere. (Plus, getting on Jarmo’s nerves. “You are hopeless.”)
One more thing about Jarmo before I hand over the mic. I started out by calling him a sauna pro. But after some time together, in and out of loyly rooms and cold plunges, I began to have a different understanding and appreciation of Jarmo Lehtola. He is not a pro, nor an evangelist, but a sauna expert. Jarmo is not looking to “monetize” sauna. Jarmo is not looking to convert people to sauna.
Jarmo is keen on sharing sauna with those interested in learning about sauna. Jarmo is interested only in good sauna. He is only interested in saunas with very good heat. And saunas with “water elements.” Bring Jarmo into a sauna, and he will immediately understand the build and design elements of sauna. I met my match with Jarmo Lehtola.