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Cold Immersion for Recovery

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Cold Water Immersion

Last blog post we looked at how to use Hot/Cold Contrast Therapy for recovery. This post looks into another popular method for recovery – cold immersion.

Cold immersion refers to any recovery method that involves submerging part or all of the body into cold water. Think ice bath, or cold water wading in a cold pool/ocean etc


How does it work?

Cold immersion is similar to icing – it is used to reduce swelling and inflammation.

It is common knowledge that cold treatment can be used to restrict blood flow which in turn helps prevent injured areas from swelling up. Cold water immersion provides a practical means of covering larges areas.

An Immersion time of 5-15mins is recommended.

When to use it?


Cold water immersion therapy is most effective in those situations when you have stressed the muscles to the point where micro tears will appear in the muscle belly. Micro tears are a common and normal bi product of hard training, and the recovery from these tears causes growth and an increase in strength. Some example of sessions that would benefit from cold water therapy:

  • Long runs, especially if on hard surfaces
  • Speed based run sessions (well above race pace over short periods of time, eg. 30 x 100m at 95%)
  • Heavy strength sessions – either lifting weights or low cadence work on the bike


Difference between hot/cold contrast therapy and Cold water immersion

Contrast therapy should be used if the goal is to clear lactic acid and other waste products from the muscles to help prevent ‘heavy’ muscles

Cold therapy should be used to reduce swelling and inflammation and help prevent muscle soreness


Note: Both methods will be better than no recovery at all! Talk to your Coach about the best recovery for each session.

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