Cryotherapy Benefits: How Using Cryotherapy Can Improve Running Performance

Imagine immersing your body in a tub of ice water for 15-20 minutes. 

If you’re a runner, you may not have to imagine this uncomfortable scenario. It might be part of your regular training regimen. Even if it’s not, you’ve probably considered it but have, as yet, shied away from the cold.

Fortunately, runners seeking the benefits of cold therapy have a better option. Used for decades by professional runners, cryotherapy may help you optimize your training.

Read on to learn more about cryotherapy benefits.

HOW DOES CRYOTHERAPY WORK, AND WHAT DOES CRYOTHERAPY DO?

Before discussing cryotherapy benefits, it’s important to understand how cryotherapy works. The Human Optimization Center offers whole-body and localized cryotherapy sessions.

WHOLE-BODY CRYOTHERAPY

To enjoy a whole-body cryotherapy session, clients enter a cryotherapy chamber. Here, they are exposed to refrigerated air. This air cools the body to temperatures between -150 and -220 degrees. 

A typical whole body cryotherapy session lasts between two to three and a half minutes. During this time, the skin temperature drops to 30 – 45 degrees over the entire body. However, the core body temperature remains steady.

Having been exposed to extreme cold, the blood vessels in the dermal layer of the skin contract. Blood moves away from the skin to protect vital organs and stabilize your body temperature. As it travels, your blood gathers hormones, oxygen, and other healing enzymes. This enriched blood is the vessel of cryotherapy benefits.

After a cryotherapy session, the skin returns to its normal temperature. As it does, blood vessels near the surface of the skin dilate. This allows the enriched blood to flow back—faster than before—to the rest of the body.

Whole-body cryotherapy can be surprisingly comfortable. Because it uses cold air rather than moisture, runners need not dread an ice bath’s pain. Cryotherapy is also much more effective than other remedies, like ice baths, that attempt to use vasoconstriction.

LOCALIZED CRYOTHERAPY

While whole-body cryotherapy offers an alternative to ice baths, localized cryotherapy offers an alternative to ice packs. Like whole- body cryotherapy, localized cryotherapy is more comfortable than the alternative. It may also be more effective.

With an ice pack, you can safely reduce the temperature of an inflamed or injured body part to around 60 degrees. However, Human Optimization Technicians are trained to reduce the temperature to 35-40 degrees safely. This lower temperature is ideal for achieving the therapeutic effects of cold therapy.

As with whole-body cryotherapy, localized cryotherapy causes the blood vessels to contract. This time, the vessels contract at the application site. The blood then travels to the vital organs. There, it’s enriched before returning to the application site.

CRYOTHERAPY BENEFITS FOR RUNNERS

Runners know the benefits of cold therapy. Professional runners have long optimized these benefits through cryotherapy. 

When most people think of cold therapies, they think of applying cold at the site of injuries. In fact, cryotherapy may help runners recover more quickly from injuries, and can also help runners recover from the wear-and-tear of a training season. Between regular training sessions, it can fight ongoing soreness and muscle fatigue. 

CRYOTHERAPY BENEFITS FOR INJURED RUNNERS

Localized cryotherapy is a more effective alternative to using ice packs on acute injuries.

During the session, the Human Optimization Technician monitors the target area to achieve the ideal therapeutic temperature. This temperature ensures that the blood will leave the injured area, searching for nutrients, oxygen, and healing enzymes.

When the session ends, the temperature returns to normal at the application site. The enriched blood returns as well. It floods the injured area with the nutrients, oxygen, and enzymes necessary for healing.

Localized cryotherapy also works more quickly than traditional icing. Because it works so fast, the brain’s efforts to warm the injured area don’t have time to reduce the therapy’s anti-inflammatory effects.

Perhaps most important in the short term is cryotherapy’s potential to relieve pain. Extreme cold reduces the pain messages your body sends to your brain. So you may enjoy some immediate relief after a cryotherapy session.

This relief is, again, preferable to the relief you might achieve with an ice pack. Traditional icing can leave the injured area feeling stiff and numb. However, you’ll leave a localized cryotherapy session feeling limber and ready to move. 

CRYOTHERAPY BENEFITS FOR HEALTHY RUNNERS

Injury-free runners want to stay injury-free. They also want to perform at their best. 

Staying healthy and achieving peak performance means taking care of your body. It also means promoting recovery between workouts and at the end of the season. Here again, cryotherapy may help.

PROMOTING ONGOING RECOVERY 

The National Institute of Health (NIH) recently reviewed the literature on cryotherapy benefits. It reports that whole-body cryotherapy produces:

  • Anti-inflammatory effects

  • Anti-analgesic effects

  • Anti-oxidant effects

Combined, these effects promote ongoing recovery and may prevent exercise-induced inflammation and soreness. 

Compared to control groups, athletes who experienced whole-body cryotherapy reported reduced pain, soreness, and stress. They also required shorter periods of post-exercise recovery.

A separate NIH report confirms these findings. Athletes exposed to cryotherapy rated their experience of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and perceived exertion. Compared to the control group, athletes using cryotherapy experienced significantly less soreness. This effect lasted up to 48 hours after the session. These athletes also perceived their exertion to be less.

The rush of “feel good” endorphins can enhance these effects. So you’ll leave a cryotherapy session feeling refreshed and exhilarated.

After a cryotherapy session, you can capitalize on these positive effects immediately. Following an ice bath, runners are advised to avoid intense training for 12-24 hours. Cryotherapy involves no such restrictions. If you choose, you can leave your session and hit the pavement. After a cryotherapy session, you may feel like doing just that. 

PREVENTING INJURIES 

Soreness is a part of training, but injuries don’t have to be. By promoting recovery and reducing inflammation, cryotherapy may prevent the development of chronic injuries. 

Seasoned runners know that training on inflamed joints and tired muscles is unwise. In fact, it’s a recipe for disaster later on. Cryotherapy can help you stay active while avoiding these serious injuries.

During a cryotherapy session, the flow of nutrient and oxygen-rich blood speeds up. It floods sore, tired, and injured tissues and joints. There, this enriched blood can repair the day-to-day wear-and-tear of training. Importantly, it can make these repairs before minor wear-and-tear leads to more significant injuries.

IMPROVING PERFORMANCE

The 2017 NIH study highlighted cryotherapy’s potential to improve performance in endurance athletes. Cryotherapy may achieve these benefits by increasing oxygen levels in the muscles and reducing the strain on the heart.

Cryotherapy may also improve performance by increasing energy levels. When muscle cells contract, they produce small proteins called myokines. By acting on myokines in a way similar to exercise, cryotherapy can mimic the effects of exercise. In this way, cryotherapy may increase the body’s metabolic rate.

Finally, cryotherapy also shows the potential to enhance the immune system and improve sleep.

With these effects, cryotherapy may help runners make the most of their training and help them take care of their overall health.

WITH CRYOTHERAPY, THERE’S NO (ICE) CAP ON WHAT YOU CAN ACHIEVE

You’ve heard about it. You’ve read about it. You’ve wondered: “Does cryotherapy work?” Cryotherapy reviews and scientific studies suggest that it does. Cryotherapy benefits may help runners recover faster, run faster, and run longer.

Book your session with the Human Optimization Center today, and find out what cryotherapy can do for you.

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