Health? Beauty? Sauna!


By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Top Tip 

Enjoy a Finnish sauna, alternate baths hot and cold,
it supercharges your body, mind and soul;
boosts skin and looks; look youthful, not old …
One visit to the sauna and you too will be sold! 

Being ½ Finnish (½ Danish) it is only natural, that I am a sauna fan … and no matter what your nationality, you ought to be a sauna fan, too. Yes, even if you live in hotter places than Finland or Denmark … because a Finnish sauna experience involves alternating hot and cold baths and this is ideal for anti-aging, anti-stress, anti-cold, beautiful skin, general well-being and excellent recovery from workouts or stressful periods at school or work.

sauna hus

Sauna facts
The Sauna: A sauna is a small room or house, all wood, with wood covering the floor, walls and ceiling, wooden benches and an electrically heated stone oven (some saunas use wood for heating). There is a small bucket with water and a ladle for pouring water on the hot stones, so humidity is increased.
There should also be a thermometer, a hygrometer and an hour-glass.

There are also infrared saunas, which does not heat the sauna air, but the body. The sauna temperature is lower, 120-140 degrees F and you can stay in them for longer –suitable for some patients. Infrared saunas have many of the advantages of traditional saunas as well as a deep body-penetrating heat. However, traditional sauna gives a more authentic experience; a stronger heat and the possibility of changing the humidity.

There are modern saunas with light and sound effects or aromatherapy. They provide for variation. Personally I prefer a traditional sauna; dimmed normal lights, a scent of wood and complete relaxing silence.

Saunas not only exist at exclusive spa’s, but also at pools and sports and holiday resorts. Find a sauna near you and have a wonderful mind-body experience.

The sauna bath: Sauna is a dry, hot bath, from 60-100 degrees C (140-212 degrees F), norm 80-90 degrees C (194 degrees F). By pouring water onto the hot stones of the sauna oven, you will increase humidity from 5-8% to approx. 15%.

There are several advantages to sauna use:

  • Relaxes the muscles and reduces soreness and muscle tension. Alternating hot and cold baths speeds up recovery and hence increases sports performance.
  • Reduces and relieves various aches and pains.
  • Relieves stress and mild depression.
  • Reduces the incidence of common colds.
  • Flushes toxins from the body, is detoxifying.
  • Sweating cleanses the skin, rinses bacteria out of the epidermis and sweat ducts.
  • Induces physical and mental relaxation and wellness.
Sauna use is healthy, however, it can not replace warm-ups or exercise:
As a warm-up: The muscles will get warmer in the sauna, but it is a passive warm-up, which does not prepare the body for dynamic physical activity. Use an active warm-up.
As exercise: Blood circulation is enhanced, however, a.o. the neuromuscular system, nerves and muscles, is not active, so there is no real training effect.

Sauna use
Sauna use (time and temperature specific to the user) is safe for almost everyone; children, young, adults, seniors and pregnant women. And sauna use is beneficial for reducing the symptoms of a number of diseases. However, caution is advised, especially in the case of cardiovascular diseases. Check with your doctor – also ask about medication and sauna use.

Wellness sauna Dayz resorts SeaWest

You may use the sauna in the morning – it is refreshing, when you finish with a cold bath.
You may also use the sauna in the afternoon or early evening, it is very relaxing and may improve sleep quality.

Set aside plenty of time for a sauna séance, if possible at least 1-2½ hours.

Do not eat a meal later than 1-2 hours before going to the sauna.
Drink water during the day, so you are hydrated, when going to the sauna.
Listen to your body: Staying in the sauna should feel good; if you feel overheated, dizzy or uneasy, leave the sauna and cool off.

How to Use the Sauna:

  1. Heat up the sauna, temperature 140-212 degrees F, norm 194 degrees F.
    Avoid temperatures higher than 212 degrees F, as this can be harmful.
    Note: New users should start gradually with shorter time and lower temperature.
  2. Take a bath, cleanse thoroughly. Leave off jewelry, watches, glasses, a.o.
  3. Go naked – or in swimwear – to the sauna; depending on the setting and country.
  4. Always bring a towel to sit or lie on; for hygienic reasons and comfort.
  5. Sit or lie down. It is warmer at the top bench in the sauna.
  6. In a Finnish sauna you ‘whip’ yourself gently with birch branches to stimulate the skin and remove dead skin cells.
  7. Poor water on the stones to increase humidity.
  8. Stay in the sauna heat for 5-15 minutes, or a little longer.
    Do not stay for too long as it is unhealthy, 20-30 minutes is maximum.
  9. Go out; take a (icy) cold bath, shower, tub or lake; cold for 1-3 minutes.
  10. Go back in the sauna and repeat the procedure*. Typically 3-5 times.
    * Note: For wellness: You may prefer to cool down further and relax outside for another 10-15 minutes, before going back into the sauna. For recovery: Alternate between hot and cold baths without pauses. Finish off with a cold bath.
    Drink plenty of water afterwards to rehydrate.

