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How Two-Time CrossFit Games Champ Justin Medeiros Uses Heat and Cold Exposure to Optimize His Recovery

Redwood Outdoors' saunas, cold plunges, and equipment help Medeiros recover to compete at the highest level of CrossFit.

What is your training recovery program? Do you hit your macronutrients, stay hydrated, eat enough protein, and get sufficient quality sleep? Those are all essential components to hitting the gym harder and harder consistently. Cover those bases, and you’ll see progress. There are, however, extra steps that you can take to further strengthen your recovery game — and many elite athletes are way ahead of the curve.

Sauna and cold plunge use can be a potent combo to regenerate the body for additional training. Redwood Outdoors, based in Tukwila, WA, is a premiere designer of saunas, cold plunges, and other apparatuses that help athletes and fitness enthusiasts improve their recovery. Redwood Outdoors’ product range helps top athletes across the US perform at their peak.

The scientific community believes in the benefits of saunas and cold plunges for athletes. Two-time CrossFit Games champion Justin Medeiros is a big believer in Redwood Outdoors. He spoke with BarBend about the sauna and cold plunge setup he has at his home gym. Check it out below:

Redwood Outdoors Saunas
Redwood Outdoors Saunas
Redwood Outdoors Saunas

Redwood Outdoors offers six different types of outdoor saunas that feature cedar, thermowood, classic barrel, porch barrel, panorama, and cube designs. Additionally, they offer accessories for those saunas, such as chairs, heaters, hot tubs, and more.

[Related: What Are Hang Lifts in Weightlifting? Plus, How to Use Them for More Strength]

How Justin Medeiros Uses Heat and Cold Exposure

Saunas and cold plunges were not always the norm for the two-time reigning Fittest Man on Earth®, Justin Medeiros, who, at 23 years old, is already establishing a winning dynasty in the Sport of Fitness. He discovered the benefits of heat and cold exposure after qualifying for his first CrossFit Games in 2020; he took third to Samuel Kwant and Mat Fraser

Since then, Medeiros regularly uses his Redwood Outdoors’ outdoor sauna and cold plunge, a much-needed reprieve, he tells BarBend, from the endless AMRAPs of muscle-ups and heavy thrusters in the gym. With the 2023 CrossFit Open — the start of the season — set to start in mid-February, the reigning Individual Men’s champion says his current routine consists of cold and heat exposure three to four times per week.

“I usually do one to two rounds of fire and ice; 15 minutes in the heat and two and a half minutes in the cold,” Medeiros says, jesting that “it’s been really nice to talk other people into using it with me.”

Behind most great athletes are successful coaches, and for Medeiros’, that man is Jesse Bifano — the owner of Squamish Barbell and strength coach to elite athletes like Medeiros, Ellie Turner, BMX racer Teigen Pascual, and combat athletes. 

It was Bifano who turned the then up-and-coming CrossFitter onto the brutally beneficial combination of heating up and then plunging into sub-40-degree (Fahrenheit) water (more on those benefits below). 

I just feel more recovered, especially during Games training season. At this level, the one-percents matter. 

When asked if he felt his competition in the elite Individual Men’s division was leaving training equity on the table by not adopting a sauna and cold plunge protocol into their recovery routines, Medeiros cheekily responded, “Shhhhh…”

Although Medeiros faces a ton of pressure as CrossFit’s reigning champ, he takes comfort in knowing he is putting in the work and doing all the “right things” with his support team. He tries not to think about matching the dynasties of those who sat atop CrossFit’s throne before him, like four-time champ Rich Froning Jr. or five-time champ Mat Fraser, who Medeiros succeeded, and takes things one year at a time.

[Consistency] is the name of the game in CrossFit.

Medeiros is notorious for his jack-of-all-trades qualities on the competition floor. There isn’t any one discipline he excels in more than the rest of the competitive field. He’s consistent across all of them, as represented by finishing in seventh place or better in 12 of the 14 events at the 2022 CrossFit Games. His elite-quality recovery is a significant part of what enables him to remain successful at such a high level.

In the sport of CrossFit, the game is about who can recover the best. It’s been awesome to have Redwood Outdoors deck out my home recovery. 

Redwood Outdoors Cold Plunges
Redwood Outdoors Cold Plunges
Redwood Outdoors Cold Plunges

Redwood Outdoors offers cold plunges, tubs, and chillers. They can be purchased as individual pieces or as full kits to help with recovery after training.

[Related: The Single-Leg Deadlift Is the Best Pulling Accessory You’re Not Doing]

Benefits of Saunas

Saunas offer myriad benefits backed by scientific research. What’s more nuanced is how deeply those benefits go, literally. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “the physiological benefits that sauna bathing offers are observable at the cellular level and in the whole organism, and these benefits can already be experienced after a single sauna bathing session.” (1)

Furthermore, observational, interventional, and mechanistic studies have shown “short-term passive exposure to high temperatures” has “emerged as a probable means to extend healthspan.” 

Lowers Risk of Fatal Heart Disease

Risks of fatal heart decrease significantly with increased sauna usage. Using a sauna two to three times per week can lower that risk by 23 percent, and upping the ante to four to seven times per week lowers that same risk by 48 percent. Medeiros’ 15 minutes in his sauna three to four times per week is right in the middle of that range. (2)(3)

Can Reduce Headache Intensity

Other benefits of sauna bathing include potentially improving headache intensity for those who suffer from chronic headaches, a staggering 78 percent reduction in psychosis development, potentially helpful in aiding psoriasis, and faster recovery for hydrating the skin. (4)

Increase Endurance

More specifically for athletes looking to improve their recovery post-workout, sauna use has been linked to increased run time and endurance. A clinical trial in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that those who used a sauna after training increased their run times by 32 percent versus those who did not — a 1.9 percent improvement in overall endurance by comparison. The rationale for the improvement was the sauna’s impact of increasing plasma and red-cell blood volume by 7.1 percent. (5)

Redwood Outdoors Saunas
Redwood Outdoors Saunas
Redwood Outdoors Saunas

Redwood Outdoors offers six different types of outdoor saunas that feature cedar, thermowood, classic barrel, porch barrel, panorama, and cube designs. Additionally, they offer accessories for those saunas, such as chairs, heaters, hot tubs, and more.

