We all love to jump in the tub and enjoy a long hot soak, but could this relaxing pastime hold more power than you first thought?
While the bath tub may be your first choice after a hard day at work, it could also be the most beneficial place to visit after a challenging session at the gym as well. Hydrotherapy, or using water to treat ailments, has been a popular method for helping to relieve minor and more serious pains for centuries. From natural hot springs, to steam rooms, plunging into ice-cold rivers and winding down in warm baths; the magical properties of water have helped humans stay fit and healthy for many years.
Here are a few bath-themed pearls of wisdom that gym-goers everywhere can put to good use.
Should you break the ice?
Jumping into an ice-filled bath sounds like it could do you more harm than good, but submerging your legs in icy water could actually help to reduce severe delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
DOMS strikes when lactic acid and other waste products build up in muscles through your blood vessels, and the theory is that soaking in an icy tub constricts your blood vessels and causes new blood to circulate through the muscles to flush out the waste products. After a 10-15 minute stint in an ice-cold bath you will step out with fresh blood pumping through your body, consequently reducing muscle soreness.
However, don’t get emptying the freezer trays into your baths just yet, ice baths may not be necessary for the average gym-goer. While they may be of benefit to athletes who regularly push their bodies to breaking point, as this kind of exhaustion doesn't usually happen during an hour-long workout, the benefits could be lost on us mere mortals. Instead, alternating between quick bursts of hot and cold in your post-gym shower could have just as much benefit by contracting and dilating blood vessels, providing the same ‘flushing-out’ effect under less extreme conditions.
Turning the heat up
Combining a warm bath with self massage can work wonders for consistently sore muscles, especially relieving pain in the back. Often people are reluctant to hop into a warm bath when their pain is bad, thinking that the raised temperature will aggravate the inflammation, when really it is often one of the best cures.
Instead of just heating up the surface area where the pain is, a warm bath will provide heat deep inside the entire muscle. Place a tennis ball underneath your back in the bath, the combined pressure of your body weight and the water will naturally roll the ball around, creating a gentle massage sensation.
Baths should never be used as a replacement for post-gym recovery tactics such as stretching, foam rolling and a proper cool down. However, they can provide a little added extra support should you be struggling with muscle pain. Many of Fitness First Clubs’ gyms have luxury swim and spa facilities, find out which hydrotherapy facilities your local gym has here.