Applying ice is one of the first things we do after an injury. It is known to reduce inflammation and ease pain. So if it works for injuries, why wouldn't it work for the whole body after strenuous exercise? Studies show that ice baths or cold water immersion have beneficial therapeutic effects.
This confirms what professional athletes have known for years. It's why so many use cold water therapy to quicken their recovery time between hard workout sessions and relieve aching muscles after events.
Why You Need Cold Water Immersion After Workouts
There are five primary reasons athletes should use cold therapy after intense exercise sessions.
1. Facilitate Recovery
Cold baths reduce swelling and pain and stimulate tissue repair. The cold numbs pain receptors, so your body recovers without muscle pain and discomfort.
This is important if you're a professional athlete and compete in multi-day events, like the Olympic Games. Cold water temperatures promote quick recovery so your body is ready for each day of the event.
2. Lessen Muscle Soreness
Studies have shown that cold water immersion therapy is better at helping sore muscles and reducing delayed onset muscle soreness than rest. Cold water immersion is actually the second-best muscle recovery technique, following a massage.
3. Improve Performance
Faster recovery and low-level muscle pain allow you to train harder and improve your overall athletic performance at multi-day events. This is because your recovery time from one day to another is quick enough for you to perform at your best every day.
4. Improve Focus
It's been found that cold water exposure focuses on the mind and promotes mindfulness, which is useful for athletes during practice sessions, as it allows them to focus on their goals.
It's also useful at the athletic event because it helps them block out whatever is happening around them as they mentally prepare for the start.
5. Better Sleep
Proper rest and a good night's sleep are essential for athletes who need to perform at their peak. The ability to relax and 'switch off' is just as important as cardio and weight training.
Ice-cold water immersion promotes relaxation and prevents fatigue. This allows their bodies to optimize training sessions.
How Do Ice Cold Baths Work?
Consider the sensation in your body following a workout or a marathon. You may feel hot, sweaty, out of breath, and your heartbeat may be rapid, while your muscles are sore from the exertion.
To counteract the inflammation and pain caused by such intense physical activity, your body initiates an immune response, increasing blood flow by widening blood vessels and flooding the affected area or your entire body with immune cells.
This immune response aids in repairing injured tissue, but excessive flooding can be counterproductive, leading to inflammation and muscle pain.
By reducing metabolic activity and preventing blood from flooding the affected area, cold water narrows blood vessels, providing relief from swelling and pain. Additionally, immersion in an ice bath helps release cardiovascular strain and cools the body, reducing hyperthermia.
Exiting the cold immersion bath has its own benefits as the blood vessels widen again, allowing fresh blood to flow through the body, providing cells with nutrients and oxygen, and flushing waste products, including lymph node fluid.
What's the Best Way to Benefit from Cold Immersion Therapy?
The process of setting up cold water exposure therapy is simple, but there are some precautions you must take.
- Fill the bath with water that is 50°F to 60°F.
- Ease your way into the chilled water.
- When you start out, the water should only go as high as your hips. You can increase the water level as you get used to the cold temperatures. Stop when the water reaches your chest.
- Pay attention to how long you stay in the bath. Two to five minutes is sufficient when you start. You can gradually increase the time but don't go longer than 15 minutes or 10 minutes by preference. Set an alarm so you stick to the time.
- Have someone nearby who can help you get out of the bath if you're too cold to move or your energy has been sapped.
- Ensure you're entirely warm in 30 minutes to 60 minutes. A warm shower, not a hot shower or bath will do the trick. Drinking something hot will also help. If you don't warm up properly the ice bath will have the opposite of the desired effect: your muscles will get stiff.
Consult your doctor before you use cold water therapy if you have cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure.
Get a Cold Water Plunge Tank of Your Own from RENU Therapy
You could use a cold water immersion bath at your local gym if it has one or you can enjoy all the benefits of ice baths at home.
Renu Therapy has a range of cold water tanks for you to choose from. Our cold plunge tubs are 100% made in the USA and they come with a warranty for overall customer satisfaction.