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Help Onsen & Sauna, Good or Bad, Before or After?


Maximum Pace
Dec 31, 2009
So, I love the Onsen.
I have been mulling over the idea of starting big rides with a short dip (30 min max) at the local Onsen. Is this a bad idea. I know that it dehydrates you, but wouldnt there be a benefit to the muscle relaxation and the clean loose all over feeling you get?
I have heard that using a sauna after a workout is good particularly from info on what Dr. Allen Lim has done for Garmin and Radio Shack
If you are trying to lose weight would this be bad to do before a ride? I suppose being dizzy would be bad. Is it bad for your body though?
Or is the onsen bad for you and I am living in a dream world.
Is it bad to use the freezing cold water after the sauna? I see people do it all the time, go straight from the sauna into the cold water, I have done it and you definitly feel something, good or bad I am undecided.

Just any random opinions or scientific advice is what I am after, any Ideas?
I don't think it's a good idea to go to onsen before a ride, but it's only my imho -
- if it's cold(ish) outside and you plan to ride for a couple of hours, it just feels like calling a cold upon yourself;
- no point having a bath if you plan to get covered in sweat in 10 minutes after it;

On the opposite, after-the-ride onsen/bath/shower/face wash is much more logical to me.
I often have a bath before races! It was my footballing hero Rick Holden who put me onto it. He used to sit in the bath before a match while the others warmed up on the pitch. He was pretty much injury free throughout his career....

In Japan, I hear friends call it "asafuro" and swear by it before races. It's good to do when there is little chance of a warm up. I always have one before the 300km Tokyo~Itoigawa race.

At the onsen at the finish and the night before races, I often do what I hear friends called "icing". Basically sit in the onsen and then sit in the cold bath waist deep / legs only for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times. Seems to be good for recovery.

Of course there are dehydration issues with onsen/sauna so you have to put in more than you sweat out....


The old school directors would kill you if you touched any water before a race. It was considered very bad luck. Have no clue where this came from. Probably some old European superstition. But, to understand the kinesiology of this - you have either passive or active 'warm up'. Hot bath is a passive warm-up. Applying heat to a muscle group mainly has the effect to cause capillary dialation, decreases the viscosity of the blood and also reduces muscle fiber tension. So, it does help when it comes times to put the muscles to work.

Conversely, after a hard workout, cooling down the muscle group will reduce the chance of inflammation and the fast constriction of the muscles and capillary can actually flush out some of the lactic acid. Also, it triggers a 'shut down' if you will to the effort process and your body will go into recovery mode much faster. Now then, once you've done the chill dip, its important to follow that with a gradual re-warming and massage to encourage blood flow back into the muscle groups.

I don't think enough could be said regarding the use of massage as an active component for both the warm up and cool down phase of each training or race event. I'm actually so surprised to go to race events here and see guys stretching and what not - but hardly anyone is getting / giving or receiving a pre-race massage. Quite frankly, there is little evidence that stretching does much for pre-race preparation. You'd be much better off putting that time to a massage and getting a warmup on rollers.
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