Hot/Cold Contrast Routine

Recovery is one of the most important aspects of a total training regime. While good sleep and nutrition are the most important factors influencing recovery there are numerous other tips and tricks to help recovery and subsequent adaptation out there. One of my favorite routines that I’ve found to be very helpful is a combination of an Epsom Salt hot soak and contrast therapy which I will share with you here. There are two big reasons I like and use this particular routine, the first is that Contrast methods have been shown to help with improved neural function in athletes after a time of consistent use and secondly is the Magnesium that’s absorbed from the Epsom Salt. Epsom Salt us such a great recovery tool is because so many Americans are deficient in Magnesium, and soaking in a warm bath of Epsom Salt is a great way to replenish those Magnesium levels. Since Magnesium is often associated with relaxation, sleep, and generally calming down I make sure I have a full day off of training after I soak. I’ve noticed for myself that if I soak in the evening and have a hard training session the following day I’ll be sluggish during that workout and everything seems a little harder. For that reason I’ll often soak the evening after a hard lift and there is no lift planned for the next day, that way I feel great the next time I train. I try to employ a soak with contrast once a week. Total this routine takes 30 minutes and this is how I set it up. First I’ll draw as hot a bath as I can tolerate with 2 cups of Epsom Salt and some bubble bath. I use the bubble bath because it insulates the water a little so it stays warm longer as we are pretty much out of hot water by the time the tub is full. Once the tub is ready I set an interval timer for 3 rounds of 10 minutes. Each round consists of 5 minutes in the hot water and 5 minutes out. As soon as the 5 minute round in the hot water is done I jump out and get into as cold a shower as possible for half the 5 minutes out of the tub.

One round looks like this then;
• 5 minutes in hot water, followed immediately by
• 2.5 minutes in cold shower, followed immediately by
• 2.5 minutes in room temp air sipping water

This routine is one I borrowed from an article published by Dr. Mel Siff and modified it to accommodate what I was able to do since I don’t have a sauna. One of the big benefits you might notice right away is improved sleep so don’t do this right before a busy day. Try incorporating this into your program once a week or so and see if it improves your performance over a period of time.

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