Starting on a health and fitness journey can come with a lot of aches and pains. If your body has been on a hiatus, exercise will challenge your muscles, causing micro-tears. These micro-tears are necessary for muscle building, but they also result in soreness.
However, there are methods to help repair the damage so you’re able to continue your journey. Every other month we’ll cover a popular recovery method and give you the downlow on how it works and how it could help you.
If it’s not cold enough outside for you already, our February recovery method is perfect for you, because it’s cold treatment. Cold treatments include anything from your basic ice packs, ice baths to the ever-growing trend of whole-body cryotherapy.
If you’ve ever sprained an ankle or bumped your head, you know the first thing you want to reach for is an ice pack. Cold therapy for pain has been around for a long time. A study in the International Journal of Sports discovered cold therapy helped reduce muscle pain in 80% of cases, as well as aiding in recovery and performance in 71% of those studies. They also found injuries, like sprained ankles, treated with an ice pack healed 3 days faster than ones that weren’t treated.
The cold reduces blood flow to the region which decreases swelling and inflammation. In addition, it may also reduce your sensitivity to pain, by numbing the region and delaying the pain signals being relayed from your nerves to your brain.
These days athletes take the ice pack method a step further by fully immersing themselves into an ice bath. An ice bath is usually a cool 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. The recommendation is submerging yourself for 11-15 minutes. While the cold may be intense, your body and your brain will eventually get used to it and the cold will repair the muscles, preparing you for the next workout.
If you think an ice bath is cold, imagine being put into a chamber wearing next to nothing, with just your head sticking out in -200 degrees Fahrenheit. Sounds crazy, right? People are taking it to the extreme with the next step in cold therapy, whole-body cryotherapy. You stand in the chamber for only 2-4 minutes while an intense cooling system shocks your body into survival mode producing “cold shock proteins.”
Believers in the chamber say these proteins create a spike in amino acids and other tissue-building hormones necessary in keeping your muscles from disintegrating. When being exposed to this cold you wind up with a surplus of these compounds making for a more efficient recovery.
But what works for one person may not work for another. Cold therapy has its enthusiasts who swear by it, but the science isn’t conclusive. If you’re curious enough to brave the cold, try it out and see for yourself how you feel after an intense workout.