No matter what type of training or competitions you partake in, you need your Central Nervous System, or CNS. The CNS is the complex of nerve tissues that controls the activities of the body. In vertebrates it comprises of the brain and spinal cord. The more explosive you need to be, the bigger a part your CNS plays in doing just that, but regardless how slow or fast you are moving each time you touch the barbell your CNS takes a hit. When you start to feel fatigue or things “feel heavy” that’s your CNS telling you it’s tapping out and need a break.
But how do do you recharge or repair the CNS? Well outside of rest, there isn’t a whole lot else you can do. But there are short term fixes that can be implemented to help give you another day of juice when needed. These are ideal for two day competition where you need to be just as sharp on Day 2 as you were on Day 1. What is is quick reset that we speak of? Well for the beginners in the strength game, an ice bath. But for the more advanced trainees, contrast baths.
What’s an ice bath? It’s exactly what it sounds like, you sit in a tub full of ice and water. If this sounds miserable to you, that’s because it is. But anyone that has done one can tell you they work. How do you get this done? Follow these steps below:
- Go to your local gas station or grocery store and get the big bags of ice. Some places sell up to 10 lb bags, these are preferred and more cost effective than the smaller bags that range from 2-5lns. 2 of the big bags should suffice. But if you want another secret life hack check this out. McDonalds sells bags of ice for far less than most gas stations or grocery stores. In South Carolina, you could get a 5lb bag for $1, but now that I am back in Illinois they are closer to $2 which is still cheaper than the $3-4 at the convenience store.
- Once you have your ice get your tub set up. I prefer to sit in the tub and start the water as cold as it can be and let the tub fill up with you in it. Make sure the bags of ice are close by so you can grab them easily once you are situated. Some folks prefer to fill the tub, pour the ice, and then get in. As a larger person, I did this once and upset a few folks when the tub overflowed so hence why the first option is more suitable.
- Once the tub is filled grab the bags and pour them in. This is not going to feel good, it’s not going to be fun for the first few minutes, but after that initial shock you are in the clear.
- How long do you sit in here? That depends on your tolerance to cold. A good rule of thumb is once all the ice melts time to drain the tub. But if you need a little longer I would suggest sitting for 10 minutes before draining the tub.
- Drain the tub and the pain is over. Rinse off with a warm shower and carry on with your day.
This is not meant as a cure all and should not be used on a repeated basis. Just like with training, the body is a wonderful machine that will learn to adapt and you will have to increase the stimulus to keep seeing a result.
Now as mentioned above this is suggested for beginners. If you are a bit more advanced and want to flush out all that constriction you just put the body through follow these steps after the ice bath.
6. Grab a bag of epsom salt and pour 1/2 -full red solo cup of the salt in the tub.
7. Fill the tub up with as hot of water as you can stand. Please don’t be a hero and burn yourself on hot water. That’s just not smart.
8. Turn the water off once the tub is filled to desired level and relax for another 10 minutes.
9. After the ten minutes drain the tub and rinse in the shower if you would like to.
This should have you feeling nice and loose, especially after the ice bath. With the ice bath the body tenses up and constrict blood flow everywhere because of the extreme cold. Once the hot water is introduced the body is opened up and the blood flow flushes out anything that was left and this leaves you feeling refreshed, limber, and good to go.
Next time you are feeling run down from a rough week of training, have a tough two day competition, or just simply need a reset give either an ice bath or an ice bath/epsom salt bath contrast a go. As mentioned before this is not a cure all and shouldn’t be used repeatedly. To increase the stimulus you will need to add more and more ice and you can only drop the temp of your bath so much before it becomes unsafe. Train hard, lift heavy, and let’s keep getting better ever day!