Oxidation and how banya can help recovery after exercise

We spoke to the leading banya master and world champion of parenie, Vladas Jokubauskas, about the benefits of using the banya after working out or going to the gym and this is what he had to say.

Oxidation is one of the reasons for the stiffness and pain you feel after a workout and can mean the need for lengthy recovery times. Luckily, visiting the banya can help to restore the neutrality and equilibrium of your body and promote recovery. 

Gym fitness

What is oxidation?

The pH level in your body should be more or less neutral (neither acidic, nor alkaline). When oxidation occurs, your body has an acidic pH level. This comes about due to hypoxia, the condition that arises when tissues are deprived of adequate oxygen supply. 

When oxygen is available or the intensity of physical activity is modest, energy is generated aerobically. When oxygen is in deficit or the intensity of the exercise requires it, anaerobic respiration takes place.

Typically, a single molecule of glucose produces 36 molecules of energy. When a molecule is hypoxic, it creates only 6 molecules of energy, processing the remaining 30 molecules into lactic acid.

When your kidneys and lungs are unable to maintain your body’s pH as a result of intense anaerobic exercise, lactic acid accumulates in the body. This explains the time it takes to recover after a workout. 

How to get rid of lactic acid and can a steam room help?

This is where the banya can help. Sweating expels toxins and waste from the body and can help return the pH levels of the body from acidic to neutral by facilitating the removal of lactic acid. To get rid of lactate in your system, you need to go to the banya immediately after training. That way your recovery will be faster and far less painful.  

The Bath House – Banya London is a hidden gem. The Russians and Ukrainians have been hiding this away from us and now we have taken over. I’m here almost every day and I enjoy it, I love it. It’s healthy for you, British professional boxer Derek Chisora says. 

So after your workout why not come down to The Bath House? 

Aunt Sara then appears with some veniks and “in that steam heat began to birch me, very lightly at first…and then harder and harder…until I began to yelp. More steam came belching up, and she turned me over and began to work on my chest and stomach. I was fairly interested by now, for mildly painful though it was, it was distinctly stimulating”.

I will leave the rest to your imagination or you can search out the book. Flashman concludes that “the Russians have some excellent institutions” and that Sara was “undoubtedly my favourite aunt”.

There is no bad time to visit the banya – you can go alone or with friends, you can celebrate, commiserate or meditate there. I moved to Moscow in 1999 and by this time I was generally using the banya to recover from the night before. I usually visited Kransopresnenskaya banya which was most famous for an incident in 1994 when a notorious Georgian gangster was shot by a sniper as he walked out onto the street. S Legkym Parom indeed!

Wherever I travelled for work in Russia or nearby, I would sample the local banya, from small shacks in the countryside to grand urban complexes like Sanduny in Moscow or Arasan in Almaty. I also began to think about opening somewhere back in the UK and, when I moved to London in my 30’s, I researched the contemporary bathhouse scene. There wasn’t much to get excited about. My favourite was probably the Porchester in Queensway had a glorious kidney shaped pool and beautiful tiled rooms with a range of temperatures ranging from the coolest (Frigidarium) to the hottest (Laconicum), but none of them offered the same rejuvenating experience as banyas in Russia.


The Bath Houses of London

At the same time, I learned that London had a rich history of bath houses. These included an opulent Oriental bathhouse opened in 1862 on Jermyn Street by a former British diplomat in Constantinople and a Russian banya on Brick Lane called Russian Vapour Baths, set up by emigree jews who had fled the pogroms of the Tsarist empire for East London.  There were also numerous “bath houses” or laundries where people could go to literally take a bath and do some washing. Look carefully around the city and you will see examples like this one in Kentish Town.

The Bath House – Banya London opened in 2019 and we hope it is a worthy addition to that history.