When it comes to running and improving your performance, there are no shortages of options out there that claim to reduce your recovery time and decrease your muscle soreness. The tools and supplements are seemingly endless. If we look at the basics though when it comes to what you can do to help your muscles recover faster, it starts with something as simple as a "cool down" followed with some light stretching. From there we progress into ice baths and hot tubs. Combine these two and you have contrast therapy, which has been found to provide some of the same benefits that a cool down exercise can provide.
...researchers tout the benefits of the contrasting cold and hot temperatures. Darryl Cochrane at Massey University in New Zealand proposes that contrast therapy might work via a “muscle pumping” action, where the alternating temperatures result in a series of blood vessel constrictions and dilations, mimicking the muscle pumping that occurs during light aerobic activity. John Davis, Runners Connect
If you are looking to give contrast baths a go, here are some best practices from John Davis from Runners Connect -
- Most studies alternate between water temperatures of 45-68° F for the cold water and 93-106° F for the hot water.
- Each immersion lasts between 3-5 minutes and the total immersion time is between 20 and 30 minutes.
- Some studies end with heat, and others end with cold. The prevailing opinion now seems to be that it’s best to end on the cold bath, since that should retard inflammation.
So while doing a cool down exercise and stretching might be the answer to the problem at hand, as a runner myself, I look for removing as many variables from the equation as possible. Living in Denver, there are a ton of weather variables that can sometimes negatively effect my cool down exercises. Same with summer. Temperatures are variables and in order to get consistent recovery, contrast therapy is the best bet. It is consistent, you can control the variables, and you can get things done while doing them. You don't have to submerge your entire body to get the benefits. Although I do recommend it.. there are a lot of benefits to dipping your whole body in as we briefly covered here in a previous blog. There are a handful of people that swear by daily ice baths (or a cold shower) mixed in with their hot showers.
Cold showers are common practice in many countries and have been around for much longer (before we were spoiled with in-home water heaters). Many health benefits are associated with taking cold showers, the most popular one being improved circulation. Cold water hitting the body causes blood to move closer to the inner organs to keep them warm. This act increases the overall blood circulation in your body. Lori Longoria 24life.com
As mentioned before, contrasting between hot and cold allow for a "pumping action" in the muscles. If you are looking for an even more convenient solution to ice baths and hot tubs, especially when it comes to running, look no further than the Recoup Cryosleeve and soon to be launched Thermosleeve (sign up on our site for early access). These tools allow you to alternate which legs are getting hot or cold and allow you to alternate back and forth. No mess, no giant tubs of water. Charge up the thermosleeve and keep the cryosleeve in the freezer and they will be ready for you as soon as you are finished with your run. You can follow a similar guide to the one from Runners Connect for the sleeves, we do recommend using the cryosleeve on the longer end of that timeframe. 5-10 minutes on each leg then thermosleeve for 5-10 minutes. Continue this for a minimum of 30 minutes going through at least 2 full hot and cold cycles per leg.