The rise of cooling strategies for performance and why they should be a part of every gym offering

The search for athletic performance gains is moving from elite athletes into the mainstream, with cold therapy being a prime example. We spoke with Colin Edgar, Managing Director of CET, a leading global supplier of cooling tech for sports recovery to elite sports teams including Team GB, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Colin has also experimented with the use of cooling technology as a performance enhancer during training and in this context has invented the CoreTx, a portable palm cooling device set to make it easy for gyms to incorporate ground-breaking cooling technology onto the gym floor.

We spoke to Colin about:

  • How palm cooling technology can benefit the average gym goer
  • The exciting developments in this area
  • Why every gym should consider cooling technology as part of their offering

Why are cold treatments used by athletes?

It’s been standard practice for some decades to use ice baths post-match or post training to aid recovery. You will also regularly see ice packs applied immediately to a sprain pitch-side. The application of cold reduces inflammation and speeds up the healing effect. Ice baths in particular drive the blood back to the core, where the organs can deal with the exercise induced chemicals that are in the blood. Furthermore, exercising vigorously can cause micro-tears in the tissue that require healing, and the use of cold therapy will accelerate this without inhibiting the body’s natural healing processes.

In comparison if anti-inflammatories are used, the inflammation will be dealt with, and they will help prevent hypoxic injury (the secondary damage caused by too much inflammation), but you will also inhibit the body’s natural healing processes.

Can cooling technology benefit the average gym goer?

Cold therapy can benefit everyone who uses it, from athletes to the non-sporting community. The evolution of technology in ice baths and cryotherapy has made it more accessible, and rising popularity of people like Wim Hof raising awareness of the benefits of cold therapy has really thrust it into the mainstream spotlight.

However, the benefits of cooling strategies are no longer limited to recovery, with the latest innovations in palm cooling technology showing incredible performance benefits when utilised during exercise across a range of fitness abilities.

The CoreTx GO palm cooling device has been specifically designed to boost exercise performance by delaying fatigue, with research also showing incredible benefits for overweight, sedentary populations. At Stanford University, research was conducted on obese, sedentary women and over a 12-week training period the group using palm cooling achieved significantly greater fitness improvements, lost more weight and had lower dropout rates than the control group – which did the same programme but without palm cooling

How does palm cooling differ from cryotherapy/ice baths?

Cryotherapy and ice baths are generally used after exercise to enhance post-exercise recovery or post trauma recovery.

In contrast, the use of periodic CoreTx palm cooling during a training session can boost performance at the time of application. The original research carried out on behalf of the DARPA – the research wing for the US Military, at Stanford University by Professor Craig Heller and others, focused on managing heat stress in challenging environments. Proving beneficial to improving performance in severe heat.

However, it was also discovered that palm cooling had an incredible effect on delaying fatigue, enabling increased work capacity, making it ideal for a strength & conditioning or sports application. By delaying fatigue, athletes are able to achieve a greater capacity of work, thereby leading to significantly improved results.

How does the CoreTx GO technology work?

The principle behind palm cooling focuses on the special blood vessels in glabrous (non-hairy) skin i.e. the palms of the hands where there is no hair. In these areas you have arteriovenous anastomoses (AVA’s) that connect arteries directly to veins. By cooling the blood flowing through the palms the temperature rise that occurs in the body during exercise can be delayed and delay fatigue. During weight training, the activated muscles can rise in temperature and enzymes in the muscles will begin to inhibit performance. So the cooling can have a moderating effect on core or muscle temperature.

The alternative explanation for delaying fatigue is neural, and in reality it is likely a combination of the two is taking place when cooling the palms. The cooling impacts the Central Nervous System which controls the number of motor units recruited. Each of these motor units is connected to a number of muscle fibres, and as more muscle fibres are stimulated and contract, your work capacity increases. It’s important to note that palm cooling requires very a specific temperature, as too cold and it will cause distal vasoconstriction and the benefits won’t be realised. The CoreTx technology consists of a digitally controlled chiller which delivers the ideal temperature to the cooling cup.

Is this technology being used anywhere currently?

The CoreTx GO is our latest development and has been going through rigorous testing over the last few months. We have been working with Matt Lawrence (MSc Sports Science, and a physio for Team GB at London 2012) from CrossFit2012 gym near London and gathered a lot of data. Matt and a number of his gym members have been trialling the device and we have now a lot of data demonstrating significant performance improvements across the board, in a wide range of exercises.

How can cooling technology benefit operators?

From a member’s point of view, seeing significantly greater results – be it in performance or weight loss, is incredibly rewarding and motivating. As previously mentioned, the study utilising a palm cooling intervention on weight-loss not only showed enhanced results but showed a significantly lower drop-out rate. Likewise, if members are seeing their lifting numbers going up, seeing improved gains and feeling better about their training then they are more likely to keep coming back. Operators can use palm cooling to improve members results, but also improve member retention rates at the same time. Over time happier gym members will translate into increased recruitment of new members as positive news in social media kicks in.

From a performance and recovery point of view, we’ve seen a consistent drip down of technology come from professional sport into the mainstream consumer market. We have already seen high-performance training facilities and premium gyms begin to integrate things like hypobaric chambers to simulate altitude training, cryotherapy chambers for recovery, infrared saunas etc. I believe that this will continue to increase, and although the highest calibre training facilities will lead the way in terms of integrating innovative technology, it will continue to trickle down to regular gyms and studios.

To find out more about CoreTx visit: CoreTxCooling.com

Posted in Fit-tech, Gyms & Clubs, Interviews.