Chill Out: The Pros and Cons of Taking a Cold Plunge After Running

Chill Out: The Pros and Cons of Taking a Cold Plunge After Running

We bet you've heard at least once about the famous cold plunges. Considering how popular they've become all over social media, it's not surprising at all! Even more so, you've probably seen people immersing themselves in cold water just after running, right?!

Could a cold plunge be an efficient post-run practice? Coldture has found the answer! Keep reading to learn if a cold plunge after running is an efficient way to finish your training routine. We've also included some tips on how to start your cold water therapy efficiently!

Key Takeaways

  • Cold plunges can speed up post-run recovery by reducing muscle soreness and inflammation. It should be done immediately after running.
  • The ideal cold plunge should last no more than 10 minutes. The water temperature should range between 4-10°C or 52-59°F.
  • While cold plunges offer numerous physical and mental health benefits, they also carry risks like hypothermia, so it’s essential to start slowly, avoid head submersion, and consult a healthcare provider if needed.

The Refreshing Truth About Post-Run Cold Plunges

Taking an ice bath or a cold plunge after a grueling run can shock the system. However, once you embark on this journey, you'll feel as fresh as ever! The benefits of ice baths go beyond just a wake-up call. They can help you recover more quickly after exercising and can reduce muscle soreness by diminishing inflammation. Cold exposure can also boost a runner's overall physical and mental health.

There is promising data that supports these benefits, making cold plunges an intriguing addition to your running routine.

The Science of Chill: How Cold Water Immersion Aids Runners

But what’s the science behind the chill? Can cold water therapy actually help or even prevent DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)? Let's see.

When you plunge into cold water, your blood vessels constrict, which reduces blood flow. This, in turn, leads to reduced inflammation, swelling, and tissue breakdown.

In fact, one study focused on cold water immersion and inflammatory response after resistance exercises showed that CWI (cold water immersion) slowed the inflammatory response and, therefore, reduced DOMS. Although this study was directed toward resistance training, the results are likely applicable to running as well.

Furthermore, cold water immersion has several benefits for muscle recovery, including:

  • Improving local muscle recovery through decreased muscle metabolic activity
  • Reducing muscle spasm and improving sensory nerve conduction and, therefore, inducing a hypoalgesic effect.

It is also worth noting that cold water can potentially help flush lactic acid from our bodies. But did you know that lactic acid is actually not responsible for DOMS? This myth has been debunked in the 1980s! Lactic acid build-up can actually help during a tough workout session, as it fuels your cells!

Timing Matters: When to Take the Plunge

The saying “timing is everything” holds true for cold plunges as well. Taking a cold plunge immediately after intense exercise can help maximize recovery benefits. This is particularly important after workouts that cause significant muscle damage and soreness, like long runs or speedwork sessions.

Here's a study that confirms this. The participants performed roughly 40 minutes of running. Immediately after, one of the participants' legs was immersed in cold water (10°C or °F) for 15 minutes. The other leg remained outside for control reasons. Scientists concluded that this postexercise cooling was beneficial in local muscle recovery.

As such, taking a cold shower, a cold plunge, or an ice bath right after running is an excellent method to reduce muscle pain.

Duration and Temperature: Finding the Sweet Spot

While cold water immersion has clear benefits, there’s a fine line between beneficial and excessive exposure. The optimal cold plunge duration to balance is up to 10 minutes. As for temperature - cold water immersion is considered beneficial when performed at 4-15 °C (39-59 °F), although you can feel the benefits of cold water even at 10-15 °C (50-59°F).

However, the duration and temperature depend on your cold water therapy experience, how strenuous your workout was, and if you're immersing just your legs or your whole body in water.

In this context, we'd like to discuss the results of another study that focused on determining which cold water therapy was more beneficial to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness - short contrast immersion, short intermittent cold water immersion, or seated rest.

Scientists observed that 10 minutes of CWI at 6°C (42.8 °F) was associated with the lowest levels of muscle soreness. Nonetheless, slight changes in duration and water temperature after exercising had only a minimal effect.

Integrating Cold Plunges into Your Running Routine

Having understood the reasons and timings for cold plunges, it’s time to explore the methods. Integrating cold water therapy into your running routine may seem daunting at first. However, it becomes manageable and even enjoyable with the right approach!

From Cold Showers to Ice Baths: Building Up Tolerance

You can start by acclimatizing to cold water therapy with repeated cold showers or outdoor pools at around 18°C (65°F). Build your tolerance gradually over a few days or even weeks to prevent cold water shock and acclimatization issues.

Pairing this with deep breathing exercises, such as box breathing techniques, can help you feel less anxious and stay calm during cold water immersion.

Once you start cold plunging, don't just jump in. Begin with 30 seconds to one minute and add 15-30 seconds during each cold plunging session. Don't stay more than 10-15 minutes in cold water - be it cold plunging or taking an ice bath. This will prevent hypothermia and other severe side effects.

Creating Your Own Cold Water Sanctuary

For convenient access to cold water therapy after going for a run, we recommend setting up your own cold plunge tub or ice bath.

