Daily wisdom: cryotherapy

The post-workout shower trick to enhance recovery

Every athlete knows that education is a crucial part of performance.Sportand exercise research, insight from top trainers, science, andtechnologyhelp you to better understand your body so you can craft a healthier lifestyle, workouts, and recovery plan.

In ourdaily news series, Matt Berenc, director of education at the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, addresses some of the latest fitness research and news stories.

Today’s Topic: Cryotherapy for the average athlete

The Science: In a meta-analysis published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, researchers looked at 23 studies on cold water therapy (CWT) and cold water immersion (CWI) after sport. The results: both were effective for particular aspects of recovery.

EQX Expert Insight: “Both forms of cold therapy have been used for several years by athletes attempting to manage soreness, inflammation, and strength after their training and they can be of benefit for the fitness enthusiast as well,” says Berenc. Cold water immersion requires submerging all or part of your body in ice water. “Since it can be pretty shocking, it should be reserved for particularly strenuous training sessions, like after your longer runs in marathon prep or after a really high volume and intensity training day,” says Berenc. “I wouldn’t recommend it after a regular session as it could be overkill and potentially (some research shows) inhibit muscle growth due to its impact on inflammation.” Contrast water therapy—where you alternate hot and cold water—is better for daily use since it can be done in the shower and you can more easily control the temperature. “One of the added benefits of CWT is its “pumping” effect: With the alternating water temperatures, the tissues contract and relax in response, essentially pushing blood and fluids through the tissue,” Berenc explains. “This can help in clearing metabolic waste from the muscles and deliver nutrients.”

The Bottom Line: After a typical workout, try CWT by alternating one to two minutes in cold water with one to four minutes in hot water up to seven times, ending in cold. After a really intense workout, you can try CWI for five to 15 minutes, per Berenc. “For either method, start slow and build your tolerance for cold as this type of recovery can take a little getting used to,” warns Berenc.