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I Went Naked And Tried Infrared Therapy

Sports-specific spas offer the option to deep-freeze your body, indulge in infrared treatments and float in a sensory-deprivation tank—all in the name of relieving tired muscles, reducing inflammation and soothing frazzled minds. The question is whether or not they work. There are more anecdotal stories than science when it comes to new modalities, leaving athletes wondering what is worth their time and money.

Infrared Therapy

Skin is exposed to near, mid and far (invisible) wavelengths of light. Treatments range from personal devices to be used at home to walk-in saunas. When exposed to infrared energy, the body responds by releasing nitric, which may increase blood flow.

POSSIBLE BENEFITS: An infrared sauna is believed to help the body sweat out toxins, improve circulation, relieve pain and promote healing, as the light is absorbed on a cellular level.

MY EXPERIENCE: I sat in a wooden sauna (again, no clothes) for 45 minutes as infrared and colored chromotherapy lights did their thing. For the first 25 minutes or so, I didn’t really notice anything, but I was completely relaxed and used it as a perfect opportunity to meditate and stretch. I eventually began sweating and heating up, but it wasn’t too hot, like it can be in a regular dry sauna. Afterward I felt balanced and refreshed. Wiping down with a cool, damp cloth and eucalyptus oil helped too! It’s a dry sauna, so you could take your phone in with you, but I recommend making it a screen-free zone. Just take it easy and enjoy the time. As relaxing as it was, I probably won’t try this again as I’m not sure I noticed the benefits in my body.

DR. JORDAN METZL, NYC SPORTS-MEDICINE PHYSICIAN AND AUTHOR: “A recent study says that wrapped heat therapy is more effective than icing at reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness. But there isn’t a ton of scientific merit specifically to infrared treatments. It still can be a good way to relax and do some light stretching.”

COST: $45 for 45 minutes

TREATMENT TIPS: When looking for an infrared sauna, find one that uses the full spectrum of infrared light to reap the most benefits.

Allison Pattillo

Allison Pattillo

Allison played field hockey and golf while growing up, but always ran “just for the fun of it.” She completed and won her age group in her very first race, a 5K, when she was 26 so that she would at least know how to pin on her number before running her first marathon a month later. Those two races turned into dozens, from mile long sprints to ultras, running to triathlon with some ski and snowshoe racing mixed in as well. After earning a Boston qualifier and completing her first IRONMAN 140.6, this mother of two is now focused on seeing how much she can better her 3:48 PB marathon time, running the World Marathon Majors (Boston and Tokyo are in the books!) and tackling a 50-miler.