Have you ever seen a penguin with a sprained ankle?
You probably never will- penguins are surrounded by one of nature’s best recovery tools- ice and cold water! (You also probably don’t spend a lot of time penguin-watching… They aren’t exactly native to most parts of the world.)
We can take some recovery lessons from the penguins though. Ice and cold water recovery treatments (collectively known as cryotherapy) kick ass when it comes to
• Maintaining subsequent training levels or performance.
• Decreasing inflammation, either from an injury or from the microdamage caused from training hard.
• Decreasing muscular spasms, aches and pains, as well as symptoms of DOMS.
• Enhancing removal of metabolic waste products like lactic acid.
• Restoring pre-fatigue training abilities.
• Lots of other nitty-gritty-sciencey stuff that results in you feeling a lot better, a lot sooner!
Decreased temperature leads to a temporary shrink in the blood vessels closest to the skin. This causes two things to happen simultaneously: a decrease in chemical reactions causing damaging metabolic waste products, and a faster removal of these metabolic waste products. Additionally, smaller blood vessels mean less fluid coming into the area, so swelling will be decreased as well. All of these add up to less muscle damage, and consequently less DOMS. Plus, the cold will slow down how quickly your nerves send signals to your brain, so pain sensations are decreased.
HOW: Get yourself cold! There are several ways to do this, and mostly it comes down to personal preference (and since cryotherapy isn’t generally a lot of fun, whatever you’re willing to do is good). It is super effective though- don’t be scared off!
• Cold packs: Apply a cold pack for about 20 minutes to whatever area you think might be sore. While this might be the most pleasant of the options, it is also probably the least effective for recovery unless you have a reallllly large ice pack and can do a whole leg/arm/chest etc at once. On the other hand, this is a great way to treat a fresh injury.
• Ice/Cold baths or showers: Chill out for a minute or two in the coldest temperature you can stand.
• Contrast baths or showers: This is what I recommend for all my clients. Start with cold water for 30 seconds, then switch to warm or hot water for 30 seconds. Repeat each twice more and you’re done! If you aren’t having a shower afterward, finish on 30 seconds of cold for best effects.