Guest Post By: Keeling Taylor, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Blackbelt & Judo Blackbelt
Anyone who has ever stepped on a mat can tell you that they get beat up. Whether it’s wrestling, Judo, or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, us grapplers incur a lot of injuries in our pursuit of learning to take down, throw, and twist our opponents into submission. But when you get done training and you’re feeling all the aches and pains of grappling, what’s the first thing that people will tell you to do? “Ice it!” But what if your entire body hurts? What if you don’t have access to a bathtub and 20 kilos of ice? What options do you have?
What’s that? Cryotherapy is the application of extreme cold temperature to the entire body. We’re talking about temperatures as low as 140 below zero! You’re probably thinking that a person who will stand in a chamber at -140°F (-95°C) must be crazy… and you’re right, but not for the reasons you think. They are crazy about the incredible benefits that they experience from the 5 minutes they must endure the cold.
What benefits could you possibly get from freezing your ass off for the length of a good song? The answer to that is simple. Cold therapy has been used by humans for reducing inflammation and pain since the first caveman fell into an icy river. Your body, when exposed to extremely cold temperatures, reacts by activating the ancient survival mechanisms programmed into it.
The first thing that happens is that all your blood is drawn towards the core to protect the vital organs and keep them warm. When this happens, the tissues constrict and therefore any inflammation and fluid built up in the tissues is also vastly reduced. An immune response is also activated. The bloodstream is enriched with oxygen and anti-inflammatory proteins, as well as other biochemicals designed to help your body fight off any risk it senses to its survival. The metabolism is revved up to create warmth in the core, burning up energy sources most available before moving to the lesser available sources. The brain also reacts by releasing neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and adrenaline into the bloodstream which not only make you feel better but also trigger your body’s fight or flight program. This program consists of an increase in blood-flow to the muscular tissues, the increase in availability of fatty tissues for use in energy production, and increased blood pressure overall which means blood is delivered more quickly to the inflamed tissues.
Lots of stuff is happening.
So what does this all mean to the grappler who just wants to roll and not feel beat up all the time? In simple terms the pain goes away, you burn fat, feel energized, supercharge your blood, and just feel better overall. I can personally attest to these benefits. As a former wrestler, a judo player, and a jiu jitsu player, I have had my fair share of injuries. Popped elbows, twisted knees, rolled ankles, sore fingers, cauliflower ear, and the list goes ever on. All of these things can be helped with the use of cryotherapy. And when you feel better you can train more and roll harder.
The next question is whether to do it before or after training. The answer to that is a little more personal. I prefer to do my cryo sessions before stepping on the mat. The reason is simple, to optimize the way I function before I need to perform. Does that mean that doing cryo after training will not be as effective? Absolutely not… What it does mean is that you will feel the inflammation and stiffness in your joints and tissues during your training. For me, I like to step on the mat feeling my best — energized, loose, and as pain free as possible. That’s what I tell all the athletes that I speak with about cryo.
If you are grappling on a fairly regular basis and haven’t considered cryotherapy it would do you go to start thinking about how you can take yourself to the next level. Without a doubt you will feel the benefits after your very first experience. Some of the best combative athletes in the world are using cryo to improve their performance, be UFC fighters or jiu jitsu world champions. Cryo might just be the thing you need to take you into the next phase of your grappling career. Give it a shot and see for yourself.