By: Jeremy Neisser
After getting back from an arduous, and maybe a very sweaty run nothing feels more refreshing than walking into the shower to rinse off all the grime with some free-flowing water.
In an ideal world we would love to fit in all of the little things like stretching, core, eating, hydrating, and oh yeah, showering, before moving on with our day.
However, in the busy lifestyles that we all have today, taking the time to shower may mean sacrificing other aspects of your routine.
Today we will cover the positives and drawbacks of a hot and cold shower after a run, and include some activities that may better serve your needs instead.
Pros & Cons of Showering After a Run
A general benefit of showering after running can be that it cleans your body of all the odors and sweat that can lead to a buildup of smells or growth of bacteria down the line.
Let’s be honest, no one likes to smell bad, and sometimes running can lead to some different odors that we would all rather not deal with throughout the rest of our day.
Showering obviously cleans your skin and rinses off all of the odor-causing sweat and may fester on your skin. Of course, you should probably change your clothes too…
The next benefit from showering is that it washes off all of the sweat that may possibly fester into bacteria that can cause smells, but also skin irritations, and in some cases infections.
It is of course easy to avoid with some time underwater and soap.
Although there are some comprehensive benefits to showering after a run, one can manipulate these benefits depending on the temperature of your water.
Taking a hot and/or cold shower can offer many benefits as a post-run ritual, and even enhance recovery and health.
Some of these benefits may differ depending on the temperature of the water.
It is no secret that muscles tighten up after a run, showering in warm water post-run can aid in muscle relaxation and enhance your recovery throughout the day.
A 2017 study investigated the effects of heat therapy vs a control group and found that those who treated muscles with some heat therapy saw a small decrease in muscle and joint pain and tightness over the course of a 3 week period. This may suggest that hot showers can aid in muscle soreness over time...and aid in the recovery process.
This means that hot showers can also promote blood flow throughout the body, which means better recovery after your runs.
Taking a hot shower at the end of the day can relax your brain as well as your body, which could improve sleep. Sleep is thought to be one of the most important aids in recovery, which means as runners we need a lot of high-quality sleep. Hot showers seem to aid in this process.
Cold showers can also provide a number of benefits to your body after a run, this could be considered as a mini post-run ice bath, which has some proven benefits in terms of recovery.
The first benefit of cold water showers is the decrease in inflammation across the body. Inflammation is the body’s natural healing response to strenuous exercise.
It also aids in the recovery process, but the body often overcompensates with too much of it, which can slow the recovery process between physical activity.
Compounding inflammation can lead to injuries down the line, so mindfully decreasing it can often help manage the build-up and lead to faster muscle recovery. Cold showers are a sensible method to accomplish this goal.
Along those same lines, inflammation also leads to increased muscle soreness, which can decrease performance further adaptation.
Cold showers could aid in managing muscle soreness as well by decreasing inflammation in these sore areas of the body.
Furthermore, cold showers can decrease cortisol levels throughout the body. Cortisol is the body’s natural stress hormone that releases for a number of reasons including running and other physical activities.
Build up of cortisol over time can lead to stress responses that may cause injury or burnout. Cold showers may help lower cortisol levels and keep you in the game for longer, so why not give it a try!
How long should I wait to shower after a run?
As a general rule, it is best to wait approximately 20 minutes after you run to take a shower. This allows your heart rate to decrease and your body to cool down. Taking a shower before the 20 minute mark can create a feeling of overheating and additional sweating while in the shower.
Should I take a cold shower after a workout?
It is recommended to take a cold shower after a workout. Cold showers provide the benefits of muscle relaxation and the cold water constraints the blood vessels helping with recovery.
For all of the positives of showering after a run, there are some tradeoffs for taking the time to shower if you are too busy to fit other important things into your post-run routine.
The first drawback of showering post-run is that it can interfere with time to take care of the “little things” like stretching, core, eating and rehydrating.
Of course, it is important to stretch after a run to make sure all of your muscles will not get too tight over the course of the next few hours.
Neglecting to stretch over time can lead to tightness which can lead to imbalances, immobility, form breakdown, and oh yeah, injuries.
There is no doubt that its important to get a solid and quick stretch in after your run, so try to fit this in before your muscles cool down too much. Your body will thank you for it.
This does not have to be a long session, just five minutes of hitting the major muscle groups like calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. One minute stretch for each of these groups can have a tremendously positive impact over time.
As a runner, exercising your core muscles is pretty much a non-negotiable, as it will definitely aid in performance and form improvements.
Often times runners will do a little core workout after a run to cool down and strengthen at the same time. Going right into the shower can often lead to neglecting such an activity, and that seems like a bad habit.
Bottom line, try to get a little core in a couple of days a week, even if its at the expense of a shower.
Finally, eating and rehydrating after a run is vital for recovery. Most research suggests that you should take in some carbs and protein no more than 30 minutes after physical activity for optimal recovery.
Showering can interfere with this window of time, so make sure to grab and bite and sip of something before hopping into the shower and getting on with the rest of your day.
The bright side is that these activities are not mutually exclusive, and you can fit everything in if your time management is good.
Pros & Cons of Showering After a Run - Wrap-UP
In the end, taking a shower after your run offers a lot of positives in terms of muscle recovery, improved sleep, and washing away sweat and odors. These all mean that it is probably worth hopping in for a rinse off after a good run.
It is worth experimenting with both hot and cold water in the shower, as they both offer some benefits and it would be good to see what works best for you as an individual.
Just make sure not to neglect all of the other important little things that you can do after your run in favor of a shower, there is time for everything over the course of a day or week, and it all makes a difference in terms of staying healthy for your next run.
Hi, Jeremy Here,
I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journey. About Jeremy.
I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods
Last update on 2023-09-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API