The purpose of the present study was to compare the effects of cold water immersion (CWI) and active recovery (ACT) on resting limb blood flow, rectal temperature and repeated cycling performance in the heat. Ten subjects completed two testing sessions separated by 1 week; each trial consisted of an initial all-out 35-min exercise bout, one of two 15-min recovery interventions (randomised: CWI or ACT), followed by a 40-min passive recovery period before repeating the 35-min exercise bout. Performance was measured as the change in total work completed during the exercise bouts. Resting limb blood flow, heart rate, rectal temperature and blood lactate were recorded throughout the testing sessions. There was a significant decline in performance after ACT (mean (SD) −1.81% (1.05%)) compared with CWI where performance remained unchanged (0.10% (0.71%)). Rectal temperature was reduced after CWI (36.8°C (1.0°C)) compared with ACT (38.3°C (0.4°C)), as was blood flow to the arms (CWI 3.64 (1.47) ml/100 ml/min; ACT 16.85 (3.57) ml/100 ml/min) and legs (CW 4.83 (2.49) ml/100 ml/min; ACT 4.83 (2.49) ml/100 ml/min). Leg blood flow at the end of the second exercise bout was not different between the active (15.25 (4.33) ml/100 ml/min) and cold trials (14.99 (4.96) ml/100 ml/min), whereas rectal temperature (CWI 38.1°C (0.3°C); ACT 38.8°C (0.2°C)) and arm blood flow (CWI 20.55 (3.78) ml/100 ml/min; ACT 23.83 (5.32) ml/100 ml/min) remained depressed until the end of the cold trial. These findings indicate that CWI is an effective intervention for maintaining repeat cycling performance in the heat and this performance benefit is associated with alterations in core temperature and limb blood flow.
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