Every morning I take a nice warm shower. Then, at the end, I turn the knob to full cold and take a 30 second cold shower. Why? I can only offer this in mitigation and defence: Being a fan of Wim Hof and his breathing it was only a matter of time before the cold showers gradually loomed into view and wrapped icy sprays around my poor body. The ice bath is a little too much hassle. How would you do it? I have one friend who has a tub at the bottom of their garden and once a week pours sacks of ice into it and voila! In they go. But genius Wim Hof does the obvious. He has an old chest freezer in his garage which he keeps filled with water. Every morning he breaks the ice on the top and splosh! In he goes. Who would have thought of that?
But hold on! There is some method and science to this. In Holland research has been done to measure the effects of taking a cold shower every morning and the optimal length to achieve a result. Double blind studies were done between a cold shower group and no cold shower group. They found over a three month period the cold shower group went down with fewer coughs, sneezes, viruses and infections. It seems it is good for you. Then they wanted to know what the optimal length of shower was. Whether it is better the longer the shower lasts. They found that as long as you do 30 seconds you get the same increase in health and ability to throw off whatever is going around as staying under the cold for one or two or even five minutes. So I do 30 seconds.
But hold on even more!! Read on and discover how top professional footballers use ice baths to aid recovery.
Sitting in a tub of ice cubes is a treatment used by many elite sportsmen, as it helps reduce inflammation in muscle tissues by reducing temperature and blood flow.
Arsenal football club use ice baths and the interesting part is seeing how players react to being dumped into some freezing cold water. Back in 2017 Aaron Ramsey was not the least bit bothered, “I’m from Wales, mate. This feels like a summer’s day to me.” Theo Walcott used the meditative approach, “I am focused… I am relaxed… I am not cold…”
Danny Welbeck was a little more real, “Oh my God, that is cold. I don’t like it… oh, I really, really don’t like it…”
Where are they now? Aaron Ramsey now plays for French club Nice. Theo Walcott was just relegated back to the Championship with the club he started with Southampton. And Danny Welbeck just qualified for the Europa League with Brighton and Hove Albion, one of the success stories of this season. Does meditation work?
On the pitch, footballers perform around 700 changes of direction. During the 90 minutes of play they can cover over 10 kilometers. Football players need a large anaerobic capacity to cope with running at high-intensity and sprinting speeds and one strategy to recover from this is cold water immersion in an ice bath.
At the 2013 FIFA sponsored Sports Injury Summit in Wembley, Gregory Dupont of Université de Lille gave a presentation highlighting the strong correlation between fatigue and injury. In fact, the main precursor of injury is fatigue. This became clear in his report that injury rate was 6.2 times higher in players who played two matches per week, compared to those who played only one.
One of the best strategies for minimising fatigue is an ice bath. In fact, not only does it minimise fatigue, but it also reduces the risk of injury and aids recovery.
The recognised therapeutic tissue temperature for ice bath therapy is 12C to 15C, which isn’t achievable in a traditional ice bath, it melts! Also cold water floats to the top of the bath unless the water is constantly moving.
So many clubs use digitally controlled chillers to keep the temperature just right for repair.
Cristiano Ronaldo is renowned for his incredible fitness levels and reportedly once installed a chamber in his own house to keep him in top shape.
His Real Madrid teammate, Gareth Bale, was no stranger to the ‘ice box’, while Leicester’s stars used cryotherapy (cryo – cold)(and I’ll tell you, you take a cold shower every morning and you’ll be crying too) regularly on their way to the Premier League title in 2015/2016 season.
Foxes physios were so impressed with the results they installed a unit inside the King Power dressing room for the players to use pre-match.
Jamie Vardy said: “The cryo chamber that we’ve got at the training ground comes in useful. It’s absolutely freezing but it helps you in your recovery so fair play to the club for getting that in.”
So herewith endeth the lesson. If you want fewer coughs and sneezes and viral diseases take a 30 second cold shower every moaning and you’ll soon be moaning too because you won’t get sick so often.