Self Maintenance: The Epsom Salts Bath
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Self Maintenance: The Epsom Salts Bath

by Cary Bland at 5:11 PM EST   comments
Categories: Training, Preparation, and Health, General
 

Self Maintenance Activity Of The Month

In my role as a VeloNation "Ask The Pro" Advisor, I hope to share information with the VeloNation cycling community that is of practical benefit to each of you. This may be a stretching exercise, a self massage technique, or a handy self-care activity that is useful for an athlete's "bag of tricks". Such things can help make post-activity recovery quicker, warm-up more effective, and help prevent injury.

Today's self-maintenance activity is the Epsom Salts Bath. This is one of my favorite self-maintenance activities, and it's also one of the easiest. It doesn't require much effort - you just sit in the bath tub. You don't have to go any place special - just your bathroom. It doesn't cost much - about a buck per bath. And it makes you feel good!

Simply run a hot bath as hot as you can comfortably stand it, adding about two cups of Epsom Salts, or magnesium sulfate, ( obtained at your local CVC or Safeway ) to the running water. Soak in the bath about 1/2 hour, depending on how you tolerate the heat.

I suggest drinking a bottle of water during the bath because it tends to dehydrate your body. When you are done, CAREFULLY get up and allow yourself to regain your equilibrium. ( If you jump up quickly, you can get dizzy because of blood pooling). Lie down and cover up with a towel until you stop sweating - then shower off to wash the residue from your skin. You are now officially a wet noodle, good for nothing but sitting around and vegging out in front of the TV, or going to sleep. You're Done!

In hydrotherapy, a hot Epsom Salts Bath is called a Cleansing Bath because it assists in speeding the removal of waste products from the soft tissues and cleanses the tissues of these irritants. It is a rather simple process, whereby the Epsom Salts make the water hypertonic - that is to say, there is a greater concentration of solute in the bath water than in your body. When you soak in this bath, it has the effect of drawing the waste products out of your tissues - it speeds the removal of irritating waste products from your body. Essentially, it makes you sweat , and sweating is one of the main ways the body gets rid of waste products. So, the hot bath is generally relaxing and the Epsom Salts help to speed up the removal of waste products from the tissues of your body. Thus, eliminating a source of irritation that serves to make muscle tissues tight and sore. Not bad, huh? A fair amount of bang for your buck!

A couple of things to remember...

First, taking a hot Epsom Salts Bath tends to drain your body, so you would NOT want to do this the night before a race. You do this after a significant effort where there may be a build up of lactate in your muscle tissues or, for instance, after getting a massage where waste products have been liberated from tight muscles and are circulating in your system in unusually high concentrations. Taking a hot Epsom Salts Bath helps aid recovery by speeding up the process of eliminating toxic irritants from your body faster than your body would otherwise be able to process and clear this "junk" from your system.

So, it would be better to do this the night before a recovery day when it is not as critical that you may be feeling a little wiped out having gone through the cleansing process. Going out for an easy spin is an appropriate workout following the day of the hot bath.

Second, some people don't do hot baths well - for instance, pregnant women or persons with certain heart problems. They know who they are. But generally, most people tolerate the bath well.

I suggest that you can include this self maintenance task once a week. It can make a noticeable impact on the way you feel, in a positive way. So give it a try, it may become a habit!

Yours in good health,
Cary Bland LMT,NMT

Cary Bland has been a massage therapist for 25 years and a competitive athlete for over 30 yrs.  Over the years, Cary has worked with a number of national level cycling teams including a stint at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs with the US National Cycling Team. He combines Sports Massage and Active Isolated Stretching with Neuromuscular Massage Therapy to help athletes overcome their soft tissue injuries and painful conditions. Visit his website at www.cbmassage.com, or ask him a question here on VeloNation.

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