Friday, February 11, 2011

Recovery WOD

I’ve been thinking for awhile now that recovery is underrated in this community. Sure everyone talks about foam rolling their IT bands and sitting on lacrosse balls to improve hip mobility, but what about actual recovery? Honestly, most of us don’t have time to dedicate to this art because we flat out train too much. 3 days on/1 day off only leaves one day per 4 to regenerate and that just isn’t enough to make a dent. As I’ve recently adopted a different approach (1 day on/1 day off) this has become less of an issue. And, since I have more time to dedicate to it, I figured I might as well share my experiences.

Recovery WOD - Contrast Therapy

5 rounds for completion

90 seconds cold submersion (50 F)

90 seconds hot submersion (100 F)

Evaluation - NOT for the faint of heart, but suitable for all soreness levels.

Here’s the scoop on contrast therapy… Some studies have shown significant fluctuations in blood flow during contrast therapy sessions—slowing down from hot to cold and vice versa when going from cold to hot. Additionally, when looking at blood marker changes, contrast therapy was shown to reduce creatine kinase (a marker of inflammation) and blood lactate concentration at a similar rate as active recovery. Very cool right? Finally, following exercise, contrast therapy was shown to decrease girth measurements, increase joint range of motion, and improve perceptions of soreness.

To be fair, there are plenty of nay-sayers out there when it comes to this type of recovery and really very little concrete evidence beyond what is written above to support it. No one argues that vasodilation and vasoconstriction do not occur while submerged, only how much the manipulation of the blood flow is actually helping the body recover. I submit that if contrast therapy creates a physiological situation even remotely similar to that of active recovery (a light workout) without the impact and stress of such a routine, then it is worth doing. The last thing I need on a day off from training is more training. We all know how that session goes. “Hey Blair, you wanna work on some ring handstands?” “Maybe pull this sled a few meters?” Before you know it, you’re lying on your back exhausted and laughing at your own stupidity.

And let’s not discount the anecdotal evidence either. Just about everyone I talk to likes the way they feel after going through this. I, for one, know this type of therapy makes me feel M-E-L-L-O. Things don’t hurt as bad and all I want to do is take a nap. It’s like the nervous system has been lulled into a relaxation coma where tissues can regenerate far quicker than they otherwise should.

If you’re thinking to yourself it’s too cold and uncomfortable, don’t worry—you can keep your skirt on in the pool. All other objections are overruled. Do this and start feeling better.


  1. I am guilty. Thank you Blair for posting this. It is true. For a month straight I kept over-training to get ONE "HSPU." Then finally I took 3 complete days off, and was able to do 4 reps while on vacation. Then repeated another 4 reps. Wow, if I only allowed by body to fully recover before, I would've probably had in me to get those reps long ago. Recovery and rest is just as vital as nutrition and training.

  2. Dude you are hilarious, nice work. Hot and cold just murders me to death.

  3. "If you’re thinking to yourself it’s too cold and uncomfortable, don’t worry—you can keep your skirt on in the pool."