Recovery is as important as training when it comes to fitness — if not more. It may seem counterintuitive, but we grow while we rest, not while we work.
When it comes to recovery from your workouts, most of us know the basics. Like getting eight hours of sleep, stretching, foam rolling, massage and, of course, rehydrating and refueling. Aside from these usual suspects, there is also hot-cold therapy.
How Heat Therapy Works
Heat therapy, or “hyperthermic conditioning,” is the practice of heat tolerance via modalities like the sauna, hot water or steam.
Heat exposure promotes “healthy inflammation” through increased blood volume and flow to the heart and muscles (i.e. faster recovery as more oxygen fills your cells and tissues).
Research reveals that two 20-minute sauna sessions separated by a 30-minute cooling period stimulates growth hormone (for muscle recovery and repair) levels two-fold over baseline. Two 15-minute sauna sessions at an even warmer temperature separated by a 30-minute cooling period resulted in a five-fold increase in growth hormone.
How Cold Therapy Works
Following your heat session, exposure to extreme cold during an “ice bath,” pool or shower is like the icing on the cake for maximizing heat therapy.
Extreme cold releases norepinephrine in your brain — the chemical responsible for your body’s ability to “fight” in the “fight or flight” (stress) response — for the stress it just experienced during your heat session. When you are immersed into cold water for just 20 seconds at 32 degrees fahrenheit, norepinephrine can rise 200 to 300 percent. Cold therapy also activates cold thermogenesis — cuing your body to produce more heat and fire up your metabolism and endurance.
Hot-Cold Therapy 101
Hot-cold therapy (“fire and ice”) is a blend of two modalities, heat and ice, that have long been used for injury recovery and post-workout recovery years. The benefits of hot-cold therapy range from improved athletic endurance, muscle development and fat-burning, to enhanced memory and learning and anti-aging.
The preferred method of “hot-cold” therapy is hot-cold, hot-cold, hot-cold — primarily because “cold therapy” naturally reduces and eases inflammation after hot therapy, which stimulates (positive) inflammation. Cold immersion after the sauna helps improve blood flow and faster recovery from muscle damage and soreness. In addition, a cold dip after heat further increases the sauna’s therapeutic elevation of heart rate, adrenaline and endorphins (the chemicals easing your pain and lightening your mood).
Essentially, hot-cold immersion entails three primary steps:
- Exposure to 10-15 minutes of heat (sauna, steam, jacuzzi or infrared sauna)
- Followed by 2-3 minutes of cold (ice, cold pool, cold shower, ice bath, up to your neck)
- Repeat twice (once you’ve finished your cycle and before you get ready to come out, submerge yourself all the way under the ice water).
Five Body-Boosting Benefits of Hot-Cold Therapy
- What to make of it all? Here are five ways hot-
- cold therapy, or “Fire and Ice” can help you.
- Speeds up healing between training sessions
- Increased blood flow and tissue repair
- More blood volume to your lungs and muscles
- Increased white blood cells that fight inflammation
Try it For Yourself
Here in Austin, both CrossFit Central Downtown and CrossFit Central Burnet offer Fire and Ice sessions several times per week.
Visit crossfitcentral.com for more information and schedule.
Single drop-in sessions: $25
Three-month Unlimited Membership: $360
10-class Pass: $190