Lawrence lifestyles

Chelsea Johnson

(Photo by Emma Moss)

During Wisconsin’s eternal winters, many people long for a place to lose their layers and feel their bare feet again. Luckily, Lawrentians have a warm retreat available right on campus for free. In both the women’s and men’s locker rooms, full-sized saunas are available to students, faculty and staff during hours of Wellness Center operation.

Saunas are rooms of intense, dry heat with optional steam achieved by spraying water on heated rocks. Saunas are most famous in the Finnish tradition, where they were so prevalent that women once delivered their babies in the outdoor saunas.

Though no babies have been delivered in Lawrence saunas, yet the tradition of relaxation has been continued since their installation in 1986.

The heat of the saunas helps both the body and mind relax, and many students work saunas into their exercise routines to relax sore muscles or joints.

“I most often [use the saunas] post-nighttime workout,” said senior Annie Raccuglia. “Sometimes I do a little stretching in there.”

Julia Heller, a swimmer who also uses the saunas as part of her workout routine, said, “[The saunas] helps me relax and warm up after what is sometimes a very cold workout in the pool.”

Relaxed muscles and joints are not the only health benefits of the saunas.

“Sweating is so healthy,” Raccuglia said. “I used to go to the hot yoga studio every day, which has the effect of the sauna. I’m working with an injury now and cutting back on the class quite a bit, so it’s nice to have an alternative super-hot room to be in.”

Some users love the benefits of the saunas so much that they go to some length to enjoy them.

“The sauna room was once broken [in the women’s locker room] and I had to resort to sneaking in the boy’s locker room for a bit,” sophomore Tammy Tran said. “It was very much worth it — and luckily, it wasn’t too crowded that time.”

Like any communal space, the saunas help Lawrentians see someone besides their roommates in the winter.

“Be prepared to meet new people,” Tran said. “Oddly, the sauna is a great place to spark conversation.”

Interested in getting all these benefits for yourself? Sauna veterans have some advice for staying healthy and happy in the saunas.

“Don’t be in for too long,” Heller warns. “If you overheat, it leads to all sorts of problems, plus you just don’t need to heat up that much to relax. Generally getting in for 5-10 minutes at a time is enough.”

Saunas should also not be used by those who are pregnant, and people on medications or with persistent health conditions should consult their doctors before use. All users should be careful to stay hydrated.