Pre Body Cooling

Dr. GJohn Mullen Dr. John Mullen, Members Leave a Comment

As I work on an extended article on fatigue for Swimming World, I’m encountering unique fatigue prevention methods. The most commonly discussed in the literature is the idea of body cooling.

My current research with fatigue started a few weeks back, but solidified after reading Noakes’ piece on Fatigue is a Brain-Derived Emotion, sent to me by a colleague.

In this piece, Noakes’ mainly discusses the role of the central governor, or as Dr. Ross from the Science of Sport calls the anticipatory regulation of performance. However, a few side theories sprinkled throughout this article were methods to ‘trick’ fatigue.

Local cooling is believed to begun in rehabilitation to prevent swelling and inflammation following exercise. Initially, cooling was performed to the site of exercise; however, the effects on local cooling resulted in sporadic results, potentially from the diverse methodology.

Applied cooling to a joint close to the exercising muscle found increased local muscle reflexes, muscle excitability, and short-term release of neurotransmitters from CNS (Kwon 2010).

Performance is also believed to impair performance by approximately 10%.

Kwon 2010: Repetitions to exhaustion was significantly higher for palm cooling (PC), compared to thermoneutral, and palm heating in bench press. Also, the subsequent (second and third) sets had significantly higher repetitions than the other conditions. The rate of perceived exertion (RPE) was significantly lower in the palm cooling group. The researcher’s concluded PC resulted in an approximate 30% increase in work to be performed.

Duffield 2010: Cyclist performed two 40-minute time trials. In the experimental trial, the group underwent 20-min lower-body cold-water immersion. The experimental group demonstrated significantly greater cycling times, yet differences in time were not noted until the last 10 min of the time trial, by which time no differences in physiological measures were present. However, up until the 20th minute, core, muscle, skin, and body temperatures were lower. No significant differences in heart rate or RPE between conditions, but cycling time was improved in the cooling group.

Arngrïmsson 2004: Runners performed two 5-km runs on a treadmill. The experimental trial worse a cooling vest with ice packs during a 38-min active warm-up. This group had blunted increases in blood temperature, HR, and PRE most noted at the beginning of the run. The experiemental group had improved 5-km running times, with the largest difference noted in the last two-thirds of the race. Time improvements were 1.1%.

Tyler 2011: Eight endurance-trained runners performed two incremental treadmill test to failure. The experimental trial wore a cooling collar with ice around the neck in the warm-up. The mean improvement with the cooling collar was 13.5%.

During exercise, your body increases its recruit of motor units as your fatigue. This results in increased body temperature due to the increased workload.

The combination of a slower rise in core and muscle temperature and a larger blood volume (reduced sweat rate) along with a lowered perception of thermal stress may delay the reduction in voluntary force recruitment.

Cooling may allow individuals to tolerate higher levels of thermal strain, which can enable them to exercise for longer in hot environments.

“It seemed prudent to suggest that the application of the cool might have provided a false signal regarding the body’s thermal strain that allowed a faster pace to be adopted; however, the concept of the false signal was difficult to fully elucidate using a fixed- or known-endpoint performance test model” (Tyler 2011).

The application is swimming is uncertain as body temperatures and performance impairments in swimming haven’t been studied as much as applications in other sports. However, body temperature does rise during a swimming training session (Soler 2003).

However, does this apply to swimming? These studies suggest heat is a contributing factor of fatigue, but do swimmers get as hot as runners, cyclist, uni-cyclist?


  1. Soler R, Echegaray M, Rivera MA. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 May;17(2):362-7. Thermal responses and body fluid balance of competitive male swimmers during a training session.
  2. Siegel R, Laursen PB. Keeping your cool: possible mechanisms for enhanced exercise performance in the heat with internal cooling methods.Sports Med. 2012 Feb 1;42(2):89-98.
  3. Ihsan M, Landers G, Brearley M, Peeling P. Beneficial effects of ice ingestion as a precooling strategy on 40-km cycling time-trial performance. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2010 Jun;5(2):140-51.
  4. Siegel R, Maté J, Brearley MB, Watson G, Nosaka K, Laursen PB. Ice slurry ingestion increases core temperature capacity and running time in the heat. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Apr;42(4):717-25.
  5. Duffield R, Green R, Castle P, Maxwell N. Precooling can prevent the reduction of self-paced exercise intensity in the heat. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Mar;42(3):577-84.
  6. White AT, Davis SL, Wilson TE. Metabolic, thermoregulatory, and perceptual responses during exercise after lower vs. whole bodyprecooling. J Appl Physiol. 2003 Mar;94(3):1039-44
  7. Tyler CJ, Sunderland C. Neck cooling and running performance in the heat: single versus repeated application. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Dec;43(12):2388-95.
  8. Arngrïmsson SA, Petitt DS, Stueck MG, Jorgensen DK, Cureton KJ. J Appl Physiol. 2004 May;96(5):1867-74. Epub 2003 Dec 29. Cooling vest worn during active warm-up improves 5-km run performance in the heat.
  9. Kwon YS, Robergs RA, Kravitz LR, Gurney BA, Mermier CM, Schneider SM. Palm cooling delays fatigue during high-intensity bench press exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Aug;42(8):1557-65.

Written By:

Dr. GJohn Mullen


Dr. GJohn Mullen, DPT, CSCS is a World renowned expert and speaker in sports training and rehabilitation. He received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy at USC, as well as the Josette Antonelli Division Service Scholarship, Order of the Golden Cane, and the Order of Areté. At USC, he also performed research on swimming biomechanics and lung adaptations in swimming training. Dr. GJohn has worked with multiple professional and Olympic athletes, helping them earn Olympic medals.

His dedication to research and individualization spurred him to open COR in 2011. Since 2011, Dr. GJohn has been featured in Gizmodo, Motherboard, Stack Magazine, Swimming World Magazine, Swimmer Magazine, USA Swimming, USA Triathlon, Swimming Science, and much more.

He has worked with the numerous colleges and teams regarding rehab and performance. Before his Doctoral program, Dr. GJohn swam on an athletic scholarship at Purdue University.

At Purdue, Dr. GJohn was an Academic Honorable Mention All-American and was awarded the Red Mackey Award and R. O. Papenguh Award. He also won the Purdue Undergraduate business plan and elevator pitch competition, as well as 1st prize with the Indiana Soy Bean Alliance.

Dr. GJohn was born in Centerville, Ohio and was a 24-time high school All-American Swimmer. Dr. GJohn is still a swimmer and holds a Masters Swimming World and Pacific Swimming Record.

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