6 Ways Cold Plunging Can Improve Your Athletic Performance

6 Ways Cold Plunging Can Improve Your Athletic Performance

By Malia Warren

Functional Fitness has taken the fitness world by storm with its high-intensity, varied workouts that push athletes to their limits and beyond. To excel in such a demanding discipline, athletes are constantly seeking new ways to enhance their performance, speed up recovery, and elevate their overall fitness levels. One unconventional yet highly effective method gaining popularity among functional fitness enthusiasts, and many athletes alike, is cold plunge therapy.

This icy practice might sound daunting, but the benefits it offers are nothing short of remarkable. Our friends at The Rec were kind enough to weigh in on the benefits of cold plunging. They’re located inside Four Leaf CrossFit in Wesley Chapel, Florida, if you ever want to get in a workout and plunge together! “We believe cold plunging is for everyone! No matter if you are an athlete, someone recovering from a car accident, an older person trying to reduce aches and pains, or recovery from surgery”, says Jackie Miller, co-owner of The Rec, alongside her husband, Jordan.


1. Rapid Muscle Recovery

Cold exposure can be a beneficial recovery protocol for all types of athletes and training methods. With muscle power improvements, perceived recovery, and decreased soreness. Intense Functional Fitness workouts can leave muscles sore, fatigued, and even microscopically damaged. Cold plunge therapy involves immersing oneself in cold water, typically around 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 15 degrees Celsius). This exposure to cold water triggers vasoconstriction, where blood vessels narrow, reducing blood flow to the muscles. Once you exit the cold water, your body experiences vasodilation, where blood vessels expand, flushing out metabolic waste products and delivering fresh, oxygen-rich blood. 

Cold exposure assists in reducing joint pain and inflammation. Similar to an icepack - but for your entire body. The process accelerates muscle recovery, reduces inflammation, and alleviates soreness, enabling athletes to bounce back faster for their next training session. Cold exposure can be a beneficial recovery protocol for all types of athletes and training methods. With muscle power improvements, perceived recovery, and decreased soreness.

Um, I'm already sold. But wait, there's more!


Owner, Jackie, inside one of the cold plunge tubs at The Rec.

2. Enhanced Circulation and Cardiovascular Health

Cold plunge therapy stimulates the cardiovascular system as the body tries to maintain its core temperature. As you immerse yourself in cold water, your heart rate initially rises, followed by a drop in heart rate during the immersion. This cycle of increased and decreased heart rate acts as a form of cardiovascular training, enhancing heart health and overall circulation. Improved circulation ensures that muscles receive sufficient oxygen and nutrients during workouts.

This improved circulation can aid in performance and recovery.



3. Energy and Focus

Cold exposure releases adrenaline and noradrenaline – creating a lasting effect of increased energy levels and focus. Functional Fitness isn't just a physical challenge; it's a mental one as well. Forcing yourself to do hard things is hard. Deliberate cold exposure trains your mind to maintain a calmer, clearer mind when exposed to the not-so-deliberate challenges that life may throw at you.

Stepping into icy water requires you to control your breath and stay calm, much like managing your mindset during grueling workouts. 

Regular exposure to cold water can help you develop mental discipline. It's this is the same mental grit you'll need to tap into when pushing through any kind of workout or sporting event. 



4. Hormonal Balance

Cold exposure has been linked to the release of various hormones, including adrenaline and norepinephrine, which are associated with increased alertness and energy. Additionally, cold therapy stimulates the release of endorphins, often referred to as "feel-good" hormones. These hormonal responses can contribute to a sense of euphoria and improved mood, crucial for maintaining motivation and enthusiasm in your fitness journey.

In some cases, it may cause an acute increase in testosterone due to the body's stress response to being cold. If you're concerned about your testosterone levels, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide personalized guidance and recommendations based on your individual needs and health status.


5. Increased Metabolism and Fat Loss

Cold plunge therapy can activate brown adipose tissue (BAT), a type of fat that burns calories to generate heat (National Library of Medicine, 2019). Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is a thermogenic organ that is involved in energy expenditure and represents an attractive target to combat both obesity and type 2 diabetes. Regular cold exposure can increase BAT activity, boosting your metabolism and potentially aiding in fat loss. 


6. Immune System Boost

Cold exposure has been linked to improvements in immune function. Cold plunge therapy stimulates the production of white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off infections and diseases. Engaging in cold therapy could help athletes maintain better immune health, reducing the risk of falling ill and missing out on crucial training sessions.

Incorporating cold plunge therapy into your fitness routine might seem unconventional, but its benefits are supported by both scientific and anecdotal evidence. Remember, gradual exposure is key. Start with shorter durations and slightly warmer water temperatures, then gradually progress to colder temperatures and longer sessions as your body adapts. 

Bonus: Happy chemicals! Cold exposure causes a lasting release of dopamine (feel-good chemical). Elevating mood, enhancing focus, and attention long after plunging.

Each of these benefits is triggered when withstanding water temperatures from 55 degrees to 35 degrees, for about 3–6 minutes at a time.

In the world of Function Fitness, where pushing boundaries is the norm, cold plunge therapy offers a unique and invigorating way to optimize performance, recovery, and overall well-being. As you dive into icy waters, you're not just embracing the cold – you're diving into a world of enhanced physical and mental prowess, one chilly plunge at a time.

The Rec can be found inside Four Leaf CrossFit in Wesley Chapel, Florida. For more information on cold plunging and how to book, check them out here.


If you have any questions or you would like to be a guest blogger, please email us at blog@liftingthedream.com 


Have you tried Cold Plunging Yet? What did you think?

Woman lifting a barbell

Malia is the force behind Lifting the Dream and a proud mompreneur. When she's not lifting heavy weights, she's probably at the beach or Disney with her family. She is a Cali girl born and raised, with salt water in her veins and sunshine in her heart. She and her family now reside in Florida soaking up the sun, heat, and all the amazing outdoor activities this state has to offer.




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