Nothing feels better on tired, sore muscles after a tough workout than a hot shower or, if you have access to one, a hot tub. Haven’t we seen pro athletes doing this for years? Research is coming out that cold temperatures are better for recovery on muscles than heat. It seems wherever you go now, someone is touting the benefits of an ice bath or, more technically, cold plunge pools.
It seems natural that cold would reduce the inflammation in overworked legs. Distance runners swear by the practice; they’ve been standing in trash cans of icy water after races and workouts for years. Many swear by it, although uncomfortable to endure. An ice bath, or cold plunge pool constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown,” top ultra-marathoner Nikki Kimball wrote in Runner’s World in 2008. Kimball notes that she wears a down jacket, a hat and neoprene booties and drinks hot tea during her 20 minutes in a 50- to 59-degree tub.
Forty-one-year-old Dana Torres emphasized recovery as part of her Olympic training. She became the oldest person to win a swimming medal in the 2008 Olympics. Her recovery included massages, but not the spa-type of relaxing rub downs. They often included two people standing on and kneading her muscles as well as ice baths which she says is a good way to recover from strenuous workouts. The latest Olympian to get in on the act of ice plunge is Jessica Ennis. The newly crowned British Heptathlon record winner jumped in a cold plunge pool this past weekend as soon as she finished her winning race.