I went down to the local pool today to take out a membership. Fifty bucks for the signup and another twenty four for every following fortnight isn’t too bad, especially when you consider that I’ll make that back in locker hire in the first thirty-six days if I go every single day. Once again, the YMCA have proven themselves to be nothing but a bunch of chumps.

I’m not actually interested in the pool, the fitness classes (if I want to go cruising for soccer moms, I’m told that the richest pickings will be at the Eclipse premiere), or the waterslide (OK. I am slightly interested in the waterslide). What I’m after is their sweet, sweet sauna facilities.

While ostensibly working a few weeks back, I stumbled onto the Wikipedia entry about sauna. My interest was piqued by the idea of the hot/cold cycle, or, as the Finns call it, ‘jumping bare-ass naked into a hole hacked into an icy lake directly after sitting in sweltering heat for far too long’.

Apparently, it’s pretty good for you.

Studies have shown that the hot/cold cycle have some pretty fancy benefits for the human body. White cell production increases, stress hormones decrease (except for that jerk cortisol, who loves a good sauna), immune function increases, detoxification occurs at a higher rate, sleep and mood improve… even testosterone levels elevate.

Basically, what Scandinavia appears to have stumbled across is the organic version of Captain America’s super-soldier serum.

So, today, I took my first sauna for a long time. It took about ten minutes for me to say to myself OK, that has to be enough sauna, right?

Sweat was appearing in weird places – and when I say weird, I mean, those places that you first encounter in marathons, or boxing matches, or Bikram yoga classes. The insides of your elbows, the backs of your fingers, the soles of your feet. Places that have no business sweating in the normal run of things.

Taking this as an indication, I hit the cold shower.

Let me tell you, that thing’s not fooling around. It took about less than two seconds before my breath started to hitch and I decided that maybe a luke-warm shower would provide the same benefits. Then it was back into the sauna.

This is going to be an interesting project.

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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

21 responses to “Hot Enough For Ya?”

  1. Judy Prince says:

    “Sweat was appearing in weird places…” HOOT! And waterslide: YES!

    Simon, if you’re that deep into masochism, I’ve got an old hairshirt I’ve been trying to peddle.

    Main issue, oh Leader Dude, is do you really want to lead us all into the sauna? Ahhhh……..now I see where you’re going with this, you clivver devil!! 😉

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Hairshirt, you say? I’ll get that Devil out of me one way or another!

      Ixnay on the aunasay! I’m trying to keep the plan under wraps til I get to the States…

      • Judy Prince says:

        So when’s that gonna be, Simon? Disneyland, right? Oh you *are* being coy, Leader Man. You can tell me; I can keep a secret. I won’t even tell Vile Boris…..unless he threatens me with his newly re-placed light saber (thanx to you for the ref to Richard, the Genius Who Bestows Light Sabers On Gravatars).

        • Simon Smithson says:

          June! It’ll be June.

          (shhhh. Don’t tell the internet.

        • Judy Prince says:

          JUNE? DID YOU SAY JUNE? YOU MEAN ONLY TWO AND A HALF MONTHS FROM NOW??!!! (BTW, is Disneyland still in L.A.?) Now that I’ve convinced you of my secretivity you can tell me how long you’ll be staying in L.A.

        • Simon Smithson says:


          I have no idea where Disneyland is. I thought it was on 5th Avenue?

          We’ll be moving around (you know Zara’s coming too, right?) and we have yet to work out a precise to-the-day itinerary, but wheels are turning!

        • Judy Prince says:

          Excellent, Simon. You two special-sleuthers from that strange continent that has a hole in its sky…..just what Los Angeleans need. I’ll tell my son to keep the kids in the house whilst you’re there; contagions, you know. Just saying….

          Can’t wait to get regular TNB reports on you two’s doings!

  2. Becky says:

    For some reason, this post reminded me of this, which I haven’t thought about in some time:


    I present this as evidence that Finns are certifiably insane. These photos don’t show the matching chrome pop-up/out trailer that goes with it, but that’s where the shower is.

    • Judy Prince says:

      Becky, that Finnjet is a seriously beautiful auto! Its creator, Antti Rahko, may well be Finnish, but I think he may’ve coined the car’s name to represent its lovely fins, as well. He may well not be Finnish, I don’t know, but he lives in Florida and has his Finnjet decorated with USA flags. The flags may help mollify state troopers and helicopter pilots; a practical consideration for Antti Rahko.

      • Becky says:

        He is an American citizen, to the best of my knowledge, though he wasn’t born that way. He’s an import, and I believe a relatively recent one. Like, I think he came over a bit later in his life.

        The show I originally saw this car in featured interviews with him, and he spoke mostly in Finnish with the help of an interpreter.

  3. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    two things:
    one. an awesome fact about australian men – you all seem to box. this is rather hot. american men who box can’t construct a sentence, let alone an article.
    two. hot/cold therapy rules, i do it with stones on my clients. you should try this polar bear club style. take a sauna then jump naked into the ocean mid-winter. i recommend the new england coast or someplace similarly miserable with cold. i hear it’s electrifying if it doesn’t kill you.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I haven’t trained for a long while – getting back into boxing is on the list along with getting back into yoga.

      Unfortunately I’m a bit away from the ocean at the moment, so I might have to wait until the logistics are better to go the polar-bear style approach. However, the in-laws in Finland would undoubtedly provide me with a nice snowbank to roll in as soon as I’m out of the sauna. And yes, they sauna nude.

      (oh, and if you’re looking for a fancy Gravatar to sit by your comments, check out http://www.gravatar.com)

  4. I despise saunas and always have. I’m pretty confident that I’m the only person in Asia who’s never been to one, and that’s not changing til I leave. It’s like a goddamn religion here. The familys get together, strip down and scrub each other while sweating… I can’t see how that’s remotely appealing. I’ve also never met a white guy who hasn’t had his wang groped in an Asian sauna.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      So is the Asian approach a sauna or a steam-room type of thing? Is there actually a difference?

      My brother made the unpleasant discovery that Finns sauna naked on his first visit to his girlfriend’s parents’s place.


      How does the groping work?

      • I’m not sure what the difference is, but in Korea it’s always nude, I believe. In Korea there “are no gays” and so guys touch each other a lot without thinking anything of it. Apparently they’re quite taken with big white penises, so I’ve heard a few groping stories. They also never see tattoos, so anyone with ink can expect to have it caressed whilst nude…

        These things make me uncomfortable. I guess I’m a culturally insensitive prude, but I just can’t handle that sort of handling.

  5. Richard Cox says:

    “Let me tell you, that thing’s not fooling around.”

    Hahaha. Funny line.

    I did the hot/cold thing last year on a trip to Mexico and…I dunno. I like the detox benefits you describe, but mainly I felt like I was dying. I did a sauna, a cold shower, a steam room, a whirlpool, but the massage was the only thing that I really enjoyed.

    Let us know how it goes.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      It’s really not. I was there again last night.

      It’s supposed to really help you sleep easier – so last night, as I was lying in bed, fighting off insomnia (after previously having visualised how I would talk to my friends about it: “Ha ha ha, you assholes, none of you slept as good as me last night!’) I started to whine to my body.

      C’mon… I had a sauna today…. C’mon…

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