Ice is a natural anti-inflammatory for recovery. So are ice baths, believe it or not, will aid in your muscle mending as well as with training and race performance. The shock of getting into a tub of ice is not entirely a fun filled event, however, when you soak in a tub of ice water after a long run or an intense workout will help boost your body’s recovery processes, and help prevent injury.
There are essentially two types of water therapies:
- ice baths
- contrast showers
Most research has shown ice baths to be superior in terms of recovery but both are beneficial.
After exercise we have microscopic tears in our muscles that cause inflammation. When you get into an ice bath, the cold water causes your blood vessels to tighten and drains the blood out of your legs. When you get out of the tub, ‘new’ blood flows into your legs, invigorating your muscles with oxygen and in turn, reducing inflammation. This increase in blood flow also makes its way deep into the muscle tissue, helping flush out any build-up or damage. Most often the results are noticed the next day, but you may find your legs feeling fresher right after the bath.
Ice baths are most effective when taken within 60 minutes of finishing a workout. They should last anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes but for those who cannot stand the icy water, here’s a great way to “ease” into it, for example, I sit inside the tub with my shorts and a towel around my upper body (shoulders), then I let the cold water run, (make sure the stopper is in the tub), as the water begins to fill the tub, I (or have my PIC) empty in two five pound bags of ice, this is less shocking to the body because you’re easing into it. The water should be uncomfortably cold at this point.
The water (in the tub) must cover your entire lower body, i.e. legs, glutes, hip-flexors, low back or anywhere you are feeling fatigue (this is where the towel comes in handy, it will keep your upper body warm). I’d say do the ice baths either after your long run or after intense workouts. After the water has been used, let it sit and use to water your plants. (so it doesn’t go to waste).
If all else fails, take a plunge inside the Chattahoochee River, after a long run, you may catch myself and other fellow runners out there after our Sunday morning runs.