[Related: 5 Tips to Improve Your Recovery Between Intense Workouts]

Benefits of Cold Plunges

Like saunas, cold plunges, also known as cold water immersion, can be beneficial for recovery. According to the Journal of Physiology, “cold water immersion consistently improves perceptions of fatigue and muscle soreness and enhances recovery of muscle function/performance…and reduces clinical signs of inflammation such as limb swelling/oedema following exercise.” (6)(7)(8)(9)

Faster Recovery After Training

Cold water immersion usage can aid in quicker recovery, making it a valuable tool for functional fitness athletes like Medeiros, who need to recover quickly between training sessions or days-long competitions like the CrossFit Games. (10)

Medeiros seems to incorporate optimal usage of cold water immersion by using his cold plunge for short periods. His two-minute sessions align with the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine findings, which state that cold water immersion for “short and medium times” is better “for the management of muscle soreness” after endurance exercises. (11)

Redwood Outdoors Cold Plunges
Redwood Outdoors Cold Plunges
Redwood Outdoors Cold Plunges

Redwood Outdoors offers cold plunges, tubs, and chillers. They can be purchased as individual pieces or as full kits to help with recovery after training.

[Related: How Body Conditioning Can Burn Fat and Boost Your Work Capacity]

Recover Better

If you want to level up your training, it’s possible that the greatest opportunity for improvement is via your recovery routine. The quality of training and your training frequency could be leveled up through the recovery improvements offered by saunas and cold plunges.

Although Justin Medeiros is the Fittest Man on Earth®, the tools he uses to reach that level of fitness aren’t any different than anyone else who trains. By his own admission, he and his team have a plan, he puts in the work, and he stays consistent. In essence, Medeiros is a prime example of how a quality recovery routine has tremendous value for those who routinely train.

So, be like Medeiros, and recover better. Redwood Outdoors’ saunas and cold plunges could be tools that help you get there.

About Redwood Outdoors

Redwood Outdoors is a premier supplier of saunas, cold plunges, and other recovery that helps top athletes across the US perform at their peak. Shop online and have your new recovery setup delivered anywhere in the US, or shop in person at the Seattle showroom. Take your training to the next level with a fire & ice combo from Redwood Outdoors.

References

  1. Henderson, K. N., Killen, L. G., O’Neal, E. K., & Waldman, H. S. (2021). The Cardiometabolic Health Benefits of Sauna Exposure in Individuals with High-Stress Occupations. A Mechanistic Review. International journal of environmental research and public health18(3), 1105. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18031105
  2. Patrick, R. P., & Johnson, T. L. (2021). Sauna use as a lifestyle practice to extend healthspan. Experimental gerontology154, 111509. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exger.2021.111509
  3. van der Wall E. E. (2015). Sauna bathing: a warm heart proves beneficial. Netherlands heart journal : monthly journal of the Netherlands Society of Cardiology and the Netherlands Heart Foundation23(5), 247–248. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12471-015-0676-7
  4. Laukkanen, J., Laukkanen, T., & Kunutsor, S. (2018). Cardiovascular and Other Health Benefits of Sauna Bathing: A Review of the Evidence. Mayo Clinic Proceedings93(8), 1111-1121. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2018.04.008
  5. Scoon, G. S., Hopkins, W. G., Mayhew, S., & Cotter, J. D. (2007). Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners. Journal of science and medicine in sport10(4), 259–262. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2006.06.009
  6. Stanley, J., Buchheit, M., & Peake, J. M. (2012). The effect of post-exercise hydrotherapy on subsequent exercise performance and heart rate variability. European journal of applied physiology112(3), 951–961. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-011-2052-7
  7. Leeder, J., Gissane, C., van Someren, K., Gregson, W., & Howatson, G. (2012). Cold water immersion and recovery from strenuous exercise: a meta-analysis. British journal of sports medicine46(4), 233–240. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2011-090061
  8. Roberts, L. A., Nosaka, K., Coombes, J. S., & Peake, J. M. (2014). Cold water immersion enhances recovery of submaximal muscle function after resistance exercise. American journal of physiology. Regulatory, integrative and comparative physiology307(8), R998–R1008. https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpregu.00180.2014
  9. Peake, J. M., Roberts, L. A., Figueiredo, V. C., Egner, I., Krog, S., Aas, S. N., Suzuki, K., Markworth, J. F., Coombes, J. S., Cameron-Smith, D., & Raastad, T. (2017). The effects of cold water immersion and active recovery on inflammation and cell stress responses in human skeletal muscle after resistance exercise. The Journal of physiology595(3), 695–711. https://doi.org/10.1113/JP272881
  10. Higgins, T. R., Greene, D. A., & Baker, M. K. (2017). Effects of Cold Water Immersion and Contrast Water Therapy for Recovery From Team Sport: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Journal of strength and conditioning research31(5), 1443–1460. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000001559
  11. Batista, N. P., de Carvalho, F. A., Machado, A. F., Micheletti, J. K., & Pastre, C. M. (2023). What Parameters Influence the Effect of Cold-Water Immersion on Muscle Soreness? An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Clinical journal of sport medicine : official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine33(1), 13–25. https://doi.org/10.1097/JSM.0000000000001081