20 Questions with Magnus Karlsson

We sat down with Magnus Karlsson, senior editor at Home Sauna Heaven. Magnus has many years experience in the benefits and application of sauna therapy. He graduated from college with a Master of Science in Health Science specializing in the “Comparative Analysis of Traditional Saunas vs. Infrared Saunas”. And now runs his own wellness retreat in the Tampa Bay area.

the best outdoor sauna with a spectacular view

What makes the man tick? How did he become so interested in sauna? And, does he have any tips for people who are new to the sauna experience? Over a coffee in his local café (The Blind Tiger Café), we ask Magnus Twenty Questions to better understand the man who calls himself senior editor at HSH.

Can You Remember Your First Sauna Experience?

Of course. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family where sauna played a central role in daily life. I come from a region in southern Sweden known as Småland. My father built a traditional sauna at the bottom of our garden. In our backyard. I can remember using the sauna with my parents and siblings from a very early age. It was used every evening to relax and spend time together. Very happy memories. That’s where I had my first experience of sauna. Traditional Swedish sauna.

What’s Your Favorite Type of Sauna (Traditional, Infrared, or Steam) and Why?

Traditional of course. That’s where it all began for me. I am a Swedish man of course. So I have to say traditional Swedish sauna is my favorite. However, I have a special love for infrared sauna also. I studied the effects of traditional sauna versus infrared in University. They say you should always pursue your interests. So I chose sauna. And it’s fair to say I thoroughly enjoyed my university days delving deep into the comparative effects of traditional and infrared sauna.

Do You Have Any Unusual Sauna Routines?

I like to use a “bastukvast”. It’s a traditional Swedish sauna whip. You brush it against the skin to stimulate blood flow. In Finland, it’s called a “vihta”. It’s an important part of traditional Swedish sauna culture. I even make my own bastukvast whips. They are pretty easy to do. All you need are some small birch branches and then arrange and tie them together. I recommend it.

image of a sauna whip and a sauna hat

What Do You Do After a Sauna?

I usually sit and rest for some time. Usually five to ten minutes. Sometimes even longer. It depends on how busy I am. This allows my body to adjust back to regular temperature. And it gives time for the sweating to stop. Sometimes I do some breathing exercises and meditate. But if it’s a public sauna, I skip this bit. Then I take a cold shower, followed by a regular shower. And, then I’m good to go.

What’s the Most Unique Sauna You’ve Ever Been In?

Probably our family sauna in Småland. It was built by my dad and his brother. They used local timber sourced from the area and built a circular window in the front wall. It’s an outdoor sauna with excellent views of the sweeping landscape beyond the house. I really like it there. It’s my favorite sauna. Unique? Yes, very. It’s a unique sauna too. There is not another one like it in the world.

Do You Sauna When You Have a Cold?

No, I don’t. I know some people do. But I don’t. If I have a cold or feel sick I give the sauna a skip. I’ve tried using a sauna when I haven’t been feeling well and it’s not for me. It seems to sap my energy. And I don’t like how it affects my body. I prefer to wait until I’m feeling better. I know some people say it’s great for a cold. “Sweat it out of you” they say. But my experience is not like this. Each to their own I suppose.

Do You Use Essential Oils for Aromatherapy?

No. Personally, I don’t use essential oils. We never used them growing up in Sweden. So, I never developed the habit of using them. Many of my clients like them. And I understand their aromatherapy benefits. They calm some people and help energize others. I like a traditional sauna with no oils or scents. Just the heat. And the natural smell of the wood. Why add anything else?

small vials of essential oils
the best essential oils for sauna

Do You Sauna After a Workout?

I do. When I do workout, that is. My workout schedule is not as regular as it should be these days. I tend to run instead of going to the gym. When I finish a run I often spend some time in the sauna to relax my muscles. It helps with recovery. Did you know that? It stimulates blood flow and this helps the muscle tissue to recover after intense exercise.

You need to drink lots of water. Especially after exercise. Your body is already low on fluids and the sauna will compound this effect. So be mindful of hydration. Make sure you drink lots of water after a run or a workout.

What’s Your Number One Tip for a Sauna Beginner?

