No, this is not about some miracle vitamin and mineral enhanced product that will magically cure all soreness and ailments. Have you ever jumped into a hot tub after a long day of practice? Well you might want to wait at least a day or run the risk of increasing inflammation and delaying recovery. The warmth from the hot tub, while it may be relaxing, will increase blood flow to your strained muscles continuing to inflame them and will also dehydrate you even more. Icing is not necessarily the solution either, instead try jumping into your pool the next time you need to cool off after practice.
Swimming is beneficial because it allows you to go through a full range of motion without the pounding or impact of dry land exercise which saves both your joints and muscles while also flushing out lactic acid and actively stretching your muscles. The International Journal of Sports Medicine published a study involving top triathletes who were subjected to near maximal VO2 (90%) interval runs followed by a typical cool down or an active recovery in the pool several hours later. The swim group improved their time to fatigue by as much as 14% because the active recovery and stretch attenuated tissue inflammation. The hydrostatic pressure of the water also keeps the relative heart rate 10-15 reps/minute lower than on land.
If you can’t swim, no worries. Literally any type of movement in the water will benefit you including exercises you would perform on dry land like sprints, high knees, butt kicks, squat jumps and jumping jacks. For those who are a little more aquatically gifted try to mix up different swim strokes to target all possible muscle groups, not forgetting to flutter your legs.
Time and a Place:
While swimming is best immediately post-exercise, there is still a time and a place for the hot tub. Prior to exercise, the increased temperature can dilate your blood vessels and promote healthy blood flow which will help prevent injuries as well as reducing time spent warming up. Often times, Olympic swimmers and divers will be seen spending several minutes prior to their race/attempt in the hot tub to stay warm. After a day or so, once the inflammation in your body has subsided, feel free to jump into the hot tub again to re-dilate your blood vessels and promote oxygen and nutrient absorption in your repairing muscles.