One thing that every athlete should know is that the only time you get fitter in your recovery. After your workout, your body needs to rebuild, regenerate and resupply it's energy stores which will result in stronger and fitter muscles. One method to speed recovery and improve the effect of your workout is through the use of hot and cold showers, otherwise known as hydrotherapy. This ancient healing method works by sending a blast of fresh blood (full of oxygen and nutrients) to rebuild and replenish your muscles while clearing out nasties like lactic acid, greatly speeding and improving recovery. The hot water dilates or expands your veins and the cold water constricts the veins, working by pumping fresh oxygen and nutrents through your body. Hot and cold treatment or hydrotherapy has also been successfully used in the cure of many illnesses and conditions as improved circulation is crucial for the cure of many physical problems.
Using Hot and Cold Showers
To get the best effect from hot and cold showers, aim for 20-60 second intervals of hot and cold water. In the cold interval, the colder, the better and for the hot part, you want the temperature hot without scalding the skin. I usually go back to a comfortable showering temperature to warm back up. For best results, you want to go through the cycle of hot and cold 3-4 times (6-8 total temperature changes), always finishing on hot so that your core temperature doesn't drop too low.
The order of your recovery after a workout/race should be as follows: Warm down, then put on some warm clothing, then do some stretching. Within about 30 minutes have some carbohydrates such as fruit, muesli bars etc. and also begin your re hydration with water and a sports drink if you want. Your hot and cold showers should be done after all of these things to create the best recovery effect.
Hot and Cold showers can also be used as a great pick-me-up if you are feeling flat before a ride or race. It's a much better wake up than your morning coffee!
Include hot and cold showers into your recovery routine and you will be recovering faster and better in no time!
Photo by Dan Shirley. gallery