Steam Room Diary: Benefits of the Steam Room

I have a new motivation for exercise, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. It’s the time I get to spend in the steam room after my workout. It’s what I think about as I pack my gym bag and get out of the house in the evening instead of sitting on the sofa and watching TV.

At first glance, there is nothing impressive about the steam room at the LA Fitness gym. I’m pretty sure the tile hasn’t been scrubbed in quite a while. When I popped my head inside the first time, it smelled a little musty. The plaster on the ceiling was peeling. There were paper towels papier mached to the floor and benches. There was an empty water bottle. I ignored the room the first couple of weeks at the gym, wondering why anyone would want to go in there.

One Saturday, my husband suggested enjoying the co-ed sauna before getting into the pool. During our first visit, we had a nice chat with a woman who was a veteran sauna user. She recommended we bring a towel next time as her son got a staph infection from a sauna. As we chatted with her, I tried to enjoy the dry heat. I was having a hard time breathing. My skin felt funny. I think it was because I was sweating, but my sweat was immediately evaporating. After just a few minutes, I told my husband I had to leave.

The next time he suggested the sauna, I asked if he wouldn’t mind trying the steam room instead. He agreed, so we went to our prospective steam rooms in the locker rooms. Despite not being able to hang out with him, I loved the steam room. I wanted more of the steam room.

Now, after every workout, I head to the locker room and dress down to flip flops, sports bra and panties, or I’ll don my swimsuit if we’re going swimming afterwards. I take an extra towel to sit on and go to the steam room.

Breathing feels good. It smells of eucalyptus and soothes my throat and nasal passages. I can feel my skin cleansing and detoxing. It can feel my muscles relaxing.

Time slows down as I close my eyes and become completely aware of breathing and sweating. It’s almost a spiritual experience, and my thoughts turn toward God. I can feel my pores releasing drops of moisture. It tickles as it trickles down my face, arms, chest and back. It’s like slow motion. But time goes very fast. What seems like five minutes is really twenty.

Living in Southern California, the heat is dry. In general, dry heat is more tolerable than humidity. I have family in Tennessee and have learned that 80 degrees and humid is miserable there compared to 100 degrees and dry here. However, in the summer the inside of my nose cracks and bleeds. The skin on the tips of my fingers and the heels of my feet split. I use a lot of lotion during the day and at night, Neosporin and bandaids on my dry heat wounds. The steam room is a relief.

The benefits of the steam room seem obvious, but I wanted to learn more. Check out Sauna and Steam Bathing:

Steam baths are known for their relaxation and deep skin cleansing, but steam room benefits also include:

  • relief from muscle soreness
  • relief from stiff joints
  • immune system enhancement
  • lymph detoxification
  • blood circulation improvement
  • sinus congestion relief

I especially like this reason:

Pain Relief
Heat has been known to be effective against joint and muscular pain. It causes your blood vessels to expand, which increases blood circulation. As a result, more oxygen and nutrients can reach damaged parts of your body.

This has the double effect of temporarily reducing or stopping pain and increasing your body’s healing rate.

Spend 10 or 15 minutes in a steam room after you exercise for example, and you’ll help speed up healing of damaged muscle tissue.

The website has a section comparing the benefits of the sauna vs. the steam room. It sounds like the benefits are very similar; it’s just a matter of personal preference which one you use.

Do you like to use either the sauna or steam room? Which one? Why?

Here’s yesterday’s food:

Saturday, September 10, 2011
Pedometer: 13,038
Exercise:  35 min treadmill, 45 min upper body strength training, 30 min swimming
Time Serving Size Food Carbs
7:45am 1 slice Whole wheat bread – toast 11
1 Egg 1
6 squirts I can’t believe it’s not butter spray 0
1 mug Coffee 0
2 Tbsp Sugar free Coffee-mate vanilla creamer 2
1 tsp Sugar free Metamucil 0
2 Adult chewable vitamins 0
11:45am 1 ZonePerfect Chocolate Almond Raisin bar 13
2:30pm 1 Lindora vanilla protein shake 11
12 oz Diet Mug Root Beer 0
8pm 1 Lindora Wildberry Passion protein drink 3
9pm 1 bag Lindora Onion Soy Puffs 8
9:30pm 1 wedge Lemon tea with artificial sweetner 1.5
Total Carbs 50.5