As an athlete, there are so many boxes to check when it comes to succeeding in your respective field: athletic performance, focus, confidence, adequate recovery, and a sense of perseverance to keep pushing even when you want to quit.
The pressure to perform at a certain level consistently, while also improving your skills and staying sharp can get overwhelming and distracting, which is why it’s imperative to prioritize your health through proper recovery and training techniques.
Athletes have been openly using flotation tanks for over a decade. However, it isn’t until recently that they’ve really risen in popularity.
Float pods were initially developed by Dr. John Lilly for mental health purposes in the 1950s.
The tanks were made available commercially in the 1970s. So, it’s safe to say they’ve been around for a while. Numerous studies have been conducted since then touting the benefits for the average Joe and athletes alike.
Why You May Want to Try Flotation Therapy
Stress has become a huge issue in our society, whether it’s keeping people from work, causing burnout, contributing to illness, affecting athletic performance, reducing productivity, or encouraging rampant anxiety and depression.
Between the pressure to produce and succeed, in addition to all of the technology sapping our energy, it’s imperative for us to find ways to relax and recharge.
This can be especially true for athletes who need to function at their highest level a lot of the time. This is where flotation therapy comes in. Studies have shown that sensory deprivation facilitated by an isolation tank can promote feelings of well-being, improve mood, reduce muscle tension, and promote relaxation.
Professional and Olympic athletes have expressed that using this type of relaxation therapy has contributed to their athletic performance in positive ways. From basketball players and gymnasts to football players and Olympic fencers, these flotation devices have proven to be highly beneficial for decreasing stress, muscle tension, and enhancing overall performance both mentally and physically.
Professional sports teams like:
- Arizona Cardinals
- Denver Broncos
- Chicago Cubs
- Miami Dolphins
Have already made flotation therapy convenient for their athletes to take advantage of by providing float pods in their training facilities.
While some people appreciate the deeply meditative state that it can help induce, athletes tend to value floating for sport psychology benefits as well. These consist of things such as:
- Visualization techniques to improve performance
- Enhanced confidence for competition
- Future athletic performance imagery
What Is It and How Does It Work
Float pods promote deep relaxation through REST, or restricted environmental stimulation therapy, which is also known as sensory deprivation therapy. This type of therapy minimizes sensory input, meaning it dampens light, sound, smells and touch by up to 90 percent in order to create a peaceful, and minimally stimulating environment to encourage rest and relaxation.
When you’re in a float tank, pod or room, your body floats in warm water that is supposed to match or be slightly higher than your body temperature so as to decrease the feeling of actually being in a tank and create a sense of weightlessness so that it feels like you’re just floating freely. The water is generally around approximately 93 degrees Fahrenheit.
This buoyancy is facilitated through the addition of over 800 lbs of Epsom salt added to 200 gallons of water or more. It gives the water a very silky feel and also helps you to float effortlessly along the top of the water, regardless of your size. Larger tanks will have more Epsom salt to create the same effect.
Most float pods have about 10 inches of water, which may not seem very deep. However, the Epsom salt is so effective at creating buoyancy that it really holds your body weight close to the top of the water. Have you ever seen a tealight or small candle floating in a dish? It’s kind of like that!
Types of Float Tanks
There are many options for floating:
- Float Tanks
- Float Pods
- Float Rooms
- Float Cabins
- Float Suites
- Open Float Rooms
Your choice of environment will have a lot to do with your personal preferences, availability in your area, comfort level, size and other potential restrictions like height or the size of your frame.
The pods and tanks are usually smaller, ranging from about 7-8 feet long and about 4-5 feet wide, depending on the float pod manufacturer.
Rooms, cabins, and open tubs are generally about 8 feet long and can go up to about 6 feet wide, also dependent on the float tank manufacturer and facility size.
Sports Teams Using Float Therapy
- Miami Dolphins
- Denver Broncos
- Atlanta Hawks
- Chicago Cubs
- New England Patriots
- Arizona Cardinals
- and many more..
The week before Super Bowl XLIX in Phoenix Arizona, the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots rented out a local Float Center. Many players from each team floated throughout the week. They would trade using the Float Center by alternating mornings and afternoons for each team. Many of the players enjoy both the mental and physical healing the Float Pods have to offer.
Benefits of Flotation Therapy
Induces Muscle Relaxation
Between gravity pulling on us, and the constant use of our muscles and joints just to live our daily lives, it can be difficult to actually fully relax. Especially for athletes who experience greater amounts of muscle tension and soreness on a regular basis.
Isolation tanks can be very helpful in decreasing the physical stress on our bodies and allowing tension to dissipate while floating weightlessly. Sore and tense muscles can lead to a feeling of general fatigue, so floating can be an effective way of mitigating some of the physical stress we deal with.
Studies have shown that depriving your senses by floating in an isolation chamber can encourage muscle relaxation, and help with reducing inflammation.
Injury Prevention and Rehab
Float therapy has been shown to decrease recovery time by facilitating decompression from the tension and stress of musculo-skeletal injuries. Athletes often succumb to overuse injuries and accelerated wear and tear because pushing yourself to constantly perform can ultimately break your body down a bit faster.
Using a float tank also boosts the immune system, which can aid in healing and prevent injuries from either happening or getting more serious. There’s always the risk that athletic injuries can potentially limit performance and cause training setbacks. So by non-invasively treating and mitigating them, it’s more likely that athletic performance will continue to improve, or at the very least not wane.
