Cold water plunge: it makes you worse

Why can it feel so good, tho? :smiley:

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Yep, not new news.

Especially with Hypertrophy, you don’t want to blunt the adaptations. No cold water plunge, no ice, no NSAIDS, etc. It’s the case with endurance training too, but the window is shorter. IIRC it’s 3-4 hours post endurance training being the most important, where adaptations can go out as far as 48 hours with hypertrophy.

This is when your focus is adaptations and getting faster though. When you’re in the middle of a stage race and your focus is recovery for the next day - different story.

Andrew Huberman did a series with Andy Galpin where this gets discussed, just can’t remember where.


Not sure I agree about it feeling good, but it might do, because you’re helping your body heal from the damage the exercise did? Similarly to when you ice an injury maybe.

Yeah, read Good To Go. It’s an excellent book and covers a host of topics. Almost like a meta study across the board.

TL;DR for the book:
Stuff that works:
Massage - either pro, percussive or foam rolling.
Relaxation/downtime - theory on compression boots was they work because they force athletes to sit and rest for a period. Compression itself doesn’t do anything.

Ice/cold may hinder recovery for all but acute injuries, and even then…

But Good To Go is excellent.

Inflammation is part of our natural recovery process. Blunting it isn’t good. No to cold post-workout, same for NSAIDs, etc.


I might need to explain better what I mean: cold water treatment reduces the 'injury" (I think it mostly reduces swelling). That feels good because our bodies don’t really want to be injured and inflammed. Obviously, with training, we actually want the reaction do the ‘injury’, so blunting it is not helpful, even though it might feel good.

But then, I don’t know. I don’t actually think cold water plunges feel good, they just feel cold :laughing:


Yeah ice baths are a hard no from me. :laughing: I used to do them sometimes after cross country practice in HS but never felt like they made anything better, either.

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No it reduces the extent of recovery. The injury is not the inflamation.


My understanding is that massage only helps in the same way other recovery methods work, they make you relax.

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Maybe that’s true for a professional, lie on a table for an hour massage. I don’t know. I have had a few in my life and I didn’t feel like they were worth the money from a sports recovery stand point. They’re amazingly relaxing, though.

I don’t think anyone would say foam rolling is all that relaxing. In fact, that is why I strongly - strongly - prefer a Theragun over foam rolling. Foam rolling is actually quite a lot of work.

Theragun is too short to be considered a forced rest, in my opinion. Most of my sessions are between 4 and 7 minutes long. I don’t know why - not sure anyone really knows why percussive massage is effective, but the two running theories are (1) increased blood flow and warming; and (2) fascia manipulation. I think short-term (1) is wonderful, and I personally believe (2) is a real effect over the long term with consistent application. That’s based on my limited physical therapy knowledge largely from having a sister who is 30 years in PT/athletic training and having her prescribe and do friction massage for that exact reason, which has helped me overcome a number of soft tissue injuries over the course of my 3 decades in endurance sports.

So, that’s my anecdata as pertains to massage. Theragun FTW.


Mooney’s work @ Harvard is pretty good evidence that massage can actually improve muscle repair. But ya gotta do it JUST SO.

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I think that there are multiple methods to recover with varying levels of efficacy. As far as I know, which isn’t much, is that Sleeping and Eating are the the most effective. I would ask, why spend time doing less effective ways of recovering when you could just get more sleep and eat better with that time.

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Because more time isn’t the limiting factor and more of it doesn’t give you the ability to just sleep more or eat better.

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20+ years using a Thumper. 3 years Theragun. 1 year using a massage chair.

Go big or go home! Huge difference. Need to sell the Theragun.


Years ago on a tri forum that shall not be named many members were suggesting things like pull ups were a complete waste of time when you could spend more time doing actual triathlon training. I’m still confused what those people thought was the time investment in knocking out a few pullups but my example was my pull bar was feet from my washer/dryer and the majority of the time that pullup bar was used was when I went down to swap a load a few minutes too early. Apparently I was supposed to get on the treadmill or trainer for 2 minutes because that was more effective training.

Cold plunges are often done by people while drinking their morning coffee or at the gym right after a workout. Like those pullups they are being done at times when one wouldn’t be sleeping and probably not needing to modify their diet, and only takes a few minutes.

I don’t see how suggesting one skips something like a cold plunge because sleep is more important is even relevant. I don’t even cold plunge, so I’m not defending it.

As for other forms like rolling out or massage, again often done not at times when people would otherwise be sleeping. Although for me it is frequently something I do to get in 30 minutes of TV before bed so I can get my brain to turn off work thoughts. 30 minutes spent rolling out and watching a show usually means I fall a sleep immediately vs laying in bed for an hour mind racing. As a family we also often do PT/rolling/yoga with my daughter between dinner and bedtime since it is much more calming than playing with toys. We can spend an hour chasing her around a room or 30 minutes all relaxing and 30 minutes of getting her down for bed.

Very few people are wasting any time doing these things, even if they offer no physical benefits they can often help immeasurably mentally. Or like the theory with the boots, people are just in fact getting the benefits from the relaxing part.

Also this is adorable…


Agree with all your points re: time management. But the key point is that cold plunging immediately after workouts is actually hurting, not helping, in most cases.

“Foam rolling is relaxing” thought Pbase never!


I was always under the impression that this was well understood.

The only time for cryotherapy being in situations where you need to reduce acute inflammation not from training (eg an injury locally) or during multi day events where adaptation is less important than reducing muscle soreness for the event following (e.g. late in a stage race, for multi-discipline track people like heptathletes etc).

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Yeah me neither. Theragun has stuck with me for a long time for that reason - relaxing AND effective.


Same. But over the past couple months there have been a lot of people spending a lot of bucks on expensive cold plunge ‘rain barrels’ or tubs. Which I’m not at all opposed to…but if people are doing it because they think it helps with training, they have the wrong idea.

And now I have a handy link to show whenever somebody asks me. Here’s an easy to understand graphic…here’s the link to the meta study…enjoy your cold water plunge.

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Yeah, seems the influencers are all pitching cold water plunge all the sudden