Cornwall LivingIssue #142

From sea to sauna

In a conversation with Jem Wallis of Escape Swims, we find out just how much we stand to gain from contrast therapy.

Enjoying a sauna alongside a cold swim has been around for thousands of years across multiple cultures throughout the world. The practice is quickly growing in popularity in the UK, and we speak with Escape Swims’ Jem Wallis about the many benefits that accompany this ancient form of therapy.

Tell us about the benefits that can come with combining the sauna with cold-water swimming.

As you relax and overcome the cold-water shock that comes with a dip in the sea, your body produces high levels of ‘feel-good’ chemicals that not only make you feel great in the short term, but also have a positive effect on your health in the long term. The heat
of the sauna has very similar results, and mixing the two exercises magnifies the effects. This combination is known as contrast therapy, and apart from the amazing long-term health benefits, you’ll feel incredibly relaxed after taking part in it.

Take us through some of the main things to consider when it comes to staying safe whilst taking part.

It’s best not to overstay your welcome in the cold. You’ll continue to cool after you get out of the water and the benefits are at their highest when you’ve just overcome the initial cold shock and are feeling relaxed and comfortable. After that, head straight into the sauna and feel the warmth penetrate through the chill from the water. Pouring some water on the stones to sizzle into steam will pass the heat from the sauna to you more quickly. It’s key not to stay in too long here either, and once your heart rate is up and the heat is beginning to feel like it’s a challenge it’s time to head back into the sea again – this time just for a couple of minutes. Just repeat the process, transferring from hot to cold and back. So long as you don’t overdo it the first time, along with keeping hydrated, you can build up time spent and repetitions from there, gaining the benefits feeling amazing afterwards.

What can you advise to anyone looking to start contrast therapy, but doesn’t know where to start?

Firstly, if you’ve got an existing health condition you should talk to your doctor before taking part. You can ask anyone running a sauna for advice and they should be happy to help. If you’d prefer a more structured starting point, you can book into a ‘thermalism’ course with Escape Swims. We run through everything that you need to know to take part safely in contrast therapy and get the most out of your sauna and swims.