It actually happened to me just the other day following a run, when, rushing to get ready to leave on Christmas Day to have brunch with my parents, I finished up a run outside and immediately hopped into the shower, not giving my body much time to cool down.
As I played with the temperature gauge, I started off warm, then hot, then realized that, amid all the steam that had already formed in the bathroom, I needed to cool myself down by blasting near ice cold water so that I didn’t stay sweaty once I finished cleaning myself. Was this the right way? I didn’t know—until now.
Thanks to an article by Pop Sugar—who spoke with Dr. Kristin Maynes, PT, DPT—we now have a better idea.
That’s because Dr. Maynes discusses what’s known as a “recovery shower,” which is the concept of alternating temperatures from hot to cold to help both boost recovery and cool yourself off after a workout. So, is this really an effective way towards recovery?
“There is no yes or no answer to this question,” said Dr. Kristin Maynes, PT, DPT. “We all have to remember that every person’s body is different and may react to certain therapies differently.” That said, she totally recommends recovery showers.
“Yes, it can be an effective aid to muscle or injury recovery; however only for someone without an acute injury,” she told POPSUGAR. So as this is a great general method for recovery, keep in mind that if you’re dealing with an injury, you’ll need to discuss this with your own physical therapist. “If there is no injury, it [can] speed up the recovery process, keep the body mobile, and prevent stiffness.”
Dr. Maynes recommends going cold first following a workout to “aid in the decrease in inflammation of muscles, joints, and tendons.” Much like one would after cutting themselves with a knife, running cold water over your body will decrease blood flow and stiffen the muscles and joints—which with help limit pain.
Follow that up with hot water, though, which, according to Dr. Maynes, will “improve muscle and joint recovery” by flushing out any dead/inflammatory cells and scar tissue. Going from cold to hot in the shower after a workout will even help with potential stiffness, giving you added mobility in the hours and days after a beast mode gym day.
So, the next time you’re done with working out, remember to go cold first, then hot, because your body will love you that much more.