Do ice baths really help? This is a big question that people have been asking for a long time. Research results have come back both ways. Some athletes and coaches say that they are a must, while others say it’s a waste of time. Now that I am into the big training weeks for my full ironman distance event I took my first one of the season this weekend. I am a firm believer in the ice bath philosophy. The idea behind the ice bath is that the cold water will help with small tears in the muscle and reduce inflammation in the muscle. While the muscles are submerged in the cold water the blood vessels will be constricted and help flush waste products out of the muscles. When the muscles start to warm back up the increased blood flow will help jumpstart the healing process.
There are several ways to set up your bath and you should do what works best for you. You can fill the tub with water and ice and jump right in, or you can fill with water and get into the tub and add ice as your body adjusts to the cold. I like to do the second option. I prefer sitting in the tub while it is filling up, and when the water is waist deep I turn it off and add the ice one bag at a time. I have found that 2 bags will usually get you to the desired temperature that is needed. To get full benefit the water needs to be between 54-60 degrees. Any colder than that can cause damage to the skin and start hypothermia if you have prolonged exposure. You don’t need to stay long to get a great benefit from your bath, usually 6-10 min will do the trick. I prefer to wear my bike shorts while in the bath it helps with skin exposure to the “sensitive areas.” When your 10 minutes is up exit the bath put on some warm clothes and let the body warm up naturally. If you are having a hard time getting your body temperature back then take a warm shower.
Give this a try after your next long hard work out and give us some feedback on how it works for you. I love/hate them, but they help me recover so much faster. Keep training hard and CONQUER all your goals and dreams.