Try cold-water immersion for reduced soreness and better recovery

cold-water immersion therapy

One of our favorite amenities here at CrossFit Sanitas is the cold plunge pool. Otherwise known as cold-water immersion or “cryotherapy baths,” cold plunge pools are a form of cold therapy that’s rising in popularity among athletes for reducing inflammation, speeding up recovery time, boosting mood and more. Set at 59°, it’s the perfect complement to the work that you do in your workout.

How does cold-water immersion work?

Most of us think of stress as a bad thing, but a little stress can actually be really great for you. At the right dose, the stress your body feels from a cold plunge pool can have a big benefit to your body’s resilience over time, especially if it’s a regular practice. One way to think about it is like an extension of your workout; keeping your body under stress for longer without the same exertion.

Taking the plunge can have many benefits, including:

  • Saving you money. Cold plunge pools are an excellent alternative to cryotherapy tanks, providing similar benefits for a lower cost (especially ours, since it’s free to members).
  • Speeding up recovery. Immersing yourself in a cold pool causes your body to release a hormone called norepinephrine, which helps manage inflammation in the body. The less inflammation your body has to clean up, the speedier your recovery.
  • Reducing muscle soreness and fatigue. Following your dip with a hot shower can have a restorative effect that reduces pressure on your muscles and clears metabolic waste that’s been shown to fatigue them. It’s kind of like un-crimping a hose: cold triggers the blood vessels to constrict and decrease flow, and the heat counteracts it, opening your blood vessels back up.
  • Better performance. Taking the plunge between 30 minutes and 24 hours after a workout (especially after a metcon) has been shown to increase power and speed by up to 20%!
  • Better joints. Cold shock (the stress your body feels when exposed to cold) contributes to less collagen breakdown, slowing the wear on your joints and decreasing arthritis pain.
  • Improving our immune system. Cold water immersion has been shown to help you build a healthier stock of immune cells, which has been linked to a longer life and improved ability to ward off sickness.
  • Helping us burn fat. Cold stress makes your body work over time to keep itself warm, triggering a response that encourages it to burn more fat over time.
  • Guarding against oxidative stress. Studies have shown that cold plunges lead to an increase in levels of glutathione, your body’s most powerful antioxidant. This not only has a positive impact on how your cells age, but also keeps all other antioxidants performing at peak levels.
  • Boosting our mood. When you plunge, your nervous system releases hormones that make you feel alert and invigorated. Cold therapy has also been reported to significantly improve mood and feelings of quality of life. Many of us around the gym can definitely speak to this benefit!

Boulder's Only Cold PlungeHow do I use the cold plunge pool?

Take time to cool down naturally (foam rollers, lacrosse balls, stretching) after your workout, then head into the locker rooms for a warm shower before you pop into the pool.

The plunge pool is kept at 59°, so it’ll feel cold! You’ll want to start slowly and work up to a longer and deeper immersion. Try just your legs first for 60 seconds and then work up to several minutes (ideally between 11 and 15 minutes) with your stomach or shoulders fully immersed. Once you’re fully covered, try to move as little as possible. You can ease into it by slowing down your breathing or holding your breath during the initial 15 seconds.

Studies have shown that people who use it 3 times a week have the best results, so we encourage you to use it as much as possible. Try to work it into your weekly routine and build from there. This amenity is free to members, so take advantage of it. Happy recovering!

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