Hot or Cold? Learn how temperature treatments can help you recover from exercise and injury.

Stretch to recoverSome like it hot, but the Jacuzzi isn’t the first thing you should plunge into after a gym sesh or spring day on the slopes, according to Nicholas Edwards, assistant director for the Sports Performance Program at CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center in Denver.

“When you exercise, you’re going to have an increased core temperature,” Edwards explains. “The quicker you get your body to cool down, the better off you are.”

Edwards recommends taking a cold plunge or wearing an ice vest after rigorous activity. Or, readily available to all, everywhere, is the classic legs up the wall position, where your spine is flat on the floor, with your legs straight up above your hips and supported by a wall; you can also make a peddling movement with your legs. Stretching your muscles is an essential part of the cool down process as well.

“Use a foam roll or something like that to break up fascia and tight muscles,” he says. “Then, after that is when you can get into a hot tub or take a really hot shower.”

This workout recovery process —10-minute cool down, followed by a 5 to 10 minute stretch and/or foam roll, then heat immersion (for no longer than 30 minutes) — allows the muscle groups in your body to properly release and heat up to support blood flow.

Just keep your tub time to a minimum, as Edwards explains that maximum benefits in the body are reached after 10 to 15 minutes, and beyond 30 minutes becomes excessive.

Proactive after injury

Edwards says the biggest different from exercise recovery and injury recovery is that after exercise, the main focus should be to cool your body down; after an injury, you are trying to reduce the immediate onset of swelling and inflammation.

“Immediately after an injury,” he says, “icing helps, but just to decrease the inflammation right away.”

His recommendation is to decrease the immediate swelling with 20 minutes on icing, followed by 20 minutes of heat to support blood flow. This injury recovery process should be done a couple times per day.

After the immediate offset of inflammation, icing is more of an illusionary treatment, Edwards says, but it doesn’t help with healing the injury long term.

Twenty minutes of heat that follows the icing, however, increases the blood flow to the injury, which brings in more cells to the area to regenerate and help that area to heal.

Contact the Vitality Center at 970-476-7960, or visit www.vailvitalitycenter.com for more information.

The Vail Athletic Club in the Vitality Center also offers a Stretch & Ready class on every morning during the week, and a Stretching & Recover class on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. See the club’s schedule for more details:
http://www.vailvitalitycenter.com/schedule/

Kim Fuller is a freelance journalist and yoga instructor in Vail.