Ben Greenfield’s Sauna Workout (The Exact Sauna Workout I Do Every Morning)

Articles, Fitness, Workout & Exercises

As I mentioned in my recent talk (pictured above) at the Biohackers Summit in Finland, I’m simply not a guy who leaps out of bed in the morning to charge up a mountain, do a Crossfit WOD, hammer on my bicycle, or throw a barbell on my back.

Instead, as you can read about in the article “My Exact Morning Routine Unveiled Step-By-Step“, I’m a big proponent of engaging in morning activities that don’t involve running from an imaginary lion and instead involve activating the parasympathetic, “rest-and-digest” branch of your autonomic nervous system.

This practice sets the standard for the entire rest of your day to be less stressful and more productive, and, as I discussed in the recent podcast episode #341 on how to hack your nervous system, even allows you to do things like decrease salivary cortisol, do more subconscious deep diaphragmatic breathing and produce more focused alpha brain waves during the rest of your day. So I typically save any hard workouts for the later afternoon to early evening, when body temperature peaks, reaction time peaks and post-workout protein synthesis peaks.

These days, nearly every morning, my parasympathetic nervous system, relaxation-inducing and stress-relieving activity of choice is a thirty minute sauna workout in this infrared sauna that I “biohacked” in my basement, and in this article, I’m going to give you the exact sauna routine I do every day.

Even if you don’t own a sauna, you can do this same morning workout in your living room, basement, backyard or in the sauna at a health club. All you need is your body weight, and the self control to engage in deep breathing and focused movement for thirty minutes each morning. Enjoy!

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Let’s start with why I choose to use the sauna so friggin’ much. In the article “Ten Scientifically Proven Reasons I Am Addicted To A Daily Sauna” I delve into the nitty-gritty details and research, and here’s a synopsis of sauna benefits I describe in that article:

-Increased lifespan with lower risk of sudden cardiac death and fatal coronary heart disease.
-Skin-based detoxification of heavy metals and environmental chemicals.
-Increased growth hormone production and muscle fiber recovery.
-Arthritis relief and lower muscle soreness / joint pain.
-Increased lean muscle mass and increased fat oxidation.
-Rise in white blood cell count and immune system integrity.
-Increased capillary circulation to skin for color, tone and skin repair.
-Relief of insomnia and enhanced deep sleep.
-Increased red blood cell production and endurance performance.
-Increased stress resilience from heat shock protein production.

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In addition, here’s a synopsis of what my former podcast guest Dr. Rhonda Patrick has to say in her article “Are Saunas The Next Big Performance Enhancing Drug?

-Enhance endurance by increasing nutrient delivery to muscles thereby reducing the depletion of glycogen stores.
-Reducing heart rate and reducing core temperature during workload.
-Increase muscle hypertrophy by preventing protein degradation.
-Cause induction of heat shock proteins and a hormetic response (which has also been shown to increase longevity in lower organisms).
-Cause a massive release of growth hormone.
-Improving insulin sensitivity.
-Increases the storage and release of norepinephrine, which improves attention and focus.
-Increases prolactin, which causes your brain to function faster by enhancing myelination and helps to repair damaged neurons.
-Increases BDNF, which causes the growth of new brain cells, improves the ability for you to retain new information, and ameliorates certain types of depression and anxiety.
-Causes a robust increase in dynorphin, which results in your body becoming more sensitive to the ensuing endorphins.

So if you’re not already hitting a sauna at least once a week, you should be. And I’m really not joking, I’m now using the sauna every single day of the week for thirty minutes. But rather than staring at the wall or reading magazines, I get the most bang for the buck out of my sauna routine by doing the workout you’re about to discover.

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Every morning I wake up, check my heart rate variability for five minutes while I journal and read, then I get out of bed, wander downstairs to the kitchen, and put on the coffee on. While the coffee is brewing, I do some easy stretching and foam rolling. I then drink my cup of coffee while reading blog posts, research articles and anything else relatively non-stressful, then I go down to the basement and turn on the sauna to pre-heat it. While the sauna is pre-heating, I use the restroom.

Then, I perform the following three times through, either doing deep nasal breathing or using an elevation training mask for the entire routine:

-One Full Yoga Sun Salutation Series

-20 Hindu Squats

-One Full Yoga Sun Salutation Series

-20 Hindu Pushups

-One Full Yoga Sun Salutation Series

-60 second Boat Pose

-60 second Wheel Pose

-10 Lateral Lunges Right Leg

-10 Lateral Lunges Left Leg

-60 seconds of The Founder Exercise (from this book by Dr. Eric Goodman)

When completed three times through, all the steps above take approximately thirty minutes. To hyperoxygenate my body and get a final dump of blood vessel expanding nitric oxide into my system, I finish with fifty deep, rapid, hyperoxygenation breaths (described in detail here) and a five to ten minute cold shower or cold pool soak.

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So that’s it.

When I finish this morning sauna routine, my body feels mobile, pain-free, full of energy, and “charged up” for the day.

