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Clear the Steam Ep. 5 – Go Jump in the Lake

What is a Cold Plunge?

                Many sauna enthusiasts enjoy a cold dip in the lake or the pool after a good sweat in the sauna. What is the deal with this, and what are the benefits of taking a cold plunge between sauna sessions? The cold plunge is meant to help cool the body off between sessions. The shock of extreme temperatures can also help boost the immune system, by giving a bit of an extra workout. Here is a good article on the benefits of taking a cold plunge after a sauna. Typically the sauna should be done first, with the cold plunge between or after the sauna. The extreme temperatures are safe for most bathers, provided there are no existing cardiovascular issues. As always, consult with a physician if there are any health concerns. Filling a cold plunge tub with ice, or using a water chiller, can replicate the feeling of rolling in the snow after a good sweat.

Swimming in the Ocean – a Finnish Tradition

Finland is often credited with popularizing the cold plunge practices. In fact, the Finnish tourism board recommends “jumping through a small hole in the ice on a lake, the sea and refresh yourself in the freezing water – or roll in the snow instead.” This is reflected in the word “Sisu”, which does not have a direct translation but refers to “Resilience, Courage, and Grit, as described by Finnmark. There are many tourists who travel to Finland just to experience the traditional sauna ritual, including this story from travel bloggers. You can replicate the traditional sauna experience by taking a nice cold plunge after a sweat.

What about the Sauna Hats?

A popular accessory is the sauna hat. These tend to keep your hair from getting too hot or too cold in the sauna. Typically made from wool, they can also be used in the cold plunge afterwards, to keep your hair from freezing in winter temperatures. These sauna hats are also a great part of a hot tub routine, and let you use the hot tub in the middle of winter! Many sauna hats range from simple and functional to elaborate and silly. There are really no end to the options available! Perhaps a sauna hat is the perfect accessory for a dip in the lake after the sauna.

Clear the Steam Ep. 2 – A Blast of Heat from the Past

A Sauna Blog by Robert Furlong

Savu Sauna Heaters

I recently came across an interesting find at a ReStore, by Habitat for Humanity. It was an old Savu Sauna heater, a model that has not been manufactured in over 30 years. This heater is typical of many older heaters produced during that time. It is very much an older design, that has been replaced by more modern wall-mounted designs. The heater itself was designed by Bert Jalasjaa, the same individual who wrote our book, “The Art of Sauna Building”. It even came with an ancient time-stained brochure showing how people ordered sauna kits back in the day. You can read a scan of the brochure here. The red enamel design is sharp, but these days stainless steel is preferred. These heaters will not pass code these days, but I have spoken to someone who had one of these units working perfectly for over 35 years. Ultimately, the brand name Savu Sauna fell out of use, and was changed to something that North American customers would recognize.

History of the “Savu Sauna”

As the sauna industry continues to evolve, changes have been made to make home saunas an affordable option for consumers. One such improvement was the ability to hang heaters from the wall, freeing up valuable space in the sauna room. The word “Savu Sauna” refers to a traditional Finnish smoke sauna, which was used for centuries before the development of electric heaters. These saunas typically had over a ton of rocks, with a fire built in the middle. Once the fire is extinguished, the room is cleared of smoke, and the bathers enjoy the radiant heat from the large mass of rocks. Here is a link to the Voromaa smoke sauna in Estonia, which was recognized as an UNESCO representative of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. You can read another article about sauna rituals on the North American Sauna Society’s website blog, written by Kate Hazell.

Modern Award-Winning Designs

Many sauna builders want to return to the traditional design of Savu Saunas, and one feature in demand is the high rock capacity. While extra rocks will increase the warm-up time, they will retain the heat and radiate it outwards for a longer period of time. While many people prefer the convenience of a quicker start-up time, the higher rock capacity brings the sauna heater one step closer to the traditional sauna enjoyed for centuries. Below are some images of modern heaters that incorporate the larger rock capacity.

While the Savu Sauna brand has become a relic of sauna history, it is neat to take a look back at how saunas were designed in the past. There are many lessons we can learn from history, to help us improve our sauna rituals today!

Clear the Steam ep. 1 – The Epistles of the Sauna Guru

The Epistles of the Sauna Guru

                Hello, and welcome to Clear the Steam, my new sauna blog! I have been building sauna kits in Waterloo Region, Ontario, for the past ten years. Speaking to sauna enthusiasts about their projects has become a passion of mine. I benefitted greatly from the mentorship of a sauna pioneer, and want to use this knowledge to promote authentic, traditional sauna lifestyles and to dispel many myths and misconceptions around saunas in general. Many of the designs and principles we use are time-tested, and have been documented in our book, “The Art of Sauna Building”. This was first published in 1981 by my mentor, Bert (Pertti) Olavi Jalasjaa, and is currently on the 11th edition. Over my time with Bert, I collected and saved many nuggets of wisdom, which we dubbed “The Epistles of the Sauna Guru”. I hope to share this wisdom with others!

Home Sauna Book

Developments in the Sauna Industry

As the sauna industry continues to evolve, I want to be on the leading edge of changes which can improve the sauna lifestyle, reduce costs for consumers, and change how people use the sauna. There are many cultural aspects to consider. For example, many people only have the option to use a sauna at a gym, but these are often poorly designed and have inadequate ventilation. There is an emphasis on authentic Canadian made products, as many accessories on the market are imported from overseas. There are also technological and design improvements, such as tower saunas. Heaters such as the Homecraft Revive, the HUUM Cliff, and the Harvia Cilindro all have a larger rock capacity, and have rocks to the floor. This seems to be a simple answer to the traditional Finnish saying, “Feet above the rocks”. I will dive into subjects such as these in my blog!

My experience with heat therapy and the Sauna lifestyle

I first discovered saunas over a decade ago and did not think much at first. I have been a life long chronic pain sufferer, and know first hand the benefits of heat therapy. At the same time I started learning more about traditional Finnish bathing practices, and decided I wanted to make it part of my lifestyle. I have an infrared cabin that gets regular use. Although I don’t consider it to be an authentic sauna, I recognize the benefits to be had. Similarly, steam showers are just as beneficial, but nothing beats the blast of loyly from a traditional hot rock sauna. Regardless, heat therapy has many benefits, and I feel my role is to advocate for healthy lifestyles and authentic sauna experiences.

I will be writing a blog entry every 1-2 weeks under my pen name, Robert Furlong. I chose the name “Clear the Steam”, as I wanted to dispel misconceptions about saunas, and educate people on how to properly add the benefits of the sauna to their lifestyle!