After a year of mixed results my football team and I recently qualified for the grand final, my first in almost a decade. After a tough training week the body and mind were feeling little a worse for wear. 

For centuries, water has been used as a therapy for improving psychological and physical disorders. According to Hippocrates, a Greek physician known as the father of western medicine, water therapy “allays lassitude”, meaning it releases physical or mental weakness. 

When most people think about recovery and water, images flood to mind of athletes jumping into freezing cold ice baths. However we need to reassess our approach as research suggests that cold-water therapy alone doesn’t change the physiological markers of fatigue but psychologically there is perceived to be less fatigue. Further to this one recent study should that ice baths could even be reducing the effectiveness of your training with a reduction of physiological markers for muscle strength and hypertrophy. 

The answer? You need to use contrast water therapy. The reason contrast water therapy is so effective is the compression from the hydrostatic pressure will be up to 7 times that of your typical compression garments. But the real benefit comes from the switching between water temperatures that causes a dilation and constriction of your blood vessels and lymphatic system. This will create a flushing effect and speed up your ability to recover. There is also some research suggesting that contrast therapy could also help in improving sleep quality. 

Studies have shown that the ideal conditions for recovery would be a cold temperature of 10-15 degrees and a hot temperature of 38-40 degrees. You want to make sure submerged to your shoulders for 1 minute at each temperature, for a total of 15 minute. Short on time? Build it into your morning shower routine of hot/cold showers. It might not be as effective as full body submersion but will do the trick. 

Although my recovery session made me feel much fresher physically and mentally, it clearly didn’t help my football performance with the team going down 6-1. Maybe I should spend more time on the training paddock rather than the pool!