Taking A Cold Shower For Recovery

Cold showers aren't just for, well, you know what. They can be a keystone technique for quick recovery.

During my recent adventure racing in the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic I was almost obsessive about recovering well between stages. My first stage had more than 7000' of climbing in a 110km Circuit Race. The next stage was a 30km Time Trial with 2000' of climbing. The 3rd stage was a 125km point-to-point Road Race with more than 8000' of climbing. And the last stage was a 50 minute criterium, with a measly 30' of climbing per lap - a piece of cake compared to the rest of the stages. I stuck to my Rag Doll approach for recovery and made sure I kept eating and drinking after each stage. For added recovery insurance, I added contrast showers into the mix.

Contrast Showers Defined

My massage therapist recommends contrast showers whenever you need to boost recovery circulation, and you don't have access to a good massage therapist.

Post-race, the idea is to stand under a really hot shower, concentrating the flow of water on the target muscles. For us cyclists, this of course means our legs, front and back, including our lower backs. The water should be as hot as you can stand.

Next, once your legs are really warm, flip the shower temperature to the absolute coldest setting. This is the really hard part. When you feel the icy waters striking your muscles, they'll start to tense up. The muscles themselves will be virtually squeezing the built up metabolic toxins back into your bloodstream where your kidneys can then clean things up for you.

After a few minutes under the cold water, your legs should be covered in goosebumps and practically numb. That's when you hit them again with hot water. Allow them to get good and warm, and then hit them once more with the cold water. You're almost done.

After the final cold snap, return the water to a normal temperature and complete your clean-up shower. When you're finished and have toweled off, put on some tights, or better yet Compression Tights. These will continue to aid the circulation away from your muscles. Whenever you can, lie down and elevate your legs. Above the level of your heart is best.

After each of the Mt. Hood stages, I took this approach to my recovery. I must say I began each day feeling pretty good. Despite finishing 30 minutes down on the winners in the penultimate stage with its 8000+' of climbing, I raced a strong final criterium stage, placing 5th.

Contrast Showers Can Be Used Anytime For Recovery

You don't have to wait for stage racing to put this tip to work. Any time you need to boost your recovery, and a good massage is not an option, try a contrast shower.

Photo "Bike shower" by: The Wolf


  1. Thanks for the comment Paul.

    I hope you can find most of the tips here equally useful.

    Let us know how well this and some of the other tips work for you.