A few questions came through in the comments section below which I think may benefit from addressed here, so here we go:

Q. Why not a wet sauna/steam room?

A. Here’s why I don’t use a steam room: I can never be sure of the quality of the water I’m sucking in. As I delve into in this post on “The Scary Facts About Gyms“, a wet sauna ensures you are breathing in flouride, chlorine, birth control pills, pharmaceuticals and anything else that happens to be in the water supply of the gym unless they are using a very good central water filter in that gym, which is usually not the case. However, if you put one in your own house and you can control any mold or fungi, it’s not a bad option (although you do miss out on all the benefits of infrared).

Q. Do you take a cold shower after?

A. Yep, I take an icy cold shower or (if I can find the time) a 5-10 minute soak in the cold pool outside my house.

Q. For those without access to a sauna, how many/how much of these benefits could come with simply overdressing?

A. If you can get pretty darn hot while exercising, then you can definitely reap the benefits of heat shock protein production, blood flow, nitric oxide production, etc., but here’s the issue (and why I choose the sauna): that can be far more stressful and conducive to overtraining than a relaxing (albeit hot) sauna session.

What do you think? Do you plan on giving this a try? Do you have your own sauna routine to share, or questions about mine? Leave your thoughts below and I promise to reply. 

If you want the same sauna that I use (The Clearlight Series Y Yoga Sauna), go to Clearlight website, and use code “BEN”, which gets you $450 off regular pricing, free shipping ($550) and a free ergonomic backrest (reg.$70.) Or call 800.317.5070 and tell them you want the “Ben Greenfield Special” – they’ll hook you up. 


Also published on Medium.

53 thoughts on “Ben Greenfield’s Sauna Workout (The Exact Sauna Workout I Do Every Morning)

  1. Trish Riha says:

    I have been using dry sauna a the gym I go to for over 5 years. I sauna every other day I am addicted. Think about traveling to Europe in July can you recommend some great places to sauna?

    Best

    Trish

    1. Anywhere in Finland!

  2. William Watson says:

    Hi Ben,
    I have been working out everyday in a sauna for many years. I have traditional sauna with heated rocks and have added infrared panels. One day legs and next day upper body. I am 70 years old and get heart rate in the 190 range. Workout is 40 to 60 minutes. I take breaks when I get very hot. I believe this is an addiction. Still doing 100 mile running ultras. Thanks so much for the article.
    Bill

  3. H. says:

    Hi there Ben,

    I use two Infrared lamps from phillips and I have mounted them on a pole.

    So one at the height of my chest and the other at the height of my belly.

    Now when I sit in front of the lamp, I start to sweat but I have to stay close to it.

    After this my skins gets this burn type of reddish skin/ burning feeling that is typical

    when people use heating pads and burn themselves, called Erythema Ab Igne .

    I love infrared and want to keep using it, but how do I solve this? Should I stop using it? What if I increase the distance between me and the lamps and use more infrared lamps to keep the same heat? Because I feel that when I increase the distance, the heat is not strong enoug and has little effect.

    Thanks for all this info, its of great help

    1. I can vouch for the safety of that. I would not get those as that EMF might be high. I would talk to the folks at clear light and get something better…

  4. Paul Fritch says:

    Hi Ben.

    Which sauna from Clearlight do you use?

    Trying to decide between full spectrum and far infrared.

    Thanks for your imput.

    1. Everything you need to know is in here: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/08/how-to-m… so have a read and let me know if you have any further questions.

  5. T says:

    I’ve been told by other health enthusiasts that you should do cold exposure- cold soaks/showers before heat/exercising and then do heat and excercise for max benefits. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. I've written a bunch about cold exposure, start here: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2012/06/cold-the… then do a search at bengreenfieldfitness.com and you'll find a wealth of information.

  6. Morgan says:

    Is it strongly recommended that a routine like this be done in the morning only? Or can this be done in the late afternoon/evening as well due to time constraints from work and school in the mornings? For example… on days that I am NOT doing more high intensity/strength workouts in the evening.

    1. You can totally do it in the evening yes, no issues there.

  7. Matt Lane says:

    Hey Ben, can you describe the ongoing benefits that you have personally seen with using the your sauna?

    Thanks!

  8. david says:

    how do you replenish minerals after sauna?

    1. Go to http://www.GreenfieldFitnessSystems.com and check out the Aztec salt, the trace minerals and the black powder. I use all that stuff.

  9. James says:

    Is using a sauna that will expose you to EMF worth all the other benefits that the infrared can give you?

      1. William Ferullo says:

        OK I will look into that, thanks!

    1. William Ferullo says:

      How can I tell if the sauna I use at the gym is giving off EMF?

      1. Honestly, unless the brand's website says it's low EMF, it's putting out EMF. Be careful.

        1. William Ferullo says:

          http://www.amazon.com/Clearlight-Curve-Infrared-S
          What are your thoughts on this unit? I don’t have the space or the budget for a big one. Thanks.

      2. William Ferullo says:

        http://www.amazon.com/Clearlight-Curve-Infrared-S

        What do you think of this unit?

