T Nation

Contrast Showers / Soaks

What’s the deal with contrast showers? Are they worth the effort and discomfort? If so, when and how often should I do them?

What about using my pool and hot tub for contrast soaks? I’m in California with an outdoor pool, so the temp difference right now seems about right.

Thanks,
Mike

Are they really that uncomfortable?

I think that only you can answer your cost/benefit question. If you think they are really uncomfortable and you don’t notice a difference in recovery time or soreness, quit doing them!

I was under the impression that the greater the change in temperature, the better, provided you are not getting hypothermia or scalding yourself.

RIT Jared

A friend’s neighbor jumped into his cold pool on a hot day and promptly had a heart attack. I think with the contrasting shower you get a little bit better adjustment and you might be less likely for a freak accident.

just my two cents

I use them all the time. I take a hot, then cold for about five minutes each, right after my workout. Has it been beneficial? Hell, I don’t know. I just read it on T-Mag.

:wink:

Hot water is a vasodilater while cold water is a vasoconstrictor, the net affect is vastly improved circulation to the affected areas. Contrast baths are the same as showers but can be more convinient at isolating body parts. always end the shower or baths on the cold side to make sure there is no swelling. laters pk

We ran a study in our lab this past year and found no significant phsyiological changes from contrast baths. However, psychologically (as measured by questionaires) people “felt” much better after the contrast.

We’re currently looking at doing a similar study looking at different blood markers. This time we’re only using cold water as we suspect this is what is having the positive effects.

So…phsyiologically there might not be much to it (we’ll see I guess…), but at least psychologically there appears to be a benefit.

Yep, very little (read: nil) evidence of physiological effect of contrast bathing.

I like to ice things personally.

If it feels good do it, but what are you trying to accomplish with this method?

[quote]t bone y2j wrote:
Yep, very little (read: nil) evidence of physiological effect of contrast bathing.

I like to ice things personally.

If it feels good do it, but what are you trying to accomplish with this method? [/quote]

Just looking for another tool to help recover between workouts.

I have been doing the hot/cold thing for a few years, on and off. As one previous poster stated, it feels good. I have not seen any other benefits from this. And I do think that simply using the cold may have the same effect.

[quote]Kinetix wrote:
We ran a study in our lab this past year and found no significant phsyiological changes from contrast baths. However, psychologically (as measured by questionaires) people “felt” much better after the contrast.
[/quote]

Kinetix,

      I'd really like to know a bit more about your study, if you're willing to spare the time:

-Did you measure the effect of a single contrast shower, an extended program of contrast showers, or intermittent contrast showers?
-What exercise protocol did your test subjects perform before the showers?
-Did the showers improve capillary function, and would this help recovery?

With regard to the first question, it occurs to me that multiple sessions of contrast showers might de-sensitize athletes to this particular recovery method (I save contrast showers for after hard workouts).

Thanks for your time,

Ross Hunt

I tried it for a while but the cold sucks ass!
I guess a lot of people who are attracted to heavy hard training have a masochistic side, though. You have to to inflict that sort of pain on yourself regularly. For those people, contrast showers are probably fun.

I know that when I use contrast showers my back really feels a lot better. But recovery in general is a tricky subject, because it has to do with so many differnt factors (sleep, diet, GPP,age and stress ect). Are they the end all be all, no. But do they help I think so.
Will42