Professional triathlete Ben Kanute has big goals for 2024. The three-time national champion has proven to be a formidable competitor across multiple distances, and he has secured his spot on the start line of the 2024 IRONMAN World Championships in Kailua-Kona.
But you don’t get to race with the best of the best without putting in hours of training. For top-level triathletes like Kanute, it can mean spending up to 35 hours of week training across the three disciplines — swimming, biking and running.
And while he’s built for sport and has conditioned his body to handle that level of training, the volume and intensity can lead to fatigue — making recovery paramount to his ability to get in key sessions and show up prepared on race day.
For triathletes, there are myriad ways to recover. Stretching, foam rolling, massage, and hydrotherapy can all be integrated into an athlete’s approach to recovery.
But top-level athletes such as Kanute are advocates for a more immersive approach. And by immersive, we mean getting into a tub of cold water.
Kanute has incorporated a Michael Phelps Chilly GOAT Cold Tub by Master Spas into his daily routine, giving him the physical recovery and mental edge he needs as a pro.
The Chilly GOAT team recently caught up with Kanute to learn more about his cold tub protocol and the benefits of cold water immersion for triathletes.
7 questions with pro triathlete Ben Kanute
The thought of getting into a tub of 50-degree water might give you chills. But for athletes like Ben Kanute, cold water immersion is an opportunity to promote quality recovery in less than 5 minutes a day.
Among the benefits of cold water immersion for athletes are reduced inflammation, pain relief, increased circulation, and flushing out lactic acid.
Did you do ice baths before getting a Chilly GOAT?
“I wasn't able to really do ice baths before the Chilly GOAT,” Kanute says. “To go buy four or five bags of ice and fill the bathtub, it was more work than I wanted to put in.”
Adding, “I’m a dad, and there’s just a lot of stuff going on. To go get the ice and all of that, it just seemed like it was a little bit too out of my way.”
The convenience of the Chilly GOAT is key for Kanute. He only needs to block off 5 minutes out of his day for his cold plunge rather than the 25 to 30 minutes it would take to go get ice, fill his tub, and take an ice bath.
”I know that 365 days a year for, and, years and years to come, this is going to last.”
Do you have a cold tub protocol that you follow?
“When we first got the Chilly GOAT, we set the water temperature to 40 degrees. I was trying to do seven and a half minutes, and I was shivering so hard afterward,” Kanute says.
But as a professional athlete, Kanute is dialed into how his body feels and made some adjustments to his protocol so that he could get the benefits of cold water without going too far past his limits..
“I started to go more for the minimal effective dosing, and so I bumped up the water temperature to 50 degrees. Now, I stay in until I start to feel the first signs of shivering.”
Because he’s focused on the feeling and not the clock, his sessions can last anywhere from three minutes to five minutes.
“Once I get up to a point where I'm in there, where it's starting to feel too long,” Kanute says, “I might bump the temperature down a little.”
But cold water protocols can be about more than just the duration and water temperature. Kanute also prioritizes submerging himself up to his neck and keeping his hands under the water.
As a triathlete, how can a cold tub help with your recovery and performance?
Cold water immersion offers myriad benefits, from reducing inflammation, easing muscle pain, and helping athletes to avoid or at least minimize the soreness.
For Kanute, it helps “get the legs ready for another big day, especially when I’m doing IRONMAN training. When you are doing quite a bit of volume, it helps get your legs ready for the next day overall.”
A bonus: You get that energy rush when you get out of the cold tub, Kanute says.
Many athletes might focus on the physical benefits of doing a cold plunge. Can cold water give you a mental edge, too?
“When you are working out, you push yourself. You put yourself in an uncomfortable position so that it’s more comfortable when you race,” Kanute says.
“Getting into cold water is similar. You are putting yourself in an uncomfortable position, and it gives you that mental edge. You have to break through some of those walls and be uncomfortable and be comfortable being uncomfortable.”
But the benefits for triathletes can go beyond that mental edge. It’s also about learning how to breathe in cold water, which can feel challenging during the start of a race. Kanute says that a cold water routine can help you adapt to cold water, get used to the feeling of cold water on your face, and you’ll learn how to control your breath at the swim start, whether it's cold or not.
“Some people get panic attacks or get flustered when there's a lot of people around them at the swim start,” he says. “And this is a good way to at least train it. I even use my time in the Chilly GOAT as a meditation, just working on the breath and that makes it a little bit better.”
For you, what is key to getting the most benefit from cold water immersion?
“I try to be consistent and get in once a day. Obviously, you don't need to do it once a day to get all the benefits,” Kanute says. “On my easier days, I try to plunge in the morning and start the day off that way. But for my harder days, I hop in the second half of the day. You still get a lot of the physiological benefits of the ice bath even if it's later in the day.”
Have you discovered any unexpected benefits by having a Chilly GOAT Cold Tub?
“Living in the southwest, it’s always important to look for any way you can to conserve water. With the Chilly GOAT Cold Tub, you only have to drain and refill a couple of times a year. In the meantime, you maybe have to top it off every so often — turning on the hose for just like 30 seconds or something.”
Kanute adds, “If you are using a tub for ice baths, though, you are having to refill the bath every single time. That’s anywhere between 40 gallons and 80 gallons of water.”
You’re 6 feet tall. Do you feel comfortable when you are in the Chilly GOAT?
“I definitely feel comfortable in the Chilly GOAT. I can dip my head all the way — no problem. I don’t feel scrunched at all, and I have plenty of room to put my legs underwater,” Kanute says.
The cold tub’s dimensions weren’t just about his own comfort for Kanute. He also wanted it to integrate seamlessly into the design of his backyard.
“It fits perfectly on our patio, and we put it in an area that was underused.”
Choosing the best cold tub
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