Start slow. Some people try too hard at the start.  Sitting for too long in high temperatures. Their body is not used to it and it becomes an unpleasant experience. If you’re new to sauna start slow.  This means time and temperature.  Don’t stay in so long. Five minutes is plenty of time for a beginner. And if you can control the temperature, go for a medium heat to start.

Start slow. Some people try too hard at the start. Sitting for too long in high temperatures. Their body is not used to it and it becomes an unpleasant experience. If you’re new to sauna start slow. This means time and temperature. Don’t stay in so long. Five minutes is plenty of time for a beginner. And if you can control the temperature, go for a medium heat to start.

What’s Your Favorite Activity in Your Free Time?

I like running. I ran the Space Coast Half Marathon last year. And this year I want to try and complete the full marathon. I got into running later in life, so it has been slow progress. But I was very happy to complete the half marathon. A lot of training went into that one. If I can complete the marathon before my 50th birthday I would be very happy. As a kid, I used to play soccer and ice hockey. At under-age levels and at University. I enjoy both. I still follow these sports on TV if I get any free time.

What’s Your Favorite Book?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I love that book. It’s by a famous Swedish author called Stieg Larsson. He has written some amazing books. Sadly he passed away so young. But while we had him, he wrote some great books. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is his best in my opinion. A really exciting, dark thriller. It is a murder mystery and a love story. True to say, I like it very much.

Where’s Your Favorite Holiday Destination?

Sweden. When I get an opportunity to travel I like to return to Sweden and visit my old friends and family. I love it here in Florida, but your home is always your home. For me, it is a beautiful place. And I have many personal connections there.

What’s Your Favorite Food?

Pizza. Hawaiian pizza. I love it. The mix of the sweat and the salty. So tasty. I like most pizza. But Hawaiian is my favorite. Sometimes the best food are the most simple ones. If it tastes good, why not?

Who Are Your Favorite Band?

The Rolling Stones. My dad was a big fan and always had them playing around the house. He had one of those old vinyl record players. And there was always some kind of rock music going in our house growing up. Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Dire Straits… old school rock. That’s what I like.

What’s Your Favorite TV Show?

I don’t watch a lot of TV. If I can I try and catch some of the soccer or ice hockey. But I don’t sit down to watch TV shows. I prefer the outdoors. And of course, my work keeps me busy. I don’t have a lot of spare time outside of the Wellness Retreat.

If You Could Have Dinner With a Celebrity, Who Would It Be?

Mick Jagger. Can you imagine that? Some Hawaiian pizza and a few beers with Mick Jagger. That would be legendary. I would love that. That man must have some stories to tell. He’s lived a life touring the world in a rock band and banging out some of the greatest songs ever written. Maybe we could even do some sauna karaoke while we’re at it.

If You Could Learn a New Skill, What Would It Be?

Good question. I’ve never really thought about it. Let me see. Maybe a new language. A new language would be good. I already have Swedish and English. But another language would open so many new opportunities. But which one? Maybe Spanish for living here in Florida. But I’ve always wanted to tour Asia. The Far East. So Mandarin or Japanese would be good too.

What’s the Best Concert You’ve Been To?

That’s easy for me. Glastonbury. Would you believe I’ve been three times? Most recently in 2017. Radiohead headlined that year. It was incredible. Also, there was the Foo Fighters. I like them too. The drummer from Nirvana is the lead singer.  I would love to go again. There is a festival like it anywhere else in the world.

What’s Your Typical Café Order?

Americano black. No milk, no cream. And no sugar. If I’m hungry I’ll grab a ham and cheese sandwich. Maybe I am a man of simple tastes. Easily pleased. I like black coffee. There’s no need to add anything to it at all.

Who Are Your Favorite Sports Team?

Djurgårdens. They are an ice hockey team based in Stockholm, Sweden. They are a popular team back home and have won many titles. I grew up following this team. They compete in the Swedish Hockey League. Their fans are known as the Järnkaminerna. Do you know them? Swedish hockey is not so popular here in Florida. Most people here support the Florida Panthers. But for me, it will always be Djurgårdens IF.


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