Coldwater immersion and cryotherapy are not uncommon for fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and weekend warriors. You may have noticed athletes jumping into ice baths (40°F-50°F) after physical activities and soaking for 5-10 minutes.
As uncomfortable as this may look, an ice bath is one of the most effective ways to recover fast and treat muscle soreness and pain sustained during strenuous activities. Cold water immersion is particularly vital for athletes, especially during intense periods of training.
While preparing for a competition, athletes undergo physical and psychological stress, which can hinder top performance. This is why it is essential to recover quickly and minimize fatigue.
What Is Cold Water Therapy?
Cold water immersion is a concept that was developed to treat microtraumas (tiny tears on muscle fibers) after exercise. These micro-tears are good; in fact, they are the reason why athletes exercise so much. Microscopic muscle damage stimulates muscle cell activity to strengthen and repair the damaged muscles. However, performing strenuous physical activities can cause delayed onset muscle soreness and pain, which sets in 24-72 hours after exercise.
An ice bath may sound painful, but it sure is rewarding, just like exercise. Cold water immersion is a form of cryotherapy that requires a person to sit in extremely cold water. The first time you put your feet in an Ice Barrel of chilly water between 40°F-50°F, your breath is taken away.
Many have described it as an experience like never before, you feel this tingle around your body, but your brain is delighted in the feeling. After a while, you become more comfortable, and soaking in an Ice Barrel becomes more pleasurable.
Benefits of Cold Water Immersion for Athletes
Why do athletes take ice baths? Well, there are several reasons why ice baths have steadily grown in popularity among athletes in the past few decades. Although this form of rejuvenation has been existent for centuries, athletes are only becoming more conscious of its benefits thanks to new and pioneering companies like Ice Barrel.
Ice baths help people relax, get rid of office stress, and feel alive. One of the most common effects of cold water immersion is that it helps you move and feel better. Experts have confirmed that practicing cold water immersion on a regular basis can cause long-lasting gainful changes to your body’s lymphatic, immune, circulatory, and digestive systems. Overall, all these benefits contribute to giving you a better quality of life.
Coldwater immersion also helps to counteract the side effects of soreness and inflammation after workouts. One of the most obvious benefits of soaking in an Ice Barrel is that it lowers the temperature of damaged muscle tissue and constrictions of blood vessels.
A drop in temperature helps reduce inflammation and swelling and numbs your nerve endings, bringing immediate pain relief, which causes you to feel much better.
Boost Your Mood
As an athlete, you must have realized that achieving peak performance is a mental battle as much as it is physical. If you’re having trouble managing stress or feeling the mental blues, cold therapy may just be the solution you need. When it comes to managing stress and boosting your mood, the benefits of cold water immersion run deeper than you may imagine.
A 2007 study found that cold showers can treat depression symptoms and if used regularly, they can lift your mood better than prescription meds.
Coldwater immersion stimulates dopaminergic transmission in mesocorticolimbic and nigrostriatal pathways. What this means is that soaking in your Ice Barrel triggers a flood of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, which causes you to feel happy.
Coldwater therapy can also make you feel more energetic and active.
Improve Circulation and Heart Health
Good circulation is one of the biggest components of your overall health and well-being as an athlete. If you suffer poor blood circulation, not only will you perform poorly since your blood flow isn’t in good condition, but your heart becomes stressed as well. The side effect of this is that you begin to feel fatigued, headaches, muscle cramping, high blood pressure, or in extreme cases, heart attack and stroke.
Coldwater immersion can improve blood circulation, which improves health, boosts your metabolism, immune system, and improves heart health. Ultimately, you gain more strength to live your best life.
Immersing your body in ice-cold water causes blood to rush and protect your vital organs by surrounding it. Your heart is then stimulated to circulate blood more efficiently, ensuring that every vessel in your body gets supplied with fresh blood carrying the oxygen and nutrients it needs.
How to Do Cold Water Therapy
The good news is that you do not need to hire a therapist or wait till winter to jump into a 50-degree lake in order to reap the benefits mentioned above.
Here’s how you can set up an ice-cold bath using the Ice Barrel.
If this is your first time, we advise that you start off slowly.
- Start by slowly decreasing the temperature of water you use in your bath, or you can dive right at it by not using hot water at all.
- Once you have gotten the temperature that’s right for you, enter the bath and immerse yourself until the water is at your chest. Take slow, calm breaths as you rest for 5-10 minutes.
- Get out of the bath and allow your body to return to its normal temperature naturally.
Don’t forget the rewards; you’ve got this.
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