Article by: Margaret Owensby
Ice baths. It’s a love hate relationship for most athletes. We run a bath full of cold water, throw in twenty to thirty pounds of ice, put on a sweatshirt and prepare a hot beverage. Then we step in to the bath, and give a squeal as the bath is so cold it can actually be painful. We shiver our way through fifteen minutes, then jump up and in to the hottest shower we can stand, in order to stop the shivering. Does this sound about right?
I'd rather run away than take an ice bath!
About two years ago I was running a half marathon, and struck up a conversation with another runner. We had one of those conversations that you can only have on a race course, and it ended up leading to a discussion about self-care after a race. I told her about my aversion to ice baths, despite the fact that they made my legs feel so much better, and she told me her way of making them bearable. Are you ready for this? It’s life changing!
First of all, do not run a cold bath! What madness is this that you speak of? Run a tepid bath, a little cooler than is comfortable, but easy to step in to. After you have run the bath, and have seated yourself in the water, add the first ten pounds of ice. Wait a couple minutes and adjust to the temperature, then add the next ten pounds. For me, at about fifteen minutes the ice has mostly melted and I add another ten pounds. At this point the water is really cold, but it is not painful! I usually hang out about twenty to twenty five minutes total, and then take a warm shower to finish washing off all of the sweat. My legs will stay cool to the touch, and therefor fighting inflammation and painful recovery, for a few hours.
This was life changing for me, as now I can easily handle taking an ice bath after a really hard workout, and it has sped up my recovery. Bearable ice baths…who would have thought?