Swim Like a Champ!
The Ultimate Swimming Video
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Triathlete - Dear Coach Highlights
Hot Tubs and Whirlpools
Dear triathlon training gods,
My new health club has really nice
facilities including hot tub/whirlpools, dry saunas and steam rooms. I
enjoy all of them. The whirlpools feel especially good after a workout.
But I've heard that the hot tub is precisely the wrong thing for sore
muscles, and that I should use ice and stay away from the whirlpool. So,
is there a place in a well-designed triathlon program for any or all of
-Fred Synk, Troy, Mi.
You're absolutely correct. Hot tubs or whirlpools are not the best way
to speed recovery after a long and hard training session (especially a
run). After one of these sessions your body tends to be battling inflammation
or swelling of joints and muscles and, while it's tempting to immerse
your sore and tired body into the club's hot tub with a beer, that's not
the best way to enhance recovery.
A better option, though less inviting, would be to soak those legs in
cold water. For example, after our local Tuesday run in San Diego, many
of the triathletes drive down to the beach for a 10-to 15 minute leg soaking
in the 58- to 65- degree water. It's not the most comfortable thing to
do, but the results (immediately after and especially the next day) are
well worth it. Not only is there an immediate decreased level of soreness
but, the next day, athletes find they're better able to perform a given
We don't know any significant drawbacks to cold water therapy, although
the initial shock and discomfort can be significant. So here are a few
suggestions for how you can best use your new gym:
- Never fully submerge your head in the hot tub. Though the filtration
and chlorination should prevent any problems, you never know what's growing
in that warm water.
- If you absolutely can't resist the soothing warm bubbles, try to wait
36 to 48 hours after a difficult training session before taking the soupy
- If you're training in the mornings, in particularly cold conditions,
or are a bit stiff going into a workout, a short (less than 5 minutes)
time in the hot tub, steam room or sauna can help warm you up, or loosen
up muscles prior to stretching. That doesn't mean you can use this as
your workout-specific warm up and you may need additional hydration as
- If you're going to get in the
hot tub after a workout, regardless of what we tell you, try to at least
cool of in the shower afterward. It may not have a deep impact on your
muscles but it will help to close your pores and prevent you from extended
post-hot tub sweating.
We don't know anyone who wouldn't rather get into a nice warm hot tub
in any situation. There also aren't many people we know who enjoy a nice
icy dip after any kind of exertion except, perhaps, Canadians, eh? It's
like any workout; that hardest part is getting out the door - or, in this
case, in the cold water. While a hot tub offers immediate gratification,
the advantages of cold water therapy are much longer lasting.