View Full Version : Straight After Training - Using hot & cold to recover?

March 19th, 2009, 07:22 AM
Hi all - my post is in relation to recovery techniques used by people after training. I know that refuelling with the right food, staying hydrated, stretching, rest and getting some deep tissue / massage done all helps the body to recover between training. This recovery is key in performance improvment and injury prevention.

What I'm wondering about here is the use of hot / cold after training. At the moment, I just tend to hit the sauna for 10 minutes, take a shower (usually warm) and stretch a it in the 2 of them. However, I've come across some research and articles that seem to suggest this could be done better and just wondering what people think / what they currently do about this.

The area is in relation to the use of alternate hot and cold after training to aid blood flow and therefore recovery, to minimise Delayed onset muscles soreness (DOMS) which is basically the tightness you get 1-2 days after you train hard. The science behind this is simple enough from what I can see -through the process the science geeks :) call vasodilation (using heat to open the area up) and vasoconstriction (using cold to close the area up) and basically an alternating of cold and hot you increase the blood flow in the area which seems to aid recovery.

Basically all that is required is an alternating of cold and hot (apparently it's better to start with the cold first to help contractiong as the area will be naturally quite warm after training). The most common way seems to be "Contrast Showers" which involve going from as cold as you can handle, to as hot as you can handle every minute or so for 5-10 minutes. I've also read about people doing a cold shower (2 minutes), sauna (5 minutes) and then some constrast showers too.

So basically I'm planning to be a guinea pig to see if this helps with DOMS :) and for the next few weeks after training I'm going to do the following (unless someone suggests something better please!)
- 2 minute cold shower
- 5-10 minute sauna
- 5 mins spent in constrast shower (doing 1 min cold, hot, cold, hot, cold etc)

So just wondering does anyone do this? Have an opinion on this? Feel it could be done better etc?

My recovery is in your hands :)


March 19th, 2009, 07:36 AM
This sounds complicated and unpleasant. The hot shower after working out is a big motivating factor for me.

March 19th, 2009, 07:46 AM
well I'm probably making it complicated! I tend to do that :) but basically what people are saying is that instead of just a 5 minute hot shower, 5 mins of alternating will give you a much quicker recovery time.

think if I'm going to be swimming 5 times a week might be worth trying. Also the cold showers can do no harm in getting the brain ready for the sea swimming!

March 19th, 2009, 08:27 AM
Cold and ice help to constrict the blood vessels and remove the lactic acid to allow for the muscles to recover better after a workout. Many collegiate cross country and distance runners use ice baths post-workout to recover from the workout. While sitting in a cold tub is not the most pleasant experience, it does in fact work better for recovery than heat. If you can stand it, I would recommend using cold over heat.

March 19th, 2009, 08:49 AM
Ken - thanks for that. I was actually reading something like that alright just a few minutes ago. In essence getting into cold water (and suggestion is it should be 10-15C not much colder) for 10 mins is doing the cold affect I'm talking about. Then when you get back into room temperature, and as you heat, that is doing the heating affect I'm talking about too.

Did some looking around and basically seems lack of science / research into this whole area to back it up as of yet, but people seem to be saying either way (ice for 10 mins or alternating hot and cold) will do same thing in essence. Get blood flowing through the body and help reduce DOMS. In essence though - just a different derivative on the same theme

Personally I'm going to go for the contrast method as straight after training I have cold showers, hot showers and sauna, but don't have a cold plunge tank to use for prolonging icing like this.

March 19th, 2009, 09:05 AM
This topic was discussed (briefly) before. Check out this thread.

I do it almost on a daily basis. We have an 'ice bath' at the pool complex I go to. The temperature is usually about 12 or 13 degrees Celsius. I alternate between the hot tub and the ice bath three or four times. Each successive time I stay in the ice bath a bit longer. A minute to a minute and a half is about all I can take. It's not so much my upper body that can't handle it but, rather, my lower body. My legs and feet, in particular, ache like crazy.

I think it helps. I always feel good after it. I have been doing it for more than a year now so it is difficult to remember how it felt when I didn't use it. I would be interested in the results of your experiment.

Thrashing Slug
March 19th, 2009, 09:13 AM
This definitely works. I hardly ever use it for swimming, but an ice-cold bath for the legs is a staple for me after a really hard run. One of my favorite running routines is to do a hard trail run and then stand in the frigid waters of Puget Sound for intervals of 30 seconds to 3 minutes (depending on temperature and my pain threshold of the day). If no natural body of water is available, I simply fill the tub with the coldest water possible, then sit in there. There is a big benefit the next day. The ice bath makes my legs feel almost as if I did nothing at all, compared with the typical soreness when I don't do the cold treatment.

I have also done the alternating cold-hot shower routine after swimming, but not very often. The prison showers at the gym have a lot of spillover, and I don't think my fellow swimmers would appreciate their involuntary participation in that routine.

March 19th, 2009, 09:23 AM
A race horse is wrapped with a wool blanket to keep it warm after working out hard.

Loosen the girth by a hole or two as soon as you dismount. This will allow some air to slowly filter through.

Take off your horse's saddle when you get back to the stable or trailer/horsebox. You can leave the bridle on, or replace it with a halter.
Remove any protective boots and check for heat. Hose or apply cooling wraps or gels.

Rub his back where the saddle was to get the blood flowing again.

Rub a towel over him to get some of the sweat off and put a cooler (a breathable rug) over him if the weather’s cool.

If the weather’s warmer sponge the sweat off with lots of water to refresh the horse.

Walk the horse until he is calm. His heart and breathing should be normal by now.

Give the horse about a third of a bucket of cool, not cold, water. You can give him more later on. If you give the horse too much cold water after a workout, he may get stomach cramps or possibly even colic.

