As a Runner, This Is How I Use Cryotherapy

As a Runner, This Is How I Use Cryotherapy

Hey Runners & Movers,

I know the feeling of an amazing Minnesota summer evening run. Its hard to beat.  The warmth of late afternoon sunshine, a light breeze making the cattails sway as you run your favorite trail with your best playlist in your ear, or the maybe serenity of your surroundings.  Even winter running feels great.  Non-runners think we are crazy.  If I’m honest with myself, sometimes I think I’m crazy.

We all have different ways to fuel our bodies, what we like to wear, morning vs. night, alone or in a group. Runners are creatures of habit.  The one thing that is consistent among all of us is the need for proper recovery.  Without recovery, problems will arise.  Whether the problem is heavy legs or shin splints, it is due to repetitious task inflammation in our muscle tissue or connective tissues in our joints.  How do we keep these issues from happening in week 14 of a 16 week marathon training program?  Nobody wants to watch from the side of the road as our fellow runners complete the race we had to pull out of.  So, what can we do about it?

As an athlete of all kinds growing up, ice baths and chocolate milk were my recovery tools.  Since I entered the cryotherapy and wellness industry almost 7 years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to really up my recovery game.  I have run 3 marathons, 6 half marathons, a Ragnar Relay, a couple Tough Mudders, and a Warrior Dash. I love the process.  The  shorter training runs, longer build up runs, planning routes, which GU gel flavors I like the most, etc.  Through all of the years of setting goals and working my body to its limits, I’ve had to figure out ways to best help my body recover and keep from getting injured.

Enter Cryotherapy and Normatec Compression. 

First of all, I am not running to set any PR’s or qualify for Boston.  I run for the physical & mental release, for the accomplishment of a goal, for the overall health of my body.  And to be honest, sometimes I run to eat Ice Cream.  The process I go through as I run & recover is what works best for me and has really helped me to be able to perform well, as well as enjoy it as I go.

My typical training week is based off of a simple Intermediate 16 week Hal Hagdon marathon training program.  This type of program is available online, and can be a great starting point for anybody looking to build up toward a certain distance.  I tweak it a bit to add  hill sprints, strength work,  and cross training in the place of a weekly pace run.  I run 3-4 times a week, with one of them being my long run of the week.  In a 16 week program, my long runs usually would start at 6 miles and build up a mile a week until I max out at 22 miles a week before race day. I enjoy the process.  The routine, the struggles, the days that feel terrible are a great test of fortitude.  My body needs help staying injury free.  That’s where Cryo and compression have been huge for me.

When timing out when to use Cryotherapy as a runner, we need to understand why it can help.  Running is a repetitious task, which creates a lot of inflammation and lactic acid buildup in our muscles.  In general, I tell clients it is most important with cryo to be regular with it.  Twice a week or more will render the best benefit regardless of activity levels.  This regular use will do a ton for our bodies as we go through every day life to boost energy levels, regulate sleep, and decrease inflammation.  With a runner, timing can certainly make a difference.  Especially if you add strength work into your routine like I do, you should schedule your cryo according to what works best.

So…. What works best?  For my weekly runs, I use whole body cryotherapy ideally an hour AFTER my run.  Why?  To stop the initial inflammatory response of the human body.  This response is our bodies natural healing action, although it is like setting off a nuclear bomb to kill an cockroach, as Tony Robbins says.  Meaning that if left to it, our bodies become inflamed, stiff, and sore due to this inflammatory response.  We have all felt it, the struggle to get up the stairs or sit in our office chair.  After running, our bodies levels of pro-inflammatory proteins (cytokines) are elevated and greatly outnumber our Anti-inflammatory proteins and this causes joint stiffness and muscle soreness as a result (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – DOMS).  So, with that in mind I use whole body cryo an hour or so after at least 2 of my shorter weekly runs.

That leaves me with my strength days or cross training days as well as my weekly long ‘build up” run.  To keep on the running recovery side the process, for my long runs I add a 30 minute Normatec Compression massage BEFORE my Whole Body Cryo. We call it a “Squeeze & Freeze” and its amazing.  I learned about this combo when I was training for the Chicago Marathon, after one of my long runs I could barely climb the stairs let alone parent young children.  I went in and did a squeeze & freeze and was blown away.  I went from stiff, sore, and unable to function simple daily tasks to honestly feeling like I could go out and RUN AGAIN!  Ever since I felt that extreme difference in recovery, on my long run days I do this as a part of my routine to recover.

I do add whole body cryotherapy before my strength and cross training days, but timing is different.  I use cryo BEFORE my workouts on strength days to help produce bigger gains in strength and muscle building.  This difference is due to the extremely elevated circulation from our emergency response during our cryo sessions.  We get vasoconstriction while in the cryosauna, closing the blood vessels of our skin sending all of the blood to our core to protect our vital organs.  Once we step out of the machine, our bodies react with Vasodilation of the blood vessels throughout our bodies.  All of the blood that was in our core rushes vigorously out to our extremities and through our bodies providing our muscle tissue with oxygen and nutrient rich blood flow.  This reaction creates an ideal situation for strength work.  Our muscles fatigue slower, and have the nutrients and proteins to build and develop.

What about Running Injuries?

We know they happen.  All the pounding, all the repetition, all the miles add up.  Whether our IT bands tighten up and cause knee pain, or shin splints cause that agonizing pain every step… that’s when I use localized cryotherapy.  This is what I use AFTER my whole body cryotherapy sessions when nagging injuries arise.  It will happen over a 16 week program, and it is imperative to me to have the tools at my disposal to keep these injuries from causing compensation during my runs and creating more issues.  That’s how you get into a “transfer your bib” situation.

Localized cryotherapy is a great tool for acute injuries and areas of inflammation.  I like to use Local cryo right after my whole body to reemphasize to my body that circulation and inflammation reduction is needed in a certain area.  For me, it is often my lower legs and ankles.  I suffer from Plantar Fasciitis, and am supposed to wear custom orthotics ALL DAY EVERY DAY.  I don’t.  I use regular whole body cryotherapy to reduce systemic inflammation, and localized cryo on days when certain areas are sore or stiff.

Simple Process, Game Changing Results

None of what I’ve said here is going in any medical journals, but it has been a huge benefit to me and helped me enjoy running without pain.  I truly enjoy the freedom of walking out my front door and exploring new trails, or the same ol’ standby 2 mile route with hill sprints I can sneak in during a 30-45 minute window during a busy family evening.  Whatever you do to provide yourself this physical & mental release, or if you are searching for something like this, remember what it is about.  It is about feeling good, not painful.  Let cryotherapy, normatec compression, and localized cryo help you along your journey.  No pace requirements, no pressure.  If you are competitive, and are working towards a specific goal or qualifying time, this recovery process is even more important for you!  Take care of your body, add cryo into your routine.  There is a reason that Nike Race teams use it, why Lebron has one in his home, and why most major sports franchises have them in their facilities.  IT WORKS.

Call Halo Cryotherapy Recovery & Wellness Centers for any questions on how to get started.  Mention this blog for runners and you can get 3 Whole body cryo sessions for $45! Also, if you want to reach me directly my email is jack@halocryo.com.   I love to talk cryo, running, or anything else regarding health and wellness so lets connect.  If you are looking for people to start running with, continue your running with, or train with follow @halocryo on Instagram.  We are connected with some awesome groups that move together to connect, learn, and conversate everyday.  Move & be happy.