EDITORS NOTE: Guest post from Emet, a sauna lover as you’ll read below. Emit’s unique position as a Minnesota student in Texas, is often as a lone soldier preaching the goodness of sauna to the unconverted. Who knows, perhaps we can wheel up an authentic wood burning sauna to campus and rally around his efforts. Enter Emet:
Getting started with sauna as a youth
The first time I ever stepped foot in a sauna was in 6th grade at YMCA Camp Warren in Eveleth, Minnesota. It was an old-school wood-fired sauna that could fit up to 20 people. This sauna was no joke; it reached over 200 degrees and I couldn’t last longer than 10 minutes before jumping into the lake to cool off. Sadly, the sauna burned down a couple years ago and is dearly missed. I was an infrequent sauna user for most of my childhood. I enjoyed using the sauna but did not consider it an integral part of my life.
Saunas at the gym
Things changed for me as I entered my teen years and began going to the gym more frequently. I just didn’t feel great after I worked out. Even if I showered or went in the hot tub, my skin still felt irritated, my feet hurt and my muscles were tight. While I had good experiences with saunas in the past, I was wary of using the sauna at the gym. The media had corrupted me into thinking that the sauna would be full of naked old men, who would engage in small talk at any cost. Once I finally mustered up the courage to enter the sauna, I found that stereotype to be false; everyone was wearing towels and the sauna was quiet and peaceful. The post-gym sauna was a revelation. I felt better leaving the gym than I did going in. I was refreshed and my skin felt clean and smooth. My muscles were loose and my feet felt great. Now I go to the sauna multiple times a week and feel better than ever.
College saunas in Texas
Now I am a student at the University of Texas at Austin and while I am still a regular sauna user, it is clear that the sauna culture is much weaker in the Lone Star State than it is up north. There is only one gym on campus to service the 39,000 undergraduate students, so one would think that the sauna would be packed. While the wait is over 45 minutes to get in a pickup game and the weight room is packed like sardines, I am usually the only person in the sauna.
There is little knowledge of sauna etiquette at Gregory gym, I’ve seen people using it to dry off their clothes or taking up an entire bench doing hot yoga. Even so, I still enjoy using the sauna and have taken some friends with me to show them how it’s done. While they don’t yet have the endurance to go a full three rounds, my friends have found it to be a very enjoyable experience particularly following a late Friday or Saturday night. Texas is very strong with its cultural pull and it is easy to forget everything you learned up north, but by spreading the gospel of the sauna I feel I am making a change for the better.
Summer saunas at the cabin in Northern Minnesota
A couple years ago my family purchased a cabin on Island Lake just North of Duluth, Minnesota. Saunas at the gym are without a doubt enjoyable, but are clearly a step below the Northern Minnesota sauna experience. The natural beauty is unparalleled. Being able to jump in a lake or roll in the snow after each round is something that is truly special about the Northwoods. This is how sauna is supposed to be: pretty much the same climate and landscape as in Finland, where sauna was created thousands of years ago. Now my saunas take place in a locker room, thousands of miles away from sauna country. There are no trees outside the sauna, just sweaty college students. Instead of jumping in the lake after each round, I rinse off in a lukewarm shower. The landscape is completely different, but when I’m inside the sauna, all I need to do is close my eyes and I am right back at my cabin.