Ultramarathon Running: Ice Baths For Recovery


Ice Bath Recovery

When I first started running, someone told me about ice baths to expedite a faster recovery. It didn’t make sense that sitting in cold water would be helpful. At the time, I thought sitting in a hot tub would be better for my legs. It did not take much for me to be convinced that ice baths are a whole lot better than a hot tube. In fact a hot tub is the worst thing you could do to help your legs recover.

A few years ago a friend of mine told me about how he and his uncle sat in a hot tub after running a marathon and the next day they could hardly walk. In contrast, the first time I took a ice bath I noticed a big difference in how my legs felt immediately afterwards.

Why Ice Baths Are Effective?

Here are a few things I have been able to gather to explain why ice baths are effective. When we exercise our muscles get micro-tears or microtrauma. These micro-tears/microtrauma are linked to the muscle soreness we feel after exercise.

Ice baths do a few things to help with recovery and repairing the micro-tears/microtrauma to muscles. 1) Ice baths flush out lactic acid (waste products) from muscles. 2) Decreases metabolic activity. 3) Reduce swelling in muscles brought on by micro trauma.

How To Take An Ice Bath

Simply fill up the bath tub with cold water and put ice in the water before getting in. Make sure there is enough water in the bath tub so that your whole lower body (legs up to your waist) are completely submerged. Slowly get in the bathtub. It will be uncomfortable, but it will feel a little bit better as time goes by. Ten minutes should be max for an ice bath. Any longer could be ineffective and risky because long term exposure to extreme temperatures is never a good a thing . During those ten minute you will want to jump out of the bath tub because how cold it is. But stay motivate to stick with it by keeping in mind that ice baths will help you recover faster and will help you in your running. I usually take a warmer shower immediately after my ice bath, but I’ve read it is more effective for recovery to take a warm shower 30 minutes after taking an ice bath.

Something I like to do, since I run in the mountains most of the time, is to go sit in a mountain stream/river after running. Mountain streams/rivers is water from melted snow, so naturally this water is cold (not as cold as a bath tub with ice), but cold enough to do the job.

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3 responses to “Ultramarathon Running: Ice Baths For Recovery”

  1. AndrewGills says :

    Wish I’d read this post earlier today. I just finished my first 50km trail run and I had a hot shower after I got home. I’m sore as anything; more sore than when I finished the race. My legs just feel tight.

    I have another 50km in September. I am going to try the ice bath afterwards. At least I’ll have something to compare it against.

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