Re-check his legs for heat and run your hands over him to check of lumps or bumps. Pick out his feet to check for stones.

March 19th, 2009, 09:29 AM
George, you are beginning to worry me.........:)

March 19th, 2009, 09:47 AM
LOTS of what I'm reading is saying it makes sense, but not that much research yet to back it up, and that it definitely can't not help!

This sort of sums up what I'm reading ... "Scientists from the Australian Institute of Sports have now published guidelines specifically for the use of contrast water therapy after exercise) (http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/hydrotherapy.html#ref). They suggest temperatures similar to those used in injury treatment but with differing durations for showers (1-2 min hot, 10-30s cold) and bath/spa (3-4 min hot, 30-60s cold), repeated three times."

It also goes on to say .. "Undoubtedly further research is needed to ascertain the most appropriate mode, duration and temperature for this method of recovery. However, if we accept that a recovery strategy can be deemed suitable on the basis of no scientific evidence to the contrary and/or anecdotal advocacy, then hydrotherapy, including contrast techniques, does have a role."

right thats it I'm trying it :)
- 30s cold shower
- few mins sauna
- then alternate shower 1 min hot, 30s cold etc

see how I get on!

March 19th, 2009, 09:50 AM
After a hard workout I do not suggest entering either a hot shower or a cold shower or bath. You can injure the body by cooling to quickly.

Horses become foundered if they drink too much water after hard work.

I just suggest a slow cool down is better then say jumping in a snowpile.

George, you are beginning to worry me.........:)

March 19th, 2009, 10:33 AM
My question is does it actual provide a training benefit or does it just make you feel better the next day? If it's the latter I'd rather spend the additional time in the pool swimming.

March 19th, 2009, 10:44 AM
Both I think from what I can see - by making you feel better it provides a training benefit. So what I mean is, if it is the case that doing something like this speeds up the recovery rate, the affects of one days training on the next (that sort of starting off with heavy limbs / DOMS stuff) could be decreased.

So say at peak I'm swimming 5 times a week during the summer - for the most part I only ever have 24 hours off, and in a lot of cases it's closer to 12 (Monday evening, Tuesday morning sessions etc)

If this did help, it would mean that Monday evening if I did this, then Tuesday I should be feeling a wee bit fresher, so on Tuesday I can train harder etc. this ability to train harder / better will also lead to less injuries and better results in the end. Thats the end game of course, assuming the theory works :)

Again though - I'm talking about trying to eat, rest, stretch, warmup, cool down right as well of course. This is just another string in that bow really

March 19th, 2009, 11:06 AM
Ice bath may not be effective: http://bjsm.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/41/6/392

One paper is pretty limited research on the subject, so I would say the subject is still open.

The reason that there isn't much research on the subject is likely that the test results are so subjective. An ice bath following a strenuous workout may make you feel better then next day, but how do you quantify that?

March 19th, 2009, 11:32 AM
yeah - agree! is quite a bit of research into it though, but you're right hard to proove!

I did read a lot saying ice on it's own less likely to yield rewards than using this ice / hot method too.

The trend seems to be towards people saying it's hard to proove, but it can't do harm and would seem to make sense that it would help.

Karen Duggan
March 19th, 2009, 11:48 AM
I read most of Phelps' book "No Limits" and he talks about Lactic Acid after races. He said that how much LA he has in his body determines how long he needs to swim down in the warm up pool. He never mentioned anything about ice/heat.

I'm just guessing that if our elite swimmers aren't doing it (and they have access to all the latest and greatest) than there isn't too much to it?

Just supposing.

I for one am a fan of the hot tub!

March 19th, 2009, 11:55 AM
I read most of Phelps' book "No Limits" and he talks about Lactic Acid after races. He said that how much LA he has in his body determines how long he needs to swim down in the warm up pool. He never mentioned anything about ice/heat.

I don't think DOMS is due to lactate, because lactic acid is flushed from the body quite quickly. Lactate buildup is really only a factor during the race itself, not the day or days afterward.

March 19th, 2009, 12:07 PM
yeah I think lactate and DOMS are different things. Think most elite athletes do something to minimise the DOMS (the achy feeling 1-2 days after). Like you see them in ice baths, steam rooms etc. Of course they get massages too after most sessions, so the sort of things i'm trying here with ice / heat would be far outweighed by this. Nothing like a hands on rub to flush out the toxins and help repair yknow?

Think this is more along those lines to increase rate of recovery from one days training to the next

Karen Duggan
March 19th, 2009, 12:08 PM

Thrashing Slug
March 19th, 2009, 02:43 PM
The cold reduces inflammation. Same as the RICE principle except you're being proactive.

Just want to note that I always do a cooldown followed by stretching before doing the ice treatment.

Also I noticed no real training benefits from the shower routine, it just made me feel physically "cooled off", more so than a typical hot shower would have. The soaking in ice cold water is what produces real benefits for me, by reducing soreness and inflammation.

March 19th, 2009, 03:02 PM
I use the jacuzzi to stretch out. Then is a warm shower to cool down.

I understand that a cold shower is best for your muscles, but it my connective tissue that I worry about more.

March 19th, 2009, 03:38 PM
I would hot shower to feel better , then cold on any sore spots. Cold will warm up & bring blood flow back to the area.

April 3rd, 2009, 04:56 PM
I've read that a getting in a sauna and stretching for 6-10 minutes stimulates and speeds up recovery and detoxifies the body of metabolic wastes via sweat. After the sauna an ice cold-hot-cold-hot-cold bath/shower (1-2 min hot and 30 sec cold) contrast stimulates the adrenal and other endocrine gland activities. (Javorek Complex Conditioning by Istvan Javorek)

When I'm up for it I always feel better afterward. He also recommends drinking herbal teas slowly while in the sauna to help stimulate the recovery process.