The Cold Plunge Pool: What Is It For?
The cold plunge pool is the newest item on the growing list of great things offered at CrossFit Sanitas. Cold Plunge Pools, otherwise known as cold-water immersion or “cryotherapy” baths, are popular among professional athletes, as they have been reported to reduce muscle inflammation and pain after exercise, as well as speed recovery time.
The Physiology behind Cryotherapy
Cryotherapy is the use of cold temperature in the treatment of a number of ailments. In the world of athletics, cryotherapy is often used in conjunction with heat, which is known as contrast therapy. In response to the cold, the blood vessels constrict and decrease flow, which is then counteracted by heat which opens the vessels causing a marked increase in blood flow. The model of contrast therapy is similar to that of releasing a crimped garden hose. Moving from hot to cold causes surges of blood flow to the muscle which brings in nutrients and growth factors and clears out waste products following exercise. Cryotherapy is also known to be a potent anti-inflammatory. This has certainly proven to be true and an effective way for reducing muscle soreness. Studies have also shown that cold plunges lead to an increase in glutathione levels. Glutathione is your body’s most powerful antioxidant, which keeps all other antioxidants performing at peak levels.
One of the most supportive benefits of contrast therapy is the hormone response that is stimulated by the cold. Namely, the sympathetic nervous system releases hormones promoting the fight or flight response, which makes you feel alert and invigorated. In a study of whole body cold therapy on psychological factors, the cold therapy significantly improved mood and feelings of quality of life (Szczepanska-Gieracha, Borsuk, Pawik, & Rymaszewska, 2013). Several of us around the gym have definitely experienced this benefit.
The plunge pool is kept at 55°. This will shock your body to some degree (and that’s part of the reason it’s beneficial), so use common sense.
How to Use the Cold Plunge Pool?
Members and coaches have reported that the best approach is to rinse off with a warm shower and then do a quick cold rinse. Get into the tub and try to move as little as possible. Some people have reported that slowing down your breathing or holding your breath during the initial 15 seconds helps ease you into it. You will 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 with your stomach or shoulders fully immersed.