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The Benefits of Cold Water Immersion for Athletes

Written By Jayme Pantekoek | Published Aug 20th 2023



Cold water immersion (CWI) is a popular recovery method used by athletes. It involves immersing the body in cold water, typically between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, for a period of time.


CWI has been shown to have a number of benefits for athletes, including:

  • Reduced muscle soreness

  • Improved joint and tendon health

  • Enhanced immune system recovery

  • Improved sleep

  • Increased dopamine

 

The Benefits of Cold Water Immersion for Athletes

Cold water immersion (CWI) is a popular recovery method used by athletes. It involves immersing the body in cold water, typically between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, for a period of time.


There are a number of benefits of CWI for athletes, including:

  • Reduced muscle soreness: CWI can help to reduce muscle soreness by reducing inflammation.

  • Improved joint and tendon health: CWI can help to improve joint and tendon health by increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation.

  • Enhanced immune system recovery: CWI can help to enhance immune system recovery by increasing white blood cell production.

  • Improved sleep: CWI can help to improve sleep by reducing stress and promoting relaxation.

  • Increased dopamine: CWI can help to increase dopamine levels, which can improve mood and motivation.

When to Do CWI for Athletes

There is some debate about the best time to do CWI for athletes. Some experts recommend doing it before training, while others recommend doing it after training.

There is some evidence to suggest that CWI can help to improve performance by reducing muscle soreness and inflammation.


However, there is also evidence to suggest that CWI can impair performance by reducing blood flow to the muscles and not letting the initial inflammation do its job to signal repair to the muscles. I am siding with the latter, do your cold tub before training or a few hours after the training session. It would be best to do CWI on off-training days as well.


Ultimately, the best time to do CWI for athletes is a matter of personal preference and experimentation. Some athletes may find that it is beneficial to do it before training, while others may find that it is beneficial to do it after training. Aim for a total of 20 minutes a week of CWI exposure.


Protocol for CWI for Athletes:


If you are considering trying CWI, here is a general protocol to follow:

  • Warm-up: Before getting in the cold water, warm up for 5-10 minutes. This could involve light cardio, such as jogging or biking, or dynamic stretching.

  • Immerse yourself: Immerse yourself in the cold water for 3-7 minutes, beginners start at 1-5 minutes.

  • Controlled breathing: Controlled breathing can help to reduce the stress response to cold water immersion. Breathe slowly and deeply through your nose, and try to relax your body.

  • Total body submersion: Focus on the areas that are most affected by muscle soreness. This could include your legs, arms, back, and shoulders. If you are feeling comfortable, you can try submerging your whole body in the cold water. This is the most effective way to reap the benefits of CWI, but it is important to start slowly and gradually increase the time you spend in the cold water.

  • Get out of the cold water: Get out of the cold water and dry off.

  • Do some light stretching: After getting out of the cold water, do some light stretching.

  • Drink plenty of fluids: Drink plenty of fluids after your CWI session.

  • Total duration of CWI per week: The minimal effective dose of CWI is 11 minutes per week. This can be broken up into 2-4 sessions of 1-5 minutes each.

It is important to start with shorter CWI sessions and gradually increase the time as you get more comfortable. It is also important to listen to your body and get out of the cold water if you start to feel uncomfortable.


 

Conclusion:

CWI is a safe and effective way for athletes to improve their recovery and performance. If you are looking for a way to boost your recovery and performance, I recommend giving CWI a try.


Here are some additional tips for first-time users who are cautious about trying CWI:

  • Warm up before you get in: bike, jog, or do some movements to really warm yourself up. The goal here is to want to get cooled off in the tub.

  • Get out of the cold water as soon as you start to feel uncomfortable, and let yourself get used to the feeling without overdoing it: It will be important to listen to your body at first and get out of the cold water if you start to feel uncomfortable.

  • Don't use CWI if you have any open wounds or skin conditions: If you have any open wounds or skin conditions, do not use CWI.

I hope this blog post was helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions and feel free to come and try out our cold tubs!






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