All posts in Mindful Movement

Hot or Cold? Saunas vs. Cold Showers for Post-workout Fatigue

Both saunas and cold water ther­apy have their place.  Although it seems relax­ing and ther­a­peu­tic, a post-hike hot tub, sauna, or heat­ing pad is not always rec­om­mended.  After a lengthy hike or any extreme work­out, your joints and mus­cles are inflamed. If you put heat on them, the blood flow to those areas will increase, which can make them even more inflamed. In addi­tion, you may already be slightly dehy­drated, and the addi­tional heat and sweat­ing may dehy­drate you even more.

An icy soak, on the other hand, will help reduce inflam­ma­tion of tis­sues and joints, relieve sore­ness, and speed up your recov­ery. There are two ways to accom­plish this.  First, sim­ply fill a bath tub with cold water and get in, so your body can adjust to the tem­per­a­ture. Then dump in ice (as tol­er­ated). Stay in the tub for 10 min­utes.  If this is too extreme at the begin­ning, you can work your way up with a cold shower.  Grad­u­ally decrease the temp of the water so your body can adjust.  The rec­om­mended approach is to start with a five-minute grad­ual adap­ta­tion and decrease in water tem­per­a­ture until the water is around 68 degrees — 2 to 3 min­utes once or twice daily at this tem­per­a­ture will give you many of above ben­e­fits.  At the very least, there is the more tra­di­tional route of putting bags of ice or frozen veg­eta­bles on the sore or inflamed parts for 10 to 15 min­utes post-training.

Ben­e­fits of Cold Water Ther­apy
    •    Improves cir­cu­la­tion. Effi­cient blood cir­cu­la­tion speeds up recov­ery time from stren­u­ous exer­cises.  Alter­nat­ing between hot and cold water while you shower is an easy way to improve your cir­cu­la­tion. Cold water causes your blood to move to your organs to keep them warm. Warm water reverses the effect by caus­ing the blood to move towards the sur­face of the skin.
    •    Relieves depres­sion. Research at the Depart­ment of Radi­a­tion Oncol­ogy at Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Uni­ver­sity School of Med­i­cine indi­cates that short cold show­ers may stim­u­late the brain’s pri­mary source of nora­dren­a­line — a chem­i­cal that could help mit­i­gate depres­sion.
    •    Keeps skin and hair healthy. Hot water dries out skin and hair. Cold water can make your hair look shinier and your skin look health­ier by clos­ing up your cuti­cles and pores.
    •    Strength­ens immu­nity. Accord­ing to a study done in 1993 by the Throm­bo­sis Research Insti­tute in Eng­land, indi­vid­u­als who took daily cold show­ers saw an increase in the num­ber of virus fight­ing white blood cells com­pared to indi­vid­u­als who took hot show­ers. Researchers believe that the increased meta­bolic rate, which results from the body’s attempt to warm itself up, acti­vates the immune sys­tem and releases more white blood cells in response.

Ben­e­fits of Sauna
Saunas offer many ben­e­fi­cial effects as well–particularly after the 36–48 hour post-hike win­dow.
    •    Saunas induce per­spi­ra­tion, which helps the body get rid of the toxic by-products that are pro­duced dur­ing exer­cise. This takes some of the load off of the kid­neys which have to work over­time to do this detox­ing action in other ways. 
    •    Saunas also increase cir­cu­la­tion and raise body tem­per­a­ture, which helps the body fight aches and pains. Stud­ies also show saunas are effec­tive in help­ing to relieve mus­cle ten­sion. This can mean quicker recov­ery between work­outs.

When using the sauna, make sure that you begin with mod­er­ate heat and adjust the heat when nec­es­sary.  Don’t drink alco­holic bev­er­ages before you enter the sauna. This increases the chance of dehy­dra­tion.  Make sure to replen­ish flu­ids after your sauna ses­sion.  Try to wait 36 to 48 hours after a dif­fi­cult train­ing ses­sion before going to the sauna or hot tub.  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 a result.

Some con­di­tions require you con­sult your physi­cian before you enter a sauna or take a cold shower. If you are preg­nant, have high blood pres­sure, fever, or heart dis­ease; you should con­sult with your physi­cian before using either. The extreme tem­per­a­tures can cause stress to the body when the body is bat­tling an ill­ness.

Natural Long-Distance Energy Sources

Though I real­ize not all of my read­ers are Veg­ans, many of you may be inter­ested in keep­ing an organic, nat­ural approach to your marathon nutri­tion.  With train­ing for the Komen Dal­las Race for the Cure, Ulti­mate Hike, 13.1 Dal­las, Fort Worth Marathon, White Rock Marathon, and scads more races on the cal­en­dar of upcom­ing events; it is the opti­mal time to devise your plan of action.  As any endurance ath­lete knows, nutri­tion is a key ele­ment of suc­cess­ful train­ing and enjoy­able par­tic­i­pa­tion.  Here are a few tips for fuel­ing and hydrat­ing à la nat­ural.

