Ice Bath Recovery
Recovery is the art of providing the body with what it craves after performance and training to help it come back stronger, leaner and faster. At one point or another, someone has probably told you to let your body recover, but if you don’t know what that looks like, how will you recover smarter and more efficiently? How will you take time after a long bicycle ride or personal training session at the gym to let your body heal and prepare for the next activity? In order to accomplish your optimal performance capabilities, you must learn the steps of recovery. These include: Sleep, nutrition, hydration, rest and active recovery methods, such as contrast therapy.
If you are not getting the proper amount of or quality sleep, then nothing else matters. Your body will be unable to keep up with the demands you are placing on it during physical activity. This should be your priority, followed closely by adequate water intake and proper nutrition to fuel and rebuild the muscles. When you work out, you take the body into a state of stress. This physical stress breaks down your muscles, which is needed in order to help them grow. However, if you do not allow proper recovery after this stress, your muscles will not repair, thus leading to injury.
To grow stronger both physically and mentally, you must allow yourself to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Fredrick Douglass said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” We live in a culture that promotes ease of living. We are surrounded by heated steering wheels and air-conditioned office buildings, which seem like wonderful inventions, but have taken away the human need for resilience. Discomfort creates vulnerability and when we are vulnerable, we are given the chance to grow and become durable under new circumstances.
Most people associate the word recovery with sitting on a beach in Hawaii, pina colada in hand, listening to the strumming of a ukulele. Believe it or not, fully submerging your body in the Wychus Creek, hands tucked by your sides, listening to the sound of air slowly being inhaled and exhaled through your nose can also be recovery. Contrast therapy is an active recovery method. Laird Hamilton refers to it as Fire and Ice. This involves exposing the body to extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, with the use of a sauna and ice baths.
Ice baths lower the core temperature of the body, which triggers the body to release dopamine, norepinephrine and testosterone, all hormones which help reduce pain and elevate your mood. The cold temperature decreases inflammation and changes blood flow to help improve muscular and cardiovascular recovery. Full body submersions increase recovery more efficiently than partial submersion, cryotherapy or icing a specific body part because there is a greater systemic affect and the entire body is influenced, helping with the clearance of metabolic waste and the activation of RNA-binding proteins. In short, cold water immersion can help you get lean and strengthen your immunity to bacteria and viruses.
There are coaches in Sisters, Oregon who are certified to lead you through the XPT Fire and Ice therapy, but if you would like to ease into it on your own, you can start with a cold shower at home. Take your normal shower at home, but end with thirty seconds standing in the coldest water you can tolerate. Gradually increase the amount of time you can stay under the cold water. When the cold water first hits your body, your first instinct will be to take quick, shallow breaths. Prevent this by slowing down your breathing and counting to five as you inhale through the nose. Exhale for a count of five to ten seconds through the nose. Continue this breathing drill, bringing your focus to the breath and off the cold water.
If you have a history of heart or health issues, ask your doctor beforehand if cold water immersion is something you should try. To get more information on the benefits of contrast therapy, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.