Thermal facilities are perfect for a sociable spa experience, but the saunas, steam rooms and ice fountains aren't just for fun, they're an invigorating spa treatment in themselves.
Whittlebury Hall in Towcester, Northamptonshire, has a heat and ice experience that is the centrepiece of their famous day spa. We asked them to tell us more about the benefits of using thermal spa facilities, and how best to use them.
What does it look and feel like in the various thermal rooms?
"The Heat and Ice Experiences at Whittlebury Hall provide unique sensations, which are brought about by dramatic changes in temperature. You move through the thermal suite experience, increasing your body's temperature before stepping into the ice cave.
The foot spas promote circulation, working on various pressure points in the feet, and can be used hot or cold depending on your preference.
The caldarium is a warm air bathing room where an even and radiated heat emanates from the stone walls, floors, seats and reclining areas.
The Sanarium® offers an ideal alternative to the traditional sauna, as the temperature is around 60°C, and is great for cleansing the skin and toning the body tissue.
The traditional dry heat sauna is designed to make the body perspire and will help aid the elimination of toxins, clearing the skin and cleansing the pores. This is great for the body when followed with a cold experience such as the ice cave.
The experience tropical rain showers are designed to rapidly heat up or cool down the body depending on which option you choose, and will help to stimulate the body’s circulatory system.
The tepidarium has heated tiled loungers, which are designed to heat the body temperature slowly before moving onto a hotter experience.
The aromatherapy crystal steam room is infused with menthol essential oil to help clear sinuses and decongest. This is a dark steam room with relaxing multicolour star lights.
The Roman salt steam room has the added benefit of a salt-water atmosphere which is great for cleansing and toning the skin and stimulating the circulation.
The ice cave is a great place to cool off after the sauna or Sanarium, helping to contract the blood vessels, stimulating your circulation and oxygen intake.
The hydrotherapy pool is the main feature in the Heat and Ice Experience. At 36 degrees it helps to warm up the muscles and relax the body and mind. With seven different areas and many different jets it will massage all parts of your body, relieving aches, pains and tension."
How should I use a thermal suite?
The suggested bathing plan begins with a warm foot bath, as this will open the blood vessels and promote circulation. Then start in the caldarium, which has a slightly lower temperature than the other heat experiences and is used to warm up. Depending on your heat preference, you may want to move onto the sauna or Sanarium® next. After you have been in each of the rooms, it is important that you cool down, so visit the ice cave and cover yourself with ice flakes, or take a cold shower.
At this point, it's a good idea to relax, so try bathing in the hydrotherapy pool, take a dip in an outdoor hot tub, sitting on a warmed bench, lying in the tepidarium, or even revisiting the caldarium for 20 minutes. After which, move onto the steam room and repeat the same cycle – bathing, cooling, relaxing. There are no time limits, but allow at least a couple of hours to make the most of the experience.
What is a session in a thermal suite good for?
It is said that the process of moving between temperatures stimulates circulation, aids the body to eliminate toxins, and exfoliates your skin. Your body will feel invigorated and your skin will feel soft, smooth and hydrated. The crystal steam room is also very beneficial for rheumatic complaints and the respiratory system.
How should I feel after using a thermal suite?
Overall you will leave feeling refreshed and revitalised, while your skin should feel toned and your pores thoroughly cleansed.
How often should I use a thermal suite?
Whittlebury Hall recommend that the thermal suite should be used at least twice a week, especially if you are an avid gym user. However, we do understand that this is not accessible to everyone, so using a thermal suite at least once a month will give your body the boost it needs.
Are there any precautions to take? Is there anyone who shouldn’t use a thermal suite?
It is generally advisable not to stay in heated environments for prolonged periods of time. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day, too.
Not all of the facilities are suitable for women at various stages of pregnancy, and there are also some medical conditions that may hinder your use of these facilities. If you do have any medical conditions, seek your doctor’s advice prior to using the Heat and Ice Experiences.
Any top tips?
Start with a thorough shower removing all make-up, deodorants and perfume.
Enter each of the experiences dry, and not wet from the showers or the spa, as this will stop you perspiring and therefore reduces the beneficial effects.
Take regular breaks throughout your experience to ensure you achieve the full benefits of each room.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to aid rehydration.
Before getting dressed and leaving, make sure you cool off properly – putting on clothes straight away may leave you feeling a little unwell.