If you know anything about the importance of muscle recovery, you may have heard or read about contrast showers. Basically it’s alternating between hot and cold water when you shower shortly after finishing your workout. You can apply this principle using a sauna or steam room for the hot part of the treatment, and the shower for your cold (try to get the water as cold as you can for the short duration; 5-10 seconds). Normally, you want to finish washing your body and then start the ‘contrast’.
I like to start with the hottest water I can handle and target it towards my most achy or soon to be achy spots (ie shoulders and upper back after a back workout). Do that for 5-10 seconds, then switch to the coldest water you can handle for the same duration. Repeat that 1-2x more, finishing with the cold water.
While I was on holidays a couple of months back, we had an array of jacuzzis, cold pools (set @ 15 deg C; pretty cold!), steam rooms, and a dry sauna. With everything I’ve been reading and just from prior experience using the steam room, I figured I would make my own contrast therapy method after each workout.
I alternated between the dry sauna for 5-6 minutes, then dipped into the cold bath for 5-10 seconds. It was about 5 1/2 feet deep and felt like ice! The first time I went in, I had to pause with just my feet in there, then take a few breaths before going any deeper. It was pretty intense. I want to describe how cold it should feel when you’re doing the contrast shower.
Then, back to the sauna for another 5-6 minutes. The second time in the cold bath, I found it was much easier to just step right in without any pauses. I only stayed in for maybe 10 seconds, but I felt it would be enough. And if I didn’t feel better in the morning, then next time I would stand in there longer.
I switched to the jacuzzi as my finisher heat soak, to get a bit of a massage from the jets to boot. I found this mix of sauna and cold bath to do wonders for the joints and muscles. From the heat and all the training I was doing, I needed some thing that would accelerate my healing, even if just by 10-15%. Not only did it feel better, but I noticed I felt more awake afterwards and got almost a second wind.
I highly recommend it, whether it’s after your typical workouts, or just from the very intense ones, or if you’re nursing an injury, research has shown that sauna treatment attenuates muscle loss by a large degree.
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