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Float Tanks and the Elite Athlete

14 February 2020, by i-sopod

Floating or flotation is a technique by which a person floats in a dense Epsom salt solution in a specially designed sensory deprivation tank that reduces light and sound whilst ensuring that the water and air temperatures are similar to that of the surface of the skin.

It is an incredible and highly effective way of relaxing and relieving stress and it is becoming a more widely accepted treatment that is used by numerous world-renowned athletes to aid recovery, improve performance and to treat various sports-related conditions.

Cumulative Effects

What is notable is the fact that the positive effects of floatation are cumulative – the more frequently you float, the more you benefit. After several float sessions users frequently comment how they find floating helps in all aspects of their lives. Sportspeople from various disciplines use this experience to optimise the effects of their training routines, manage fatigue and speed-up their recovery from sports injuries.

Which Athletes use Floatation Therapy?

Whilst floatation has been around for quite some time, it is more known in some sports than others. Commonly we see floatation being widely used within the following sports:

• Long distance runners
• Tennis
• American Football
Basketball
• Soccer
• Cross fit athletes
MMA fighters
• Pregnant women (If you are carrying a baby you should be considered an athlete!)

The Benefits of using a Float Tank in Sport

As a matter of fact, the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) sees flotation tank use as integral to the training regimes that their elite athletes follow. The benefits of using flotation tanks are:

• Accelerates the recovery from injury
• Increases energy (ATP)
• Ideal space for visualisation
• Boosts the immune system
• Reduces Lactic acid levels in the body
• Facilitates rest
• Decreases fatigue

In the floatation tank, the reduced effect of gravity is a big factor. The complete relaxation that it provides gives all the muscles the much-needed break they need. The benefits are truly impressive. Whilst using the tank, every muscle in the body gets the rest it needs and the time to recover. Though you may feel that lying in bed or a sofa might have the exact same effect, the fact is that gravity is still at work and this adds stress to many parts of the body.

Furthermore, Epsom salts are a combination of magnesium and sulphate – a muscle relaxant and a protein builder for your joints. Not only can you truly decompress in the float tank, you absorb the minerals whilst you float directly into your muscles, allowing you to be noticeably less tense as soon as soon as you leave the pod!

Recovery Time Frame

Injury recovery time is significantly reduced through the use of flotation tanks. Since floating in the water that has high concentrations of Epsom salt reduces the stresses of gravity, the weight and pressure is taken off strained muscles, joints and bones. This increases the efficiency of the blood circulation right through the body, and helps to accelerate recovery time after injury.

When we use the float pod, the Parasympathetic Nervous System takes over and gets to work reversing the ‘flight or fight’ stress response, counteracting its effects. This relaxes the mind and takes your body on a healing journey back to a balanced state of homeostasis, known as the Relaxation Response. It is in this state where we have a tremendous capacity to sustain health and function at optimum levels both physically and mentally.

Sports Performance Improvement

Athletes that use float therapy in combination with visualisation techniques experience a very significant improvement in their performances. As the person’s brain transitions into a theta state, it becomes much more open to suggestion. The CNS (central nervous system) can essentially be effectively trained to produce ‘perfect performance’. Today a number of top athletes across Australia and the U.S use this technique to relax and up their performance in their chosen sport.

Working Against Gravity

While floating, gravity pressure to the entire body is reduced putting it in to a higher state of physical relaxation. Blood pressure and oxygen intake reduces whilst blood flow and distribution of red blood cells increases. These combined effects are especially beneficial to athletes, as it speeds the recovery from injury and assists in flushing-out cortisol, lactate and adrenaline that might have built-up either via training or performance.

Reduces Injury Risk

Floatation loosens the muscles and gives athletes a higher degree of control in their nervous systems. In effect, this reduces injury risk during training / competition. Floatation accelerates the athlete’s recovery process and releases quantities of endorphins (the body’s natural pain relief).
By being in an environment that facilitates sensory isolation, which is another component of floatation, the athlete truly has the space to reach the level of concentration required to have a tangible effect on his / her performance. Many modern training methods are focused on helping athletes master their “inner game” and assist in developing perfect synchronicity between body, mind and emotion, and where better to find yourself than in a setting that is designed to help you do exactly that?

Floatation is also used by many people in helping them identify areas of tension that they were not previously aware of. Many people report being able to have a sense of a certain body part, “looking at themselves from a different perspective and without distraction” whilst floating, drawing attention to an area that they can then go to their health practitioner of choice for further diagnosis. You might have a knee that aches, but when you float you might realise that it’s your ankle that’s causing the problem.

So, in summary: the benefits you gain from floatation tanks are improved physical health and mental health. Effective floatation practice will assist natural processes within the body to occur in a more dynamic and appropriate manner, helping you to be happier, healthier and less stressed.