Background Training recovery is vital for adaptation and performance, and to avoid cumulative fatigue and symptoms associated with overtraining. The use of cold-water immersion (CWI) as a recovery strategy is common; however, the physiological and biochemical rationale behind its use remains unclear. This study aimed to assess the relationship between body temperature responses to water immersion and individual perception of recovery, with subsequent exercise performance.
Methods Twelve male rugby players participated in a 3-week cross-over trial where an intense 60 min conditioning session was followed immediately by 15 min of either 14°C CWI, 30°C warm-water immersion (WWI) or passive control (CON) recovery intervention. Postexercise body temperatures and subjective ratings of the recovery intervention were recorded and subsequently related to performance in a 5×40 m repeated sprint protocol undertaken 24 h later.
Results CWI induced large reductions in core body temperature postimmersion (effect size (ES) range 1.05–3.21) and improved subsequent sprint performance compared to WWI (ES 1.04±0.84) and CON (ES 1.44±0.84). Both the degree of temperature decrease at 60 min postimmersion (r=0.6948; p=0.0121) and the subjective rating of the recovery intervention (r=0.5886; p=0.0441) were related to subsequent sprint performance. A very strong linear correlation was observed when these two factors were integrated (r=0.7743; p=0.0031).
Conclusion A combination of physiological and psychological indices provides an improved indication of subsequent performance and suggests an important role of individual perception in enhancing training recovery.
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