Ice Bath – POST Run Recovery Secret

What do you do after your double digit run? Everyone has their own ritual, and recently I have adopted one that helps speed my recovery. A good running friend (Tony Jabon) suggested that I try an ice bath after a long run to keep my legs from becoming sore the following day. Believe it or not it worked, not only the first time, but sequentially since then.

Ice bath facts:

* Cold Therapy or (Cryotherapy) decrease cellular metabolic activity and constrict blood vessels, resulting in reduced tissue breakdown and swelling.

* After exiting your ice bath, your tissues underneath warm up the blood flow faster. This allows for oxygen to improve cellular function- resulting in built-up lactic acid being flushed out, returning it to the lymph system to be recycled by the body.

* Too much lactic acid can cause poor muscle function- if allowed to build up over time, the athlete can experience tired, heavy legs.

* Immersing the legs in cold water produces a longer lasting change in deep tissues and is more efficient for cooling many muscles simultaneously than using ice packs.

There are 4 stages of an ice bath:

  1. Extreme cold
  2. Burning/pricking
  3. Aching
  4. Numbness

Once the athlete has reached the “numbness” stage, they should remove themselves from the ice, or cold water (normally all the ice will melt.) Depending on the length of your run, you should stay in between 5-20 minutes.

Here is what works best for me:

  1. Before you long run, visit your local grocery store and buy 3-4 large bags of ice. Store them in a cooler at your house. Going to the store after a long run is the last thing you want to do.
  2. After your run, fill your bathtub with all of the ice. Turn the cold water on, and fill the bath tub with enough water to cover the hips.
  3. Keep your running socks and shorts on; grab a sweatshirt, thick hat and something warm to drink. Book, cell phone, or something else to keep you occupied is optional, but helps.
  4. Ok- this is where it gets tough. This might not work for everyone, but just get in.
  5. Avoid screaming, just take deep breaths. After about 10 minutes your legs will become acclimated to the temperature and go numb.

Runners and athletes are not the only ones that benefit from ice baths. In the October issue of Rolling Stone, Madonna says that she comes home and sits in an ice bath for 10 minutes after performing. (“Madonna Looks Back” 53). If you have never tried an ice bath, I highly recommend it.

Just for fun, last Sunday I took a video of my ice bath.


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