Playing the Hot-Cold Game: Contrast Therapy is on Fire
We’ve shared with you some fantastic spa services tailored to ski lovers, but there’s another treatment we love that loosens the muscles pre-ski — plus, soothes the aches and pains après-ski: hot-cold contrast therapy.
Tradition Revisited: When it’s hot, it’s hot, and when it’s cold, it’s…still hot. The hot-cold contrast therapy experience dates back to more than 2,000 years (the Romans concluded their spa circuit with a trip to the “frigidarium”), and Europeans have welcomed the concept’s health benefits via Kneipp therapy, which involves alternating hot-cold water foot baths, since the mid-18th century. And the therapy is still turning up the heat today; in fact, SpaFinder President Susie Ellis predicted the “Cold and Ice are Hot” trend in the top 10 2012 global spa trends forecast and that means more hot-cold contrast treatments.
The hot-cold contrast therapy is popular in many ski and spa resorts, including northern Michigan’s Solace Spa at Boyne Mountain. The Austrian-inspired property encourages skiers and winter enthusiasts alike to hit the spa before they schuss the slopes. “Just simply warming up the body and muscles before heading out to the cold is recommended,” says Sean Handler, Michigan director of spas/Boyne Resorts. And “whether it’s relaxing by warming up in the hot-cold circuit or getting a full-body massage, all of those pieces will help” to prevent or mollify injury prior to or following a wintry day outdoors, Handler says.
The hot-cold circuit Handler is referring to is Solace Spa’s bathing ritual; the spa taps into its European influences with this self-guided, step-by-step circuit:
- Begin in the purifying steam room
- Take a dip in the soothing whirlpool
- Splash in the stimulating cool shower (some spas, like the ones at ski-in/ski out resorts Montage Deer Valley or Stein Eriksen Lodge, both in Park City, Utah, offer a cold deluge or plunge pool, set at chilly temperatures – yes, we completely agree that it sounds painful, but the benefits are amazing!)
- Unwind in the cedar sauna and refresh with a lavender spritzer
- Duck into a second round in the cool shower (or cold deluge/plunge)
- Conclude in steam room with a moist cold towel
“Do it at your pace and your comfort,” Handler says. “Put that exclamation point on your experience.”
*Note: If you can’t make it to the spa, you can create your own at-home contrast therapy by alternating hot-cold rinses in the shower for a couple minutes at a time.
Soak in the benefits: If a visit to the hot-cold contrast circuit sounds too time-consuming, remember the wellness results — cold/ice applications are proven to reduce pain and inflammation in muscles and joints, and they release endorphins, which are shown to affect pain, mood, etc. Heat also promotes relaxation and detoxification, while cold therapies stimulate circulation. In addition to its healthful benefits, we have to say that partaking in a hot-cold therapy circuit is an excellent way to cap off a spa experience and to spend some extra moments at the spa, rather leaving right after a treatment.
Some spa-goers at spas like the Ritz-Carlton in Vail, Colorado, even take group rolls in the snow after Jacuzzi and sauna time.
Handler’s suggestion to finish the day? After the circuit, warm up some more with a hot toddy drink; the perfect close to a winter day outdoors – and to end an après-ski experience.