Contrast Bathing for Recovery

Every runner has had faced those days when the legs are heavy and the mere act of putting one foot in front of another is more drudgery than invigoration. Incorporating daily post run therapies into your routine may provide a way to arrive at your next run with more spring in your step.

Contrast bathing is one such therapy that can be added to your training regimen.
The concept of contrast bathing is straightforward; by submerging your legs in a bath of warm water followed by a bath of cold water, blood flow is improved in the legs. The increased circulation will speed up the rate at which metabolites produced during runs are removed from the muscles. Research has found subjects who have engaged in contrast bathing therapies after intense bouts of sub-maximal running have reduced lactate concentrations in the blood and an increased perception of recovery .

To make contrast bathing part of your post run ritual follow the guidelines set forth in the research study:

- Prepare 2 baths; one should consist of warm water (105-110 °) and the other of cold water (50 °). Make the baths large enough to submerge your legs up to your waist.
- Spend 2 minutes in your warm bath, followed immediately by 60 seconds in your cold bath. Repeat this for 10-15 minutes.

If you don't have the facilities to prepare two baths that can accommodate your entire lower body, then use your shower instead. Begin with 2 minutes of warm shower focusing the head on your legs, followed by a chilling 60 seconds of cold water on the leg. Continue this for 10-15 minutes.

Have your contrast bathing routine follow your foam roller stretching routine for maximum benefit. If time and facilities permit contrast bathing may be done on a daily basis.
The day after your contrast bath routine should leave you feeling with a bit more bounce to your stride. You will also gain pleasure in knowing you have added another element of ‘threshold' training with your repeated exposure to icy cold water, perhaps just the thing to get a leg up on your competition!

Long may you run,

Sean Coster
Founder - CRP

1. Effect of recovery modality on 4-hour repeated treadmill running performance and changes in physiological variables.
V Coffey1, et al. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport

McArdle,W.A., et al(1991): Exercise Physiology-energy, nutrition and human performance. Lea & Febiger. •  Complete Running Programs