The above photos are from our most recent Ice and Heat (Contrast Therapy) experience in Denver at Amy Morrison's home.
In June of 2019, I became an XPT Coach. XPT is an educational and experiential program designed by pro athletes Laird Hamilton and Gabby Reece. I first became interested in XPT after an introduction to it through my dear friend Amy Morrison who was leading breath sessions and ice/heat sessions in Denver. At the time, my background in breath work was more in relation to core engagement, proper use of the diaphragm (one of our respiratory muscles), and use of proper breathing techniques specific to pre and postnatal movement patterns in regards to the prevention and healing of diastasis recti.
My current knowledge of breath work and how to regulate the nervous system greatly stems from my education with XPT. Through their practices and techniques I really became aware of how out of whack most of our nervous systems are, how we are often operating in fight or flight, which is our sympathetic nervous system, and how we are often unaware of such along with how to bring ourselves back into our rest, digest, repair system, or the parasympathetic nervous system.
The importance of nervous system regulation can not be overlooked. This applies to all areas of our lives but for the purpose of a nice, short, condensed blog post, let's focus on fitness. If we are training consistently but not ever entering into our parasympathetic nervous system, instead staying stressed out, over inflammed, broken down, we will never see the results we are seeking. If we are continuously in our sympathetic nervous system, the body never has a chance to repair and rebulid, hence the lack of results.
So we learn how to breathe and we learn how to regulate. We've been doing the breath piece in classes, aiming to ramp our heart rate up during working sets and then using controlled breathing techniques to bring the heart rate back down during our rest periods. This is a great example of taking the body from the sympathetic state back into the parasympathetic state.
So what's with the ice and the heat?
Well, unless you are a rare being, most of us when entering a tub of ice will panic. The ice is a shock to the system, purposefully putting you into a fight of flight response, aka your sympathetic nervous system. Everything in your body will tell you to get out...possibly similar to a tough set in a workout ("Stop this, I can't do this!"), or a stressful situation in life like road rage, arguments, conflict, spirals...
We get into the ice to learn how to regulate. How can you bring yourself back into a calm state of being in the most adverse conditions? Through your breath. Your breath is your greatest tool at regulation. When you enter the ice, everything constricts and breathing feels impossible, similar to a panic attack. But it's not impossible, and you can train your brain and body to know and feel that it is possible. You can regulate, in the most adverse conditions. You are incredible, as is your body, and the ice can help you tap into this and then be able to apply it to other areas of your life.
So what about the heat part, what's that all about?
With XPT, we aim to get you into a sauna that is close to 220 degrees F. Imagine how uncomfortable you get on a 100 degree F day and then double down. One of the points here is to sit with the discomfort and that usually takes 20 minutes or more as you've just come from the ice and your body actually takes a bit to warm back up.
Please keep in mind that contrast therapy has plenty of benefits, from anti-aging to reduced inflammation to reducing depression, but I find the most connection to developing confidence in nervous system regulation and resiliency.
What's to Come?
Eventually, sometime this year, I have a goal of having a sauna and tub set up available to us all here in Boulder. Once that's here, I will run weekend workshops allowing groups to come and have this experience. I may also offer a Contrast Therapy Membership where members can sign up and use these tools throughout the week on their own time after having gone through the practice with me first.
In the meantime, I will be scouting for those interested and getting some dates on the calendar with Amy down in Denver. So if you are interested, let me know!