You’ve seen it before: an Olympic diver climbs the ladder, pauses for a deep breath and takes an artful plunge into the pool below.
But have you noticed what comes afterward? Oftentimes, those Olympians retreat to a nearby hot tub for a quick soak. Our question: why?
According to an article at the Washington Post, there are a couple reasons why divers seek a good soak.
Former Rutgers University diver David Feigley offers a simple reason. Pool water is cold and "Divers don't like cold water." The hot tub doesn’t aid a diver’s performance, but it does provide an opportunity for a diver to “relax and focus,” Feigley says.
The hot tub practice is newer to the sport, Feigley says; when he was co-captain of the Rutgers diving team in 1966, hot tubs were nowhere to be found. After a dive, "I just stood there and shivered," he says.
Ralph Reiff, an athletic trainer and executive director of St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis, also admits the hot tub is an easy way to warm up.
"It's no different from track and field events where the athletes put sweats on and take a jog around the track," Reiff says. "It keeps their muscles limber, and it's certainly part of their mental routine."
Doug Beavers, program director at the Montgomery Dive Club, says hot tubs are especially welcomed in big competitions.
"In a facility with a ton of spectators," he says, it's important to manage the air temperature. "Anticipating the heat from a whole lot of bodies, they drop the air temperature way down, and the pools have water cooler than the divers like." With this in mind, the hot tub is a great way for divers to "keep their muscles warm and loose," especially during events in which an individual's dives may be 20 or 30 minutes apart.
And, of course, there’s the psyche. If a diver uses a hot tub as part of his or her training routine, it’s impetrative to continue the practice at competitions.
"These divers very likely have a hot tub at their normal training facility," Beavers explains, and using it can become a key element of an athlete's competition ritual. Such rituals can help athletes stay focused, despite being in an unfamiliar setting.