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Sauna Talk: Mindstrong Project trains professional athletes using sauna and cold therapy to help boost performance

Mindstrong Project

“I have never been in an environment that has brought out more from me as a human than sauna and cold.”

Harvey Martin, Founder, Mindstrong Project

Today on the bench, we are seated between pro football player Brian Peters and Mindstrong project founder Harvey Martin.

“Chasing the edge” is an easy concept. Athletes sustain performance via an aggregation of marginal gains.

From 1-10, how developed is sauna therapy with pro athletes?

Harvey rates it a 5, and Brian rates it a 3 or 4. It is slowly creeping its way into professional sports. It is knocking on the door.

Saunas in NFL locker rooms are large, like 10’x10′. Harrison Smith would hit the cold plunge and then the sauna. Click here to read an article from 2011 detailing how Minnesota Vikings players used cold therapy, and how the saunatimes editorial department back then urged players to introduce themselves to authentic sauna to help make the process more impactful.

Back to Brian Peters: while in Houston, a sports science staff member began to implement hot/cold therapy as a way to help athletes with sleep. Most guys hit the sauna as a relaxing thing. Hot/cold therapy is slowly creeping its way into professional sports.

We know that sauna and heat transmission create neurotransmitters as a focus driver. Heat and cold treatment creates clarity. We are at our most primal state. Take away the science side and focus on the primal side.

You are in your most primal state. Science vs. intuition. Breath is the one constant that follows all performance.

The mental side is subjective. Built through awareness. Sauna creating a higher level of focus.

Brian Peters (left) describes the aggregation of marginal gains with Mindstrong founder Harvey Martin

The mental side is always subjective. It is self awareness. If we can acquire higher levels of focus in an overstimulated world. An ability to slower the respiratory rate. Gauging stress level: take 10 breathes in the cold tub. Less stress means longer hold times. Confidence is earned. Working in the heat and breathing in the cold expands the edges.

Intuition is our highest form of intelligence. Reprogramming the autonomic nervous system. There is not a lot of comfort in the cold but there is a lot of of confidence.

The physical elements to sauna and cold

Brian immersed himself with contrast treatment for pro athletes: For recovery: finish in the cold. For performance: finish with the heat. Brian was Introduced to aerobic capacity through the work of Brian McKenzie, Gabby Reese, and Laird Hamilton. Underwater pool training and biking in the sauna. Brian was head and shoulders above other athletes due to his hot/cold training. he found himself calmer than other athletes. Pushing himself harder in stressful environments.

Brian has always taken a ton of pride in the training aspect to pro football. You put in the work, and the results follow. You see the tangible results. About 80% physical.

The mind and the body are connected through breath. The second that you start to over breathe is when you start chest breathing. The upper lung part of breathing doesn’t hold enough oxygen as deep gut breathing. Breath work helps performance. The first person to lose control of their breathing, their physiology tells their body that this is a survival state, and the mind creates a fight or flight state. Brian’s threshold of adaptation is created through heat/cold.

“Stress forces adaptation”

Heat shock proteins protect other proteins.

The Mindstrong Project is a training center and protocol that helps study the pace of breathing. Measuring the CO2 levels of their clients as a flatline. Inhale/exhale measurements. How many breaths in a minute in the cold tub. Baseline respiratory rate. Heart rate variability. HRV – Heart Rate Variability. Velocity and acceleration measuring. In a sauna, your heart rate is fast. 150 beats per minute: work out rate. Running heart rate. Elite athletes resting heart rate is below 50. In the ice, your heart rate goes way down. Quickly shoots down. It’s like an interval work out.

Aerobic capacity dictates the resting heart rate. Brian’s resting heart rate is 40-50. Prime respiratory system for activity and after activity, help recovery.

The heart rate is lower than baseline after a cold plunge and relaxing between rounds. Sauna and cold plunge helps control heart rate, and this translates to normal life. You can think better, be more calm in stressful situations.

A higher level of CO2 tolerance. Saturation of oxygen already in your system. Breathe is a tool.

Brian breathes in 100% through the nose, and exhale 50% of the breath. Breathing should be another pillar of fitness. Nutrition, weight training, sleep, recovery.. and breath. “It is a pillar of physical health, and it needs to be explored and brought to the masses.”

Sauna is “the truth barrel.”

What is misunderstood about sauna?

Sauna is misunderstood in that it is perceived to be a place to get rid of your demons, like maybe a hangover. But consistent use is where the benefits lie. It’s not a “some time” thing, but a lifestyle. People see sauna as a place at a locker room at a fitness club. A place to warm up or stretch. But it is so much deeper than this. We are in Nature and enjoying the fresh cool air. Nature is our greatest teacher. Training with Nature is much different than a fitness club. “We have done this with hundreds of people. The sauna environment is always equalized to everybody. If you train like this and live like this, you will never beat the heat and the cold. You will never beat Nature. You are in an environment that will allow you to get very intuitive with your thoughts.”

“I have never been in an environment that has brought out more from me as a human than sauna and cold.”

Be curious as a human. Chase the edges.

Harvey Martin: Founder/ President & Coach The MindStrong Project

Founder of The Mindstrong Project & Host of The Mindstrong Project Podcast “Enhancing Mindset Through Movement” Specializes with professional athletes in MLB, NHL and NFL. Consulted at every level of College Athletics (Div. I,II,III, JUCO). Milwaukee Brewers Scout 2015-Current. Has conducted numerous seminars with business organizations across the country optimizing human performance Previous: Masters Degree in Sport Performance (Minnesota State) Bachelor in Sport Management (Central Michigan University). Certified Strength & Conditioning Coach AFAA Minnesota State University Teacher of Coaching Theories, Team Skills & Conditioning, Augsburg University Assistant Coach, Minnesota Mash Recruiting & Pitching Coordinator.

Glenn (center) being outmatched by Harvey (left) and Brian (right) after Sauna Talk on the bench

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