Enjoy your sauna experience.

Fitness: Use It Or Lose It … Fast!

Fitness maintenance to avoid detraining

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

I am sometimes asked the question: How fast do I lose fitness?
The short answer is: Fast! 
The full answer to “how fast” depends on who, what, how … and nice to know: Not all is lost!
Read this and get five tips to maintain fitness. 

How fast you lose fitness, detraining, depends on several factors, especially your training age, for how long and how regurlarly, you have been exercising.

How quickly you get out of shape also also depends on whether you just decrease your training volume and intensity or stop completely.
In the latter scenario most training effects in new exercisers are lost completely within two months (eight weeks):
Beginners and new exercisers with less than six months of regular training lose fitness much faster than conditioned athletes; after 8-10 weeks of quitting exercising almost all fitness gains are lost.

Well-conditioned fit exercisers with several years of training lose some fitness already within a week, however, it takes up to 10-15 weeks before half the conditioning is lost.

So, even if fitness loss is happening fast, not all is lost immediately; up to a week of resting can even be an advantage, it may serve as an extended recovery, but after 1-3 weeks you start losing your fitness level.

Loss of aerobic fitness happens fairly quickly, while loss of muscle strength is a little slower: after a three month break, muscle mass, which is related to strength, is back to the original level.

When you have lost your fitness, it takes time to rebuild it. Returning to your former fitness level happens faster, if you have been exercising for many years, however, it may still require several months to work yourself back into shape.

Luckily it is possible to avoid losing fitness: At times, when you are very busy or lazy, you can maintain your fitness level with as little as 1 workout per week, but at a minimum intensity of at least 70 % of your maximum (VO2max).

Nice advice: Keep in shape – avoid detraining.

At busy times or times of travelling:

  • Train express training, short workouts; 10-20 (30) min. with high intensity.
  • Train interval training, high-intensity work followed by a rest-pause,
    there a many methods, e.g. 8 x 30:60 sec. (high intensity/pause)
  • Train a select few exercises, do complex total-body exercises, e.g. TGU, instead of many exercises for a few muscles,  isolations.
  • Train circuit training. Exercise non-stop; go from one exercise to the other without rest-pauses.
  • Train split training; if you only have 10-15 minutes a day, then ‘split the body’ and train only one or two muscle groups per day.

Note: Always work out at a suitable level; the intensity should be right for your health and fitness level. And always do a warm-up and a cooldown.

If you are injured or ill, you should see you doctor or physiotherapist for a check-up and a special program.
In general: Work ‘around’ your injury, train other muscle groups – e.g. crosstraining – and do some rehabilitation exercises for the injured area.

Fitness training around an injury

Apart from the physical factors, the mental aspect is important.
As soon as you have been exercising for a while, you do have valuable training experience, which means that it will be easier to get back to exercising, if you have been away from it due to lack of motivation or injury.
No worries, just get back in the game.

Enjoy your workout.

WOD: Design A Super Workout Program

Fitness Workout of The Day ProgramFitness Workout of the Day
Programming (Aagaard, 2012)

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

How to Design A Better Workout? Of course you can design your workout of the day without prior planning or periodization. However, if you really want to progress and make the most of your workout time, then it makes more sense to create a goal-oriented plan in which your daily workout is based on a week program, which is based on a long-term plan (year and quarterly or monthly plans).

The program for the individual daily workout(s) is the ‘core’ of periodization, planning your exercise periods. In CrossFit a.o. this is called Workout of the Day, WOD.

It is essential, that your program is designed in the proper way, based on knowledge of anatomy, physiology and sports science, so it is healthy and effective as well as motivating and challenging – for you.

An allround fitness program could have this structure:

  • Warm-up – general and specific
  • Coordination and balance and/or
  • Cardiovascular training and/or
  • Resistance training
  • Cool-down
  • Flexibility/stretching

Note: Your written workout program should include all parts of the workout, e.g. not just the strength training part of it.

The duration, content and sequence of each part of the workout depends on

1) workout goal
2) primary capacity/area in focus
3) total workout duration

Workout duration maximum is 45-90 minutes. 30-60 minutes is the norm.

High-intensity workouts, anaerobic energy systems training and explosive strength training, should not exceed 20-25 minutes (ex. warm-up).

Traditional fitness warm-up (60 minute workouts): 5-15 minutes.

Cardiovascular training: 20-60 minutes.

Moderate intensity resistance training, 8-10 exercises, 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions:
Approximately 30-60 min., maximal strength training 30-90 min. and bodybuilding (hypertrophy) 1-1½ hours (maximum).

