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How I went on a wellness retreat without leaving my property

light steam graphic

It rained all day Thursday, then turned bitter cold overnight. We awoke Friday morning to a hard covering of ice everywhere. Driveway, sidewalks, treacherous conditions, but some battled it by going to work or shopping.

Never left the house, all day

Not me. I stayed put. Turns out, I spent most of the day seated at my home office, working away. As the day wore on, looking outside, I realized that time had gotten away from me as it was now late afternoon, and starting to get dark. I had hardly moved more than 100 steps the entire day, as it is merely 10 steps or so to the kitchen and bathroom, an embarrassing showing for my Fitbit, for sure.

Fired up the sauna

Should I fire up the sauna?  I was in one of those rare “take it or leave it” kind of moods. Then with a voice in my head: “you never regret taking a sauna” I step out out my back door, skate strutting my way 20 steps out to my backyard Minneapolis sauna. It felt good to feel the cold air on my face. It felt good to light the stove and prepare for this sauna session. Returning safely back to the house, I filled a couple water bottles, set one outside and then made my way to the stationary bike in the basement.

Round one

A good 45 minute bike ride later, I strip down and make my way back safely out the back door, out to the sauna: 145f and ready for more wood. Perfect!  Pulling the coals forward, I add another log to the hot coals and tick tick tick goes the stove (from expanding metal). I then step back outside and dump a bunch of cold water over my head. Yeah!! Wake up call!  Sauna time!  Back into the hot room I go, for a long building sauna round 155f… 160f… delaying that first blast of water on the rocks, 165f enjoying a rising dry first round. Then, 170f BLAST, on goes the water… “pssssssssstttttttttt” Ahh…… a solo sauna.  I can be aggressive with the water on the rocks.

A journey without leaving the backyard

This is sauna in our own backyard in winter. 20 steps out our backdoors, and we are instantly brought to somewhere else, far beyond the borders of our own backyards. The hot room is small, but it feels vast and expansive as we let our minds take us away. Many of us keep our eyes closed in sauna. This helps with the transformation (and keeps our eyes from drying).

No traffic. No crowds. No people. Sauna. Simplicity.

After a good long hot round, we step outside and our journey beyond our property line continues. After a douse of cold water, we may sit outside with steam billowing thinking of nothing, or something that wants to be thought about. We breathe in the fresh air and appreciate how sauna is our time.

No traffic. No crowds. No people. Sauna. Freedom.

Two more sauna rounds

As we know, a sauna rounds becomes complete after our body core has completely cooled back to neutral.  After about 10 minutes outside, as the winter cold starts to penetrate deeper than our skin, we recognize that it’s time for another round.  Back into the sauna we go.

Hot, hot, steam… ahhh… eyes closed, taking in the heavy, thick heat, feeling it penetrate deep into our bodies.  No rush.  Meditative silence.  Sweat building.

No traffic. No crowds. No people. Sauna. Tranquility.

Time to leave the hot room?  Well, cold water across our bodies is “about the best idea we’ve ever heard!”.   So, off we go. again  Cold splash, cool air, refreshing… ahhhh.

How long are we out there?  Couple hours maybe?  However long our sauna retreat, we return back inside the house feeling as if we went somewhere. A journey.  Somewhere far from home, like another country, even.

Though our GPS trackers won’t say we went anywhere this Friday, we feel as if we have gone on a long, pleasant journey.

A wellness retreat without leaving our property.

A “garage mauhal” Room for two cars, sauna, changing room, lounge upstairs.
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6 thoughts on “How I went on a wellness retreat without leaving my property”

  1. Hi Glenn,

    I really appreciate all the good info your site. We have been thinking about building a wood burning sauna at our rural North Dakota property. We have a large number of 4″ square cedar fence posts that we are not going to use for fencing, and I would like to use them for our sauna and a separate shower building. I am planning to build log cabin style, with concrete mortar in between the horizontally-stacked posts. It would be an economical way for us to build, will give us the rustic look I want, and will use some materials that are currently unneeded.

    My question is, do you think we can do this and end up with a good functioning sauna?


  2. I’ve been baking baguettes.
    The goal is to get a light airy crumb with a crispy crunch crust. The crust is obtained by baking in a hot and steamy oven. I wasn’t getting the crispness I was looking for then it dawned on me… the oven is a sauna. I moved the baking pan from the middle shelf to very top. Place a hot cast iron skillet on the bottom shelf and pour into it a loyly cup of cold water and quickly close the door. The steam blasted upwards to the top of the oven and my baguettes turned out perfect!

  3. Dawn: Glad you are enjoying saunatimes.

    I Love the resourcefulness of your idea of using a large number of 4″ square cedar fence posts to make your sauna. My first inclination, though, is that concrete mortar may not integrate well with the wood. We have two different mediums working in opposite reaction to intense heat and cold. At some point I envision cracking of mortar and separating from the wood, mainly due to the expansion and contraction of the wood due to heat and humidity.

    Have you thought of just screwing down your 4×4 horizontally stacked posts, and calling it good? I was thinking of suggesting running the 4x4s through a table saw to introduce a ship lap type tongue/groove locking system, but my inclination is that with some good wood glue and torque screws, you may be able to get a very nicely tight seal to your posts. Clamps too.

    I think you can do this, and end up with a very good functioning sauna. Yes! Take pics. Keep asking around. I really like where you are going with this project. PS.. google “sauna day embarrass mn” on saunatimes. You’ll see some great photos of different traditional Finnish log joint systems. One of these may appeal to you as a way to lock down and corner your 4×4 posts.

  4. Your musings always bring on an “ahhhhhhhh”! Happy New Year, my friend. I am making a resolution to take more saunas in 2019. Thanks for the nudge.

  5. I think the coolest thing about having the sauna in my backyard is how it gets me outside in “bad” weather. Cold and rainy, icy, snowy… I actually enjoy that weather after I take a sauna. I had a moment this fall when it was about 45 degrees and rainy. I hadn’t put up my hammock up for the season yet out of laziness. I wouldn’t be needing it anymore. But that night after I ended round 2 I decided to lay down in the damp hammock and let the raindrops hit me. It was great. I can still feel that coolness as I looked up at the sky.

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