After four months, I’ve finally gone to a public sauna.
Stephen and I and two friends went to a local sauna with some other Company people. I had no idea what to expect. We knew to wear swimsuits (although most saunas are nude, this one isn’t). I’ve read enough about saunas to know how they operate, and that in Finland it’s customary to go take a dip in the lake to cool down. I know I’ve been in saunas before at the gym, but this was a different experience. But more on the sauna later.
While the sauna was heating up, I got to talking to a few of the other people there, including a 14 year old French girl. She found out I spoke English and wanted to practice hers, and practice she did! She found out I was from America (was that not obvious?) and she got so excited – “I want to visit America so much. I want to be famous and go to America.” I asked her where in America she wanted to visit, expecting to hear New York, or LA, or maybe Texas.
…ummmmm… “Why Missouri?” I asked.
“I don’t know, we just learned about it in school and I want to visit there, there’s not a lot of people so there’s lots of room.”
Well, there you go.
“Plus I like the desserts.”
She wasn’t sure if she had the right word, so she asked her mom in French, then she said, “Yes, the desserts, I think that is the word.”
“Like, what you eat after dinner?”
Now I’m the one confused, and I’ve actually been to Missouri! “What kinds of desserts do they have?”
“Uuuummmmmm……I can’t think of them now,” she said, slightly embarrassed, I think, about not being able to come up with the English words she needed.
So, I’m still wondering – is Missouri famous for a dessert that I don’t know about?
Okay, onto the sauna part of the evening…
(Read about the Finnish Sauna and customs here)
At most saunas, from my understanding , you shower before you get in, and then you shower after you’re done, and sometimes you shower in the middle to cool down. The place we were at didn’t have showers, however.
When I entered the sauna, I was instructed to douse myself with water, “to get the sweating process going.” I got wet and then sat on a wooden bench, sweating, with six other people. Now, when you say you were sitting hip to hip with people on either side of you, and all of you are literally dripping sweat, it sounds a little odd, right? But it wasn’t so bad.
After a few minutes (maybe five? certainly not more than 10) we got up and stepped outside to cool off. It was, after all, about 80° in there. That’s Celsius, people. Before you go and convert it, I can tell you that’s about 175°F. It was…warm.
Now, a lot of saunas are set on the water – in this case a lake – which makes the cooling off process even easier. Just go jump in! I was a little hesitant, because I was actually fairly chilled simply stepping outside. That was a bit of a surprise – I thought the heat from the sauna would make me a little more impervious to the cold than it did. But, hey, when in Rome, right? So off I went to the lake.
That water was cold. About 14° (57F) I think someone said. Which, really, was about the same temperature as the air, but it certainly felt colder. I got about waist deep and simply couldn’t go any further. (“Armpits!” as my friend would say!) But after a few minutes, it didn’t feel so bad. I think that was more because I was numb, but hey…
Back into the sauna. Back out to the lake. I figured the second time would be easier – It wasn’t. One more turn, sauna, lake, then we called it a night.
Some thoughts on my first sauna:
- At this point, I don’t really “get it.” I didn’t feel more relaxed, I didn’t feel cleaner, I didn’t feel as if impurities had been drawn (sweated) out of me. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. It was just kind of meh.
- But, of course, I will try it again. Maybe going in with a better idea of what to expect will help me to enjoy it more.
- Honestly, at this point, I far prefer going from hot tub to cold pool. I feel like you retain more of the heat from the hot tub in the cold pool, and it’s more refreshing. I wouldn’t say the cold lake after the sauna was refreshing, more that it was shocking. Of course, maybe that’s the point.
So, sauna lovers – am I doing something wrong? Did I have unrealistic expectations? What should I do next time to ensure I enjoy it more?