Ever have a multi day event where you had to get back to your hotel room and try every recovery trick you can think of to avoid the "exercise hangover" the next morning? One research study found that Contrast Water Therapy resulted in a smaller reduction in- and faster restoration of- strength and power, compared with rest. Here's the protocol they used. They immersed the lower part of the body alternately for 60 seconds in cold water at 46-50 F degrees followed by 120 seconds in hot water at 104-107 F degrees for a total of 15 minutes.
How does this work? The idea is that contrast baths alternately expand the blood vessels and then quickly constrict the blood vessels which will create a pumping action, pumping out edema.
This is just one study. More needs to be done, but the bottom line is we are all very different. Different physiology, different body composition, etc. So, you may be able to use this technique as a guideline and tweak the numbers a bit to find what works best for you. You may need to adjust both the temperature and/or immersion time.
I found this study valuable since I've already blogged about overtraining
. Hopefully more and more athletes are realizing that recovery should be a part of training.
The effect of contrast water therapy on symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning 2007: 21 (3) 697-702