The recovery benefits of a sauna — in the comfort of your living room? Our endurance athlete out the Solo Infrared Sauna through the paces to see for herself.
As an endurance athlete, I have been hearing about the benefits of the infrared sauna for a long time. However, when kids came on board and I could not get to my gym as much, I gave up on the idea.
I also did not have the money or the room in my house to install one. So instead, I focused on other recovery tools that I could easily do at home. This worked pretty well for my husband and me, but our recovery time was not as fast as we wanted it to be.
Fast forward many months, when we were able to test out the Sunlighten Portable Infrared Sauna during one of the most intense training and racing periods of our career. In the span of 6 weeks, my husband and I have won every race we have entered.
First I won the WEMBO 24-Hour Mountain Bike World Championships. Then our whole family got COVID, and then we both raced a 5-day expedition race. Five days later, my husband went on to race, win, and set the world record in the Yukon 1000 paddle race with teammate Daniel Staudigel.
All throughout our training and recovery, we got in the sauna once or twice a day for at least 30 minutes. We made it a daily habit. At first, it was hard to commit, but after a few days, we both looked forward to our “solo sauna” time.
In short: To be able to do huge back-to-back endurance efforts was a new thing for us; usually, we need to take at least 2 weeks off before our next race. While our training has gotten more focused and our nutrition has improved, we couldn’t help but give a lot of credit to our biggest lifestyle change: the Sunlighten Portable Infrared Sauna.
After a bit more research and time with the sauna, we now fully believe that it had a lot to do with our ability to recover faster and race harder. So, if you have any burning questions about infrared saunas, and want to know if one is right for you, we’re here with some answers.
Editor’s note: While both saunas and infrared saunas feel great and are generally safe when used as instructed, a lack of large-scale and exact studies leaves a level of uncertainty around their effectiveness. Both infrared and traditional saunas heat the body, resulting in vigorous sweating and an increased heart rate. Other purported health claims are to date unsubstantiated. This is our tester’s experience only and should not be taken as a substitute for large-scale scientific studies.
What Exactly Is an Infrared Sauna?
According to the Sunlighten website, “An infrared sauna is a type of sauna that uses infrared heaters to emit infrared light experienced as radiant heat which is absorbed at a deep level into the skin.”
The major difference between a regular sauna and an infrared sauna (at least that I found) is that an infrared sauna can heat up the body with much milder temperatures compared to other types of saunas like a steam or dry sauna.
What Are the Benefits of an Infrared Sauna?
The advertised benefits one can get from an infrared sauna seem to be endless. But the ones we found to be the most evident after a month of constant use are the following:
- Sore muscle relief
- Relaxation (and quality sleep)
After our first week of use, both my husband and I could feel a difference in our overall joint health.
In our morning physical therapy and yoga session, we both commented on how limber we felt. I think this is also because of how much water we were drinking. Before the sauna, we drink a full glass of water, and after the sauna, we drink another two glasses. When we were sick, the sauna greatly improved our aches and pains.
Usage and Benefits
The one-person Portable Sunlighten Sauna is a dome-like structure that is easy to set up and put away, and is extremely fast at heating up. It uses SoloCarbon infrared panels with nine zoned heat sensors that work to penetrate the skin at a deeper level. It is also the only solo system that uses built-in chromotherapy lighting.
When we are in full recovery and training mode, we try to get in the sauna every day for at least 30 minutes. This helps us get into a good habit (like anything, consistency is key), and it really helps us get back to feeling good after a long race or a hard training day.
If we aren’t in full training mode, then we use it three times a week. This is what we call our “maintaining” period, where we do not have any specific recovery focus.
Sunlighten Solo Sauna Specs
- Materials: Bamboo carbon on dome, pad, and pillow; memory foam pad and pillow
- Features: Zoned heating, chromotherapy, integrated timer
- Remote-operated: 16 chromotherapy color options, four brightness/intensity settings
- Electrical: 120V
- Max temp: 150 degrees F
- Length: 69 in.
- Total weight: 59 lbs.
- Price: Starting at $2,600
Is the ‘Solo Sauna’ Worth It?
Because there are two of us, at first we were not sold on the solo part of it. However, since we are also parents of young children, we’ve really grown to love and value our “solo” time. Our kids now know that when one of us is in the sauna, it’s “Mommy or Daddy’s quiet time.”
Having this in our home has been a complete game-changer. It is ready to get in after just 5 minutes of turning it on and doesn’t take up much space in our small home. And it goes without saying, this infrared sauna is considerably less expensive (like thousands less) than building or installing any sort of sauna.
After my time with this sauna, I believe it’s perfect for people who feel like they could really benefit from one, but may not have the space in their home for a big sauna — or the time and money to go out and use one at a local gym or spa.
Not an athlete? No matter. This sauna can act as a unique recovery tool for all kinds of people.