Flotation therapy removes gravitational pressure and gives injured muscles and joints a better environment to relax and heal, thereby lessening inflammation. When your body is able to fully relax, your blood circulation improves. This is highly beneficial in that more efficient blood circulation can deliver nutrients to inflamed tissues at an increased rate and promote faster healing times.
Facilitates Better Sleep
Another benefit of regular floats is increased sleep quality. Often, without even realizing it, our brains get stuck in a hamster wheel of stress from work, school, obligations, and perpetual responsibilities that we sometimes worry about absentmindedly. This can lead to stress, anxiety and busy thoughts which can impede rest and sleep quality.
Depriving your senses with float therapy in a controlled environment has been shown to enhance sleep quality and promote better rest. Just 45 minutes to an hour of restricted environmental stimulation therapy (REST) can be highly beneficial for helping the brain recover from sleep deprivation and feel more rested.
When your sleep is better, your body is able to use that time to repair wear and tear, and increase recovery benefits. Feeling well-rested is imperative for maximizing athletic performance.
Lowers Stress Response
Float therapy has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that increases when your body is under stress, whether it be from extreme exercise, inadequate recovery, or a combination of the two.
Due to the intensity of an athlete’s training schedules and methods, they can be more predisposed to experiencing chronically high cortisol levels which can lead to the development of illnesses and other health issues.
Therefore, it’s important to manage stress regularly through proper training applications and recovery techniques such as float therapy.
Flotation therapy in an isolation tank can be highly beneficial for providing a peaceful environment that encourages focus. Often, athletes will use this opportunity to use visualization techniques in order to put them into a competitive mindset and increase their confidence through outcome imagery.
When an athlete is able to increase and maintain their focus with greater consistency and control, it leads to a more positive and productive mindset, as well as better athletic performance.
One of the biggest benefits of using a float pod is that flotation therapy can significantly aid in recovery. While training to get better at your sport elicits adaptations that improve your performance, most of the benefits of training happen when you’re resting and recovering.
When blood lactate is increased, it can hinder athletic performance by decreasing the intensity at which you can train. This is why managing blood lactate levels is important for maximizing the athletic training response and promoting recovery in athletes.
Many professional football players have made floating a part of their weekly routine in addition to massages, adequate sleep and other self-care techniques. Tom Brady and Steph Curry are among some of the NFL players that attribute floatation therapy to faster and more effective recovery.
Epsom Salt Benefits
Float pods have inordinate amounts of Epsom salt in them, often over 1000 pounds. While this may seem like a ridiculously high amount of Epsom salt, it’s necessary to create a seemingly weightless environment. Plus, Epsom salt has myriad benefits that have been utilized for centuries due to its medicinal applications.
Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, an inorganic salt compound. Soaking in a bath with epsom salt is generally recommended for muscle soreness and arthritis because it’s able to be absorbed by your skin.
This is another reason that floatation therapy can be so advantageous for athletes. In addition to relaxing your muscles and relieving pain, soaking in an Epsom salt solution is an effective way to reduce inflammation.
Research indicates that supplementing with magnesium can increase serotonin, which helps with depression, anxiety, and insomnia. So, it can’t hurt to spend some time floating in a tank filled with body temperature, Epsom salt-saturated water in order to experience the relaxation, rejuvenation, and soothing benefits of magnesium.
Flotation pods have lots of benefits, but as with most physical therapeutic methods, there are some precautions you may want to consider to ensure that you’re prioritizing your safety and health.
Please be advised that if you have any of the following concerns, you should not use a float pod:
- Open wounds or cuts
- Skin ulcers
- Low blood pressure
- Contagious diseases or illnesses
It is generally recommended that you consult your physician before engaging in new physical activities, including but not limited to floatation therapy.
Where to Buy A Float Tank
While there are numerous facilities solely devoted to providing flotation sessions for purchase, you may be wondering where to buy a float tank for personal use. If you’re ready to make the personal investment it may behoove you to contact the float pod manufacturer and ask any questions you may have to get recommendations for the right float tank for your needs.
When deciding where to buy a float pod, you have a couple of options. You can choose to purchase one online, or find a float tank manufacturer that has a physical location so that you can visit in person.
Either way, you may want to do a little personal research beforehand to see what’s available and the types of options that would fit your needs the best.
It can be a bit surprising that float pods have been around for as long as they have, considering they’ve only recently become a popular method for reducing stress, anxiety, and providing a therapeutic avenue for athletic recovery. With all of the studies that have been done, and continue to be conducted, supporting the benefits of float therapy there’s no question that this type of advantageous recovery technique will continue to grow in popularity for years to come.
Yes, it can be a bit expensive to purchase a float pod for personal use, however the multitude of benefits may ultimately prove to make it a worthy investment in terms of your physical health, mental acuity and strength, as well as rejuvenation capacity.
If you’re not sure where to buy a float pod or where to even start looking, there are many companies that make spa equipment, swimming pools and other water related products that can provide you with options.
Whether you’re a collegiate or high school athlete, a professional athlete on a sports team, or chiropractor, float therapy is worth looking into. Many professional sports teams, athletic training facilities, military installations, and celebrities have already embraced the tons of benefits that a float tank or sensory deprivation pod can provide.