Cool-down, easy walking or cycling, following intense cardiovascular or resistance training: 3-10 minutes.

Stretching for the major muscles with a focus on tight muscles: 5-10+ minutes.

Program content can be based on one, eg. strength, or more areas of fitness.
All-round fitness workouts may focus on:

  • Posture, static and dynamic
  • Aerobic and anaerobic capacity
  • Coordination, general and specific (balance, static and dynamic)
  • Strength/endurance, concentric/eccentric and isometric
  • Flexibility, static and dynamic, passive and active
  • Mental capacity (and social aspect)

The program should have a suitable level; exercises, which motivates and improves performance.

Exercise selection should be based on the primary movements of the everyday, leisure time activities and sports:

  • Flexion (bending)
  • Extension (straightening)
  • Pulling
  • Pushing
  • Rotation

The base movements of (initial) fitness programs should be the same for ‘every body’; the above base movements are equally important for men, women, children, juniors, grown-ups and seniors.

Fitness programs differ in respect to volume, based on frequency, number of times per week, intensity and duration, and specific exercise selection.
Specific exercise selection is based on the health and fitness status of the exerciser; this status determines the appropriate level of difficulty, including speed, for the exercises.

Focus points
Here is a short list of key areas to consider, when you want to design a super workout program:

  • Program – content, structure, volume, total duration
  • Training parts (sections) – goal, content, structure, duration
  • Exercise selection – level, simple or complex
  • Exercise sequence
  • Load – set, repetitions, intensity, type
  • Muscle contraction focus – concentric, eccentric, isometric
  • Tempo – slow, moderate, fast, explosive
  • Rest-pauses – between exercises and sets (and repetitions)
  • Method variation – variations, combinations
  • Recovery – rest between workouts

You can find more information about each area in articles (on the internet) and books on the subject of periodization.

Enjoy preparing your new and improved workout program.

Plan your optimal Workout of the Day,
so everything is set and you’re on your way
to a personal workout, which is fun to ‘play’,
with better results, so top form you display.  


Periodize: Perfect Your Short-term Plan

Styrketraening Mikrocyklus USWeek plan, microcycle, example (Aagaard, 2012)

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Top Tip 

First a super workout, then of course recovery. 
A nice mix of work and rest, wouldn’t you agree?
That’s the way to maximize results for all to see
and avoid fatique, overtraining, stress and injury.

In periodization the long-term plan, the macrocycle, and the mesocycles (1-3 month plans) provides the framework for more detailed short-term plans, plans for your weekly training.

A (very) short-term plan is called a microcycle. A microcycle can last from 1-14 days, but a typical fitness microcycle is 1 week, 7 days.

Your plan for the week (can be changed from week to week or repeated for several weeks) is a plan of all training activities; cardiovascular, strength, coordination (balance, agility, etc.) and flexibility training.
A complete plan – as shown in the figure – makes it easier to detect, if your training is planned in the right way with regard to volume and recovery.

You can use the ‘FIT-formula‘ as a guide for your week plan or program; consider this:

Frequency, number of workouts per week
Intensity, how hard you work at each workout
Time, or duration, how long you train for at each workout

When your weekly training program involves different types of training, it can be somewhat of a puzzle to 1) arrange the workouts in relation to each other, so they do not interact in a negative way and 2) get sufficient recovery, rest.
Also when you have a large volume of training within one training modality, eg. strength training, you need to plan your training week carefully, so you get the right amount of variation and recovery so you get the desired results.

Recovery time
In general you need about 48 hours of rest following moderate intensity strength training (3 x 10 reps at ~75 % of 1RM) and approximately 24 hours of rest after moderate intensity cardiovascular training.

For beginners with a relatively low volume of training (eg. 3-4 times ½-1 hours or less a week), it is fairly easy to make a week plan and training programs, whereas programming for advanced fitness and sports programs with daily workouts can be a challenging task.

Guidelines and variation and motivation
To maintain motivation and keep progressing it is beneficial to change the week program within 4-6 weeks. However, many (novice) exercisers will continue to get results and feel quite happy with the same program for longer periods; this also allows for stable adaptation and improved exercise technique.

Listen to your body and mind and move on, when you feel the need for it.

Advanced, skilled and strong, exercisers may change their programs more frequently for instance every third week, but even a change of program from week to week is possible.

When planning an allround fitness week program, you can look to the American College of Sports Medicine’s, ACSM, basic guidelines for physical exercise:

Cardiovascular training: 3-5 times per week, 60-90 % of heart rate, 20-60 minutes

Strength training:
 2-3 times per week, minimum 1 [-3] sets of 8-12 repetitions, 8-10 exercises for the large muscle groups (equals approx. 30-50 minute workout).
Note: If you do split training, eg. upper and lower body work on alternating days, you can train more times per week.

