A song of ice and fire

The application of heat and ice to muscle injuries has long been used by athletes to aid and speed recovery. In many Nordic cultures, a sauna session is followed by a dip in ice-cold water, a cold shower or even the sea. Some like to roll in the snow and ice swimming is even a popular activity in Finland!

This cold immersion increases the sauna’s elevation of heart rate, adrenaline and endorphins and relieves stress and depression. It also improves blood flow, pulling the blood back to your main organs, reinforcing the body’s natural defences and helping muscles recover faster.

Many sports people swear by ice baths after exercise. They are said to reduce inflammation, constrict blood vessels and flush out waste produce. As the tissue warms, this increases circulation and the healing process is boosted. Bathe in water that is no lower than 15°C, so it won’t give you chilblains.

Warm baths are obviously good for sore muscles because the temperature helps muscles relax and stimulates blood supply and metabolism. So what is best? Experiment with ice baths periodically
to see how your body responds and what works best for you. If you want to combine bathing and relaxation, a warm bath is probably best!