Luckily, Coldture is here to make this process much easier! You can purchase our Cold Plunge Tub Bundle, which is highly compact and can keep the water cooled to as low as 3°C (37 °F).

Or you can choose the classic cold therapy horizontal dip plunge tub for an ice bath. It's insulated on all sides by a 3-inch rock hard wall. Just add the ice cubes and let the tub's insulation keep the water cold for hours!

In short, using Coldture plunge tubs means you can easily regulate the temperature and enjoy a comfortable, full-body immersion. We're here to make your cold water therapy journey as simple and beneficial as possible!

Potential Risks and How to Mitigate Them

Despite the numerous cold exposure benefits, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks. These include cold shock response, increased stress to the heart, and rapid onset of hypothermia.

Cold water is believed to drain body heat up to four times faster than cold air. This contributes to a quicker progression to hypothermia.

Involuntary gasping and rapid breathing due to cold shock response can lead to unexpected increases in heart rate and blood pressure.

To mitigate these risks, here are some tips:

  • Avoid submerging your head during cold plunges, especially if you're a beginner. Keeping your head above the water can reduce the risk of cold shock.
  • If you have health conditions such as heart problems, diabetes, or high blood pressure, be cautious and consult a healthcare provider before engaging in cold immersion therapy.
  • Practice breathing exercises that can help you stay calm while enduring the cold.
  • Listen to your body. Do not push yourself too hard. This won't only make the cold plunging session useless, but you'll also put your body under a lot of stress and experience potential side effects.
  • Let your body transition back to regular body temperature naturally. This usually takes around two hours.
  • Don't drink alcohol before cold plunging or taking an ice bath.

Another thing to consider is that cold water therapy practiced after exercising can possibly attenuate long-term gains in muscle mass and strength. If your goal is to gain muscle mass, you can still practice cold water therapy, but not immediately after running. Nonetheless, further research is required to fully confirm whether cold water therapy is indeed linked to this.

Beyond Muscle Recovery: Other Benefits of Cold Plunges

Cold plunges aren’t practiced just to reduce muscle pain! They have been linked to numerous other benefits. Although further studies are required to fully understand how these benefits are delivered to our body through cold water therapy, there's much potential in this medical research field!

Some of these benefits include the following:

  • Cold exposure can boost mental health by increasing endorphin and norepinephrine production; this way, it enhances focus, mood, and vigilance.
  • Cold water therapy, including cold water swimming, can control the fight-or-flight response, which can increase your stress tolerance.
  • It can help mitigate depression and anxiety symptoms by fostering feelings of calmness and well-being.
  • Cold exposure can boost your immune system and reduce chronic inflammation. It is particularly useful for people who want to manage symptoms caused by arthritis or fibromyalgia.
  • Cold plunging or ice baths can also activate brown fat, boost your metabolism, and burn more calories. The activation of brown fat through cold exposure is currently studied as a therapeutic method to decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Cold Plunge Alternatives for Runners

If you’re hesitant to take the icy plunge, there are other alternatives worth considering. Active recovery activities such as walking, cycling, or yoga can be efficient after running, as they're designed to maintain mobility and prevent stiffness.

Aim for low-intensity activities that do not exceed 20-30 minutes. This allows for a gentle recovery that supports your running routine.

Taking a cold shower can also serve as a supplementary cold therapy. It can build cold resilience, boost your mood, and stimulate the vagus nerve. Cold showers are a less intense way to start experiencing the benefits of cold therapy and a great stepping stone towards cold plunges.

Post-Run Cold Plunging with Coldture!

To sum it up, cold plunges offer runners numerous benefits - from faster recovery and reduced muscle pain to improved mental health and immunity. They can be a powerful tool for enhancing your running performance and overall well-being.

However, it’s crucial to approach cold water therapy with caution by understanding the potential risks and taking measures to mitigate them. Start slow, build up your tolerance, and always consult a healthcare professional if you have health issues that could be affected by cold water immersion.

With the right approach, you can harness the power of the chill for a more invigorating running routine!

If you're ready to start cold water therapy and want to buy your own equipment, Coldture is here to help! With our portable, high-quality plunge tubs, ice baths and cold plunges will become one of your most pleasant weekly wellness practices!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are cold baths good after running?

Taking a cold bath after running can prevent muscle damage, reduce DOMS, and help you recover faster.

However, it's worth considering that cold water therapy can attenuate long-term gains in muscle mass and strength. If your goal is to gain muscle mass, you can still practice cold water therapy, but not immediately after running.

When should you not do a cold plunge?

You should not do a cold plunge if you have medical conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. It's essential to check with your doctor beforehand to ensure it's safe for you. Furthermore, it's best to never cold plunge alone.

What is the optimal duration and temperature for a cold plunge?

You should aim for a cold plunge duration of up to 10 minutes. Cold plunges are usually practiced at temperatures between 4 and 15°C (39-59°F).

What are some alternatives to cold plunges for runners?

You can try active recovery activities like walking, cycling, or yoga as alternatives to cold plunges. Cold showers can also provide similar benefits and help build cold resilience for runners. If you have cold water therapy experience, you can try ice baths as well.


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