Flexibility training
: 3 times per week, 1-4 repetitions/stretches lasting 10-30 seconds, stretches for the large [tight] muscles.

Enjoy planning your new improved program.

Touch, Touch! Feel Much …

Touch, Touch … your sense of touch is an important one … 
‘Feel’ m
uch more and feel more alive, more healthy … and perform better.

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Top Tip 

Right here, right NOW: Give yourself a pat on the back,
plus a good rubbing, from lower legs to head and ‘six-pack’.
Massage and pull on your earlobes, a wellness sense-‘attack’.

Caring for the sensitive sense of touch, that is the new black! 

The sense of touch is controlled by a network of nerves and touch receptors, the somato-sensory system. Notice how you experience a whole world of different sensations: Hot, cold, rough, smooth, pressure, vibration, tickle and many more through these receptors:

Mechanoreceptors; texture, pressure and vibration.
Thermoreceptors; hot and cold.
Nociceptors; pain (keeps the body safe).
Proprioceptors; body positions (detect changes in muscle tension and length).

Pamper your body, your muscles, your skin and sense of touch with warmth*, water (hot and cold), smooth materials, touching, caress and massage (and self-massage, eg. with massage balls and foam rollers) for physical, mental, emotional and social well-being; it enhances recovery, reduces stress and increases general wellness.

* Warmth generally makes you feel safe, secure and positive; a study by Bargh and Williams ‘Experiencing physical warmth promotes interpersonal warmth’ showed, that people judged other people to be more generous and caring after they had briefly held a cup of hot coffee rather than a cup of cold (iced) coffee”.
(from their abstract: “Warmth” is the most powerful personality trait in social judgment, and attachment theorists have stressed the importance of warm physical contact with caregivers during infancy for healthy relationships in adulthood).

Fascinating fact
Your sense of touch not only affects how you feel physically and mentally, but also how you perceive the world around you.

Researcher John A. Bargh, PhD, says, that physical experiences “not only shape the foundation of our thoughts and perceptions, but influence our behavior toward others, sometimes just because we are sitting in a hard instead of a soft chair.”
His fellow researcher Christian C. Nocera states that touch and “greetings involving touch, such as handshakes and cheek kisses, may in fact have critical influences on our social interactions in an unconscious fashion.”
(from Sense of Touch Affects Our World View, Bill Hendrick, WebMD Health News).

Free n Fresh for (Skin) Fitness

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Health, fitness and performance is also about:
Keeping your body – and skin – ‘ventilated’, fit and healthy.
Give your skin freedom and fresh air and feel fitter (anti-aging).

Top Tip 

Your skin is the ‘largest part’ of you,
set it free, let it breathe and feel brand new.
Not much clothes – or shoes – on during the day*,
during night be without, your body likes it that way.

* Amount of clothes is affected by weather … and culture …

Get as much fresh air as possible: Get outside, if you can, for at least for ½ hour a day.
Breathe deeply through your nose (and skin). Oxygen is ‘Fuel’ for Your Brain and Muscles!

Hot n Cold Water for (Skin) Fitness

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Health, fitness and performance is also about:
Keeping your body – and skin – vibrant, fit and healthy (anti-aging).
Give yourself a treat: Invigorating baths for improved recovery and instant wellness

Top Tip

Hot-and-cold water in the tub or the shower*
increases circulation and wellness for many an hour,
removes wrinkles, fatigue and feelings of ‘sour’.
Be good to your skin, pamper it, increase its power.

* Recovery is improved by hot-and-cold-baths (CWT, contrast water therapy):

Several studies have demonstrated improved recovery and performance following hot-and-cold baths, eg. ‘Effect of hydrotherapy on the signs and symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness’ (Vaile et al., 2007):

“Squat jump performance and isometric power was significantly enhanced 24, 48 og 72 hours after workouts followed by CWT (…) compared to passive recovery.
CWT and cold water immersion proves effective in reducing physiological and functional deficits associated with DOMS, including improved recovery of isometric force and dynamic power and a reduction in localised oedema.”

One study, ‘Effect of contrast water therapy duration on recovery of cycling performance: a dose-response study’ (Versey, Halson, Dawson, 2011), uses this method:

Hot water/bath (38.4 ± 0.6°C) 1 minute, cold water (14.6 ± 0.3°C) 1 minute. 5 seconds for changing. Total duration 6-12 minutes.

My method: Body Boosting Bath for skin fitness, wellness and health:

  • Sauna 5-15 minutes (80-90°C).
  • Cold water (tub) 1-3 minutes (10-12°C).
  • Repeat three times. Total duration: 18-54 minutes.

Photo (Henrik Elstrup Aagaard): Assawan Spa at Burj Al Arab ******* in Dubai.
It is super, but you can have your own spa treatments
at the swimming bath or at home!