Simple Guide on Thermotherapy


Ice baths are like chicken wings- hi effort and mess for a small reward. Cooldown, hydrate, eat, sleep, rest.

-John Lythe

Not sure what this means, but I use ice baths still, and some people use them too much and at the wrong time. Thermotherapy is a great way to get good internal changes of the body and I use cold to deal with that gray area between injury and heavy soreness. Sometimes a nagging injury has some pain and we are doing the right things with rest and therapy and pain exists. This is when I do the plunge, and only on off days or recovery days. Sure HRV matters, but the real issue I have now is pain drugs. We are seeing a massive trend towards popping pills and we need to stop. My problem with drugs and even supplements is that we tend to see too many people find the convenience of a pill versus solving the root of the pain. Still we need to address pain as we are responsible for other people’s bodies. Here are some guidelines that are more current than my blog from 2003, regeneration lab and updates on what I do differently. I know some people are trying to find changes in my opinion, but they are refinements since classic training is timeless, including the regeneration methods.

Cold Bath- 20 minutes at 52 degrees F works for a good pain soak and I have seen some HRV changes later if the athlete is training heavy. Heavy means average person can’t complete the training, never mind do it with less output. I do this when sport schedules simply create too much. Don’t worry about the labrats talking about adaptations since an elite athlete is training too much, so loosing the stimulus isn’t a bad thing when one is training multiple times a day with practices. The fitness is likely to be at a level that one is not going to get fitter, just do it on the off day. I have the athlete get on some high tech pajamas and grab a meal afterwords.

Hot Bath and Steam/Saunas- Same protocol but be careful. Heat kills a lot of people in Japan according to studies, so the heart should be stimulated not pulverized. Again pain at tendons feels better and athletes feel looser after wards but remember hydration and contraindications by medical professionals. Coaches and therapists need to have guidelines of contraindications and incompatible times. I like pairing not for contrast work, but to do right before a pool jog to cool off again and get movement going that is pain free. The earlier you can get pain free the better with movement.

Contrast Showers- Do this after wake up and not after practices unless it’s in the AM. I have seen sleep changes down to the actual brain wave patterns with doing this past 5pm. Treat it like coffee as late drinking will leave people disturbed. Contrast showers are based on the base of the scull and are 1 minute on and 3 minutes hot for 5 rounds on average.

Non of this stuff replaces the basics. I see too many people focus on the extra versus the solid need for eating right and getting enough sleep at a consistent time. A lot of blogs are bogus that simply take research and put a few spins on it. Research is fine, but what people do outside research may be different and pursue different mechanisms. The artificial applications of regeneration should always be the minor as the major should be internal, such as good training and lifestyle. For more information on the subject check out some example pages from Neil’s educational materials, not the garbage on DVDs.

Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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