  10. Cathy says:

    How important is the ‘sweat’ component to this? I get in a sauna for 30 minutes and barely have a few drops of sweat coming off me. It still feels good though

    1. Honestly if you're not sweating it's probably not hot enough. Sweating is a natural function of adequate hyperthermia.

    2. Cathy says:

      I’ve been in saunas up to 180 F – I still barely had a few drops of sweat. Got a nasty heat rash instead

      1. Okay. In that case look up this term: hypohydrosis. We have a few podcasts on it

  11. Nate says:

    Hey there Ben. What about a hot vinyasa or Bikram yoga session? Comparable?

  12. J.Nellie says:

    I am doing a 4wk adrenal reset phase for Ironman training, would you still recommend doing this or adding this in?

    1. Totally compatible with that, yes. You can add it in.

  13. Guillermo says:

    Hey Ben. Do you have a “whole day” routine article on the blog or members area? I’d love to take a peak as I also have 2 kids and I am in the health business. Thanks! :)

    1. Not currently a full day post – I might think about working on one!

  14. David marks says:

    What temperature do you get the sauna to?

  15. Kane Huckstepp says:

    I do a one hour hot yoga class in the morning that uses far infrared panels to heat there room. I’m guessing that’s fine also??

  16. Confuscius says:

    In 2016 I refuse to be captured by high maintenance bio hacks. Think of the itinerant workers who dont have these means but instead meditate in public parks and connect with others to survive another day without an infrared sauna or body worship

  17. Tim says:

    Ben-

    Great stuff. Thank you for sharing. What are your thoughts on the sauna vs the steam room? Basically a wet sauna vs a dry sauna. Thanks

    1. Answered in the article above. Read closely. ;)

  18. James Anderson says:

    You’ve mentioned the emf of the saunas to be something that can be bad. I have a sauna at work and am unsure of the quality of it. Do the large amount of benefits still outweigh the possible emf exposure?

    1. The only low EMF good infrared sauna is the one I discuss here: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/hackedsauna

  19. Rick says:

    Can you get similar benefits from a hot yoga session?

    1. This *is* a hot yoga session!

  20. Remy says:

    What was the deciding factor in purchasing the Clearlight brand? Are there any others you like? What brands should definitely be avoided? Thanks!

  21. Anna says:

    I am definitely going to give it a try. Do you take a cold water shower in between or at the end of the sauna?

    1. I do either cold shower or if I have the time 5-10 minute cold pool soak at end…

      1. Todd says:

        Hi Ben – I’ve been taking cold showers for over two months now, and not only am I now accustomed to them, I actually enjoy them more than hot showers.

        I’ve seen you suggest elsewhere that you should alternate between hot and cold in a shower. Are there any deleterious effects with only taking cold showers and not mixing in the hot?

        1. there is some evidence that doing hot cold contrast may cause a better increase in blood flow, but I personally just stick with cold.

  22. Bill says:

    I am a 40 year old male. I was doing 30 minutes in my infrared sauna every morning and was very much enjoying it. However, I had my testosterone tested, and it was around 130. I had read a couple of article about it afterwards including:

    1) J OF ANIMAL SCIENCE , 1971, 33(4), “EFFECT OF ELEVATED AMB IENT TEMPERATURE ON TESTIS AND BLOOD LEVELS AND IN VITRO BIO – SYNTHESIS OF TESTOSTERONE IN THE RAM”

    I stopped the Sauna and took some over the counter supplements my testosterone went up to 230 and then to over 400.

    I am tempted to restart but wonder if 30 minutes is too long, etc. Any suggestions?

    1. Sauna in most cases has been shown to increase growth hormone and testosterone, not to decrease. I'd say a big confounding variable here is that you did a test and then you started taking supplements! I personally do 30 minutes and it works perfectly for me but BE SURE TO REPLACE MINERALS!

  23. Roy Podell says:

    Does a steam room provide the same health benefits as a sauna?

    1. Here's why I don't use a steam room: I can never be sure of the quality of the water I'm sucking in. As I delve into in this post on "The Scary Facts About Gyms" <a href="http:// (https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/07/scary-facts-about-gyms/),” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://(https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/07/scary-facts-about-gyms/),” target=”_blank”>(https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/07/scary-facts-about-gyms/), a wet sauna ensures you are breathing in flouride, chlorine, birth control pills, pharmaceuticals and anything else that happens to be in the water supply of the gym unless they are using a very good central water filter in that gym, which is usually not the case. However, if you put one in your own house and you can control any mold or fungi, it's not a bad option (although you do miss out on all the benefits of infrared).

  24. Ali says:

    Would these work in a regular sauna?

    And I’ve always heard you say that u take niacin and go into the sauna? I just bought the Thorne Niasafe, but I’m honestly not sure about what it is.

    So what’s it’s benefits and what benefits am I getting by taking Niacin, regular sauna, and doing tpyou’re routine?

    Thanks

    1. I address everything you need to know about Niasafe here: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/hackedsauna

      And yes, you get far more benefits from infrared than dry or wet, which I address here: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2015/10/scien

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