I spent 55 minutes in a boiling hot infrared heat bed watching TV at an 'urban sweat lodge.' I almost didn't make it through.
- "Sweating" is a wellness trend that's been around for ages, and now there's a new way to sweat: the "urban sweat lodge."
- I went to Shape House in Brooklyn to try one of its 55-minute sweat sessions in an infrared heat bed.
- Shape House claims that benefits of sweat sessions include weight loss, brighter skin, and improved mood, among many others.
- I found it hard to get through the 55 minutes, and afterward, while I felt very refreshed, I also experienced dehydration, increased hunger, and heightened anxiety.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Humans have always found ways to get really, really hot.
Now, there's a new one: the "urban sweat lodge."
I went to Shape House, an urban sweat lodge with locations in New York and Los Angeles. For a cool $50, you're put into a specially designed infrared bed that heats you up as you lay back and watch TV for 55 minutes, because of which Shape House claims you will burn 800-1,600 calories.
Shape House also claims that the benefits of their sweat sessions include detoxification, weight loss, improved skin, sleep, increased energy, endorphin release, strengthened immunity, improved mood, stress relief, improved hormone balance, and the alleviation of muscle soreness.
Now, those seem like a lot of unbelievable benefits from doing a whole lot of nothing. You might almost say that they sound too good to be true, especially because "detoxification" isn't really a thing.
So the curious skeptic in me decided to investigate and to investigate by trying out one of these sweat sessions for myself.
The thing is, I don't do well in high temperatures.
I headed over to the Shape House location in Dumbo, Brooklyn. I was greeted by New Age music, the smell of incense, and Kathleen, who seemed to be the only staff member around.
I was given an iPad with an extensive waiver on it. Apparently, pregnancy and open wounds are two of the many things that make sweating dangerous.
After I signed the waiver, Kathleen led me to a hallway with cubbies and changing rooms. Since this was my first time at Shape House, my session came with a complimentary clothing rental.
The clothes consisted of loose cotton pajamas and thick woolen socks. Full coverage is necessary to provide a layer of protection between the infrared blanket and your skin.
Kathleen led me to the infrared beds, which are separated from each other by curtains in a hospital-like setup. In front of each bed was a TV and a pair of headphones, and at the foot of the bed was the machine controlling its temperature.
According to the Shape House website, their infrared beds "gradually increase core body temperature by producing waves that reach beyond surface skin to subcutaneous fat and muscle. As your body temperature rises, your system begins to sweat in order to thermo-regulate itself, which allows for the release of toxins, heavy metals, and fat, while stimulating endorphin production and heart rate."
Kathleen placed a foam roller under my knees and folded me into the heavy infrared blanket. I felt like a child being tucked into a warm bed. Remote in hand, emergency call button on my lap, and water to my side, I felt ready to take on the hour. Then, I remembered that I'd forgotten to pee. I'd been led straight to the bed from the dressing room, without a reminder to do so.
Kathleen left and an advertisement for Shape House began playing on the screen. It was strange to see a man on the screen doing the exact same thing I was doing. At this point, the bed was pleasantly warm. Easy-peasy. I still really had to pee, though.
But I'd already made my bed and lay in it, so I flipped through the Roku TV options and settled on an episode of "Seinfeld" where Jerry is trying to break up with an annoying friend.
Fifteen minutes in, I started to find the scent of incense nauseating. I was really starting to feel the heat, so I reached for the glass bottle of water by my bedside.
At twenty minutes in, my face was sweating like soft-serve in the sweltering summer sun. I pushed the call button and asked Kathleen for a dry face towel. The heat was on, and I was starting to feel the pressure in my bladder.
In the "Seinfeld" universe, Jerry was laughing at Kramer's idea for a build-your-own pizza business. All this talk of 600-degree ovens was starting to feel awfully relevant to my situation.
At 23 minutes, my heart was beating faster. At 27 minutes, I started to panic. I was dying to get out. Time was passing very slowly, and I was checking the time every ten seconds. Then, at 35 minutes, I felt a renewed sense of control over my body until I realised that my left hand had fallen asleep. I started taking deep breaths to stay calm.
During the final fifteen minutes, my mind departed from my body. My bladder was on the point of bursting. I felt like I was going to drown in my own sweat. Mind over body. Kathleen came and put a cold, wet towel on my forehead. How did she know I needed one? And did I smell lavender, or was that just the scent of my own body burning?
After I emerged from the bed, I felt reborn, as if I'd narrowly escaped death. I smelled like a perm, my face burned, and I was dizzy and lightheaded. My heart was still beating very quickly.
Kathleen prepared a towel and chair for me in the resting room and offered me a selection of teas from an iPad. I chose turmeric cinnamon.
Shape House advises you to avoid showering for at least an hour after a sweat session so that you can reap maximum benefits as your body returns to its normal temperature on its own.
After about a half-hour of sipping tea, my heart rate slowed to normal and my body felt cool again. I felt deeply calm and very refreshed, and very, very hungry.
After my sweat session, did I see any or all of the benefits that Shape House claims sweating has?
I'm not sure.
I definitely felt refreshed immediately afterward, but over the following day, I felt a significant increase in anxiety. My skin felt slightly nicer, but it wasn't much different from the glow from a short run.
The next day, I woke up with a flatter stomach than I've had in a while, although that may have just been water weight. I was extremely dehydrated for about a day afterward. I noticed a significant increase in hunger, but again, I feel that way after any regular workout session.
So is sweating worth it? Personally, I wouldn't do it again because I didn't notice any significant benefits and I found the experience very uncomfortable. But if you don't mind the heat, it might be worth trying for yourself.
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