Organic elec­trolyte replacement:

Coconut water.  This is a great source of potas­sium, mag­ne­sium, phos­pho­rous, sodium and cal­cium with­out the added sugar or sweet­en­ers (look for unsweet­ened vari­eties).  Pickle juice is a favorite too.

Recipes for nat­ural energy gel/energy on-the-go:

Raw Sport Gel Recipe

  • 4 dates (dried dates, soaked for a few hours or med­jool dates)
  • 2 Tbsp raw agave nectar
  • 1 Tbsp lime zest
  • 2 Tbsp goji berries (soaked for a few hours)
  • 1/2 tsp pow­dered Greens
  • 1/2 tsp maca powder
  • Sea salt to taste

Com­bine all the ingre­di­ents in a blender or small food proces­sor.  Add water or more agave if needed until desired con­sis­tency is reached.  Put into plas­tic zip-lock bag or other con­ve­nient container.

On-The-Go Spir­ulina Guacamole

  • 2 avo­ca­dos
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • 3 tsp Spir­ulina (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp dulse flakes
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 small onion
  • Cayenne pep­per to taste
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Pep­per to taste

Put all ingre­di­ents into a blender and pack­age to-go in a zip-lock bag for convenience.

Post-training refu­el­ing:

Some­thing very alka­liz­ing like fresh or dried figs, Chlorella, Spir­ulina, any type of greens, cucum­ber, dates, mel­ons, fresh squeezed veg­gie or fruit juices with a zing of lemon, plain coconut milk, sprouted grain tor­tillas.  These alka­liz­ing foods will help the body clear out the lac­tic acid and meta­bolic waste by-products that accom­pany this type of phys­i­cal exer­tion. This is an impor­tant part of keep­ing the immune sys­tem strong dur­ing intense train­ing bouts.

Other tips:

Let the body rest the day before the big event.  This includes giv­ing the diges­tive sys­tem a head start.  Con­sider  eat­ing the big­ger meal for lunch the day before, not din­ner.  This allows the body to digest the food prop­erly so that the nutri­ents can be uti­lized more effi­ciently the next day and allows one to wake up feel­ing light and ener­gized the next morning–not heavy and bloated.


The “other” fitness pole

Pole fit­ness classes have made their mark on fit­ness sched­ules across the coun­try. This post, how­ever, is ded­i­cated to the “other” type of pole–the trekking pole–their ben­e­fits and train­ing advan­tages.  Although, I have com­pleted Nordic Walk­ing Instruc­tor Train­ing (along with Zumba, Grav­ity, Power Plate, and a tool­box full of other pop-up fit­ness trends, bands, disks, balls, bells and whis­tles),  this method (as the oth­ers) is in many ways just a cre­ative brand­ing of a time-tested prac­tice.  This post is meant to edu­cate the reader on the ben­e­fit of poles (fit­ness, trekking, etc.) when prepar­ing for long-distance hikes or when going out for a power walk.  I will use the term Pole walk­ing, Nordic walk­ing, and Ski walk­ing syn­ony­mously through­out this post.  Tips for choos­ing the right poles to come!

Ben­e­fits of Pole Walking

(Stud­ies in Europe and the United States have proved the fol­low­ing health ben­e­fits.  More studies/research avail­able at


  • Nordic Walk­ing burns up to 40% more calo­ries than walk­ing with­out poles. Nordic Walk­ing also reduces knee and joint strain. It nat­u­rally loosens and strength­ens the neck, back and shoulders.
  • Unlike walk­ing, run­ning and bik­ing, Pole Walk­ing works the arms, shoul­der and abs.
  • A study con­ducted at the Uni­ver­sity of Mass­a­chu­setts at Amherst showed that using poles lets hik­ers lengthen their strides, put less strain on their knees, and gen­er­ally feel more com­fort­able. The hik­ers stud­ied did not expend less energy, but the increase in sta­bil­ity made long treks easier.
  • Pole walk­ing pro­vides ALL the low impact ben­e­fits of walk­ing, while reduc­ing knee and joint strain, burn­ing more calo­ries, work­ing the upper body, increas­ing oxy­gen con­sump­tion and pro­vid­ing a more effec­tive aer­o­bic workout.
  • Pole walk­ing improves lymph sys­tem func­tion and boosts the immune system.
  • It helps main­tain joint health and range of motion.
  • 90% of the body’s mus­cles are acti­vated in this form of exercise.
  • Using poles gives an aver­age of 20–25% greater car­dio fit­ness effect than reg­u­lar walk­ing and induces a lower per­ceived feel­ing of exer­tion than like aer­o­bic activities.
  • Using poles pro­motes an upright and bal­anced walk­ing posture.