Muscles recover more quickly if I sit in a tub of hot water, right? myth…

WRONG!!Although we will not deny that it feels wonderful to sink into a hot bath after a hard day’s workout on a cold winter’s day, we have to tell you that “feeling wonderful” is about the limit of benefit. External heat is comforting and relaxing, but, when we are facilitating muscle recovery, we need a little more. When your muscles have been active, they already have been heated up. Cold reduces swelling and initially restricts blood flow, providing a natural compress on the microscopic tears in the tissue that are leaking blood into the traumatized area. Shortly, the body will recruit new blood to the cold area (notice it turns a little red?) that flushes out metabolic wastes and lactic acid- byproducts of heavy muscle activity.

If you have a localized “sore spot”, you can treat it with a homemade ice pack. We recommend that you fill a paper cup with hot water and keep it in the freezer until it is ice. Then you simply peel down the rim to expose the surface of the ice. The paper cup, or what’s left of, serves as a little holder to keep your fingers warm and dry. Gently rub or swirl the ice surface on your injures or traumatized body part. Keep it moving and apply as much pressure as you can stand. The first minute, it will feel uncomfortable, but this will ease. Treat yourself for 5-10 minutes. Watch your skin to make certain that it doesn’t turn white, signaling frostbite. When you are finished, return the cup to the freezer for next time. If the area you would like to treat is a little larger, a bag of frozen peas is a wonderfully pliable ice pack that can be refrozen frequently and reused for a long time. For a full-scale treatment (such as for post marathon soreness), we fill a bathtub with cold water and add 5-10 bags of ice. Then we sink our entire athlete into the water (the screaming and cursing subside within a few minutes, and we always get an apology and expression of gratitude the next morning)

Oh, and by the way, please do not rely on topical creams and ointments either to help you “warm up” before a workout or help you recover after one. They feel warm and tingly, but they are not going to help a muscle recover. If anything, they will give you the delusion that you have done something good for yourself and will delay action that could actually be more helpful.

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