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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.