If you love working out, chances are you have a love/hate relationship with the day after soreness. Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, commonly occurs after individuals engage in highly strenuous exercise. This soreness can last several days, typically peaking discomfort during the first 24-72 hours post exercise. The soreness can reduce one’s function and even inhibit one’s ability to engage in subsequent exercise the following days. Although many methods of alleviating DOMS are popular in fitness culture, Contrast Water Therapy (CWT) can be identified as a fan favorite. CWT is a type of hydrotherapy commonly recommended to combat DOMS after strenuous workouts. Although the exact physiological mechanisms behind CWT remain disputed, exercise physiologists theorize that the contrasting temperatures constricting and dilating one’s blood vessels result in a “pumping action” where DOMS causing compounds are flushed from sore muscles.
You may be wondering how you can incorporate CWT into your recovery routine. A practical way to implement CWT is right in your shower. Utilize CWT by switching between hot and cold water in the shower for ~30 seconds at a time for 5-6 rounds. The hot water should be hot but not enough to burn your skin and the cold water should be “invigorating” at worst. You may consider increasing intensity with each round to get used to the contrast, in other words, letting the hot water get hotter and the cold water get colder. Athletes are generally recommended to end on cold water, especially when worried about inflammation. However, you may choose to end on a hot session when aiming for a more relaxing experience.
As most research has been performed on highly trained populations, CWT is recommended for apparently healthy adults who engage in strenuous exercise. CWT is not suggested for those with heart conditions or poor circulation.
Although CWT may sound unpleasant at first, you may be surprised how much you enjoy this unique hydrotherapy. You may also enjoy the benefits of this recovery modality such as reduced muscle soreness and improved muscle function following strenuous workouts. In summation, implementing CWT in ~30 second bouts for 5-6 rounds may be an enjoyable addition to your post workout recovery routine especially when looking to train again within the next few days.