A few of my readers (and most of my Facebook friends) thought I was a bit crazy to be sitting in an ice bath. (I believe the comment on FB was along the lines of “WTF” LOL) Let me preface the post by saying I’ve never done an actual *ice* bath. Our water is super cold, even in the summer, so I am happy to just sit in a very cold tub full of very cold water. I also have no written record of doing them during my marathon training last time (except for a jump into my parents’ very cold pool after a long run), so I’m not sure if they worked or not last time or if I did them after every long run.
The theory behind ice baths is that the cold helps decrease swelling and prevent tissue breakdown. Then, either as you warm up or as a reaction to the increased cold (depends on what resource you read), the blood flow increases and helps sweep the waste products from your system. This combined action decreases Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and acts similar to icing to the minor tears and such that have occurred in your muscles.
But the big question, is does it work? There are lots of people all over the web who swear it does. Even some elites (Paula Radcliffe) use it and swear by it. However, the only actual scientific report I could find using my old friend google (this is a case where I really miss working)** was from the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2007. A study concluded that ice baths do not make a difference. A quick reading of the article (while my darling children tried to talk to me) showed that it was a well conducted study from a scientific standpoint, but that their measurement was of pain, which we all know is a pretty subjective measure.
So, I will likely continue my rather hit or miss method of doing a cold bath when I have time and not doing it when I don’t. If I see some exciting differences (or not), I’ll be sure to share with you all. If you want to try it, here‘s a pretty good description of how to go about it.
*I am not a doctor or physical therapist or coach or… I am a research librarian. “Ask Mama” may or may not become a regular feature. Depends on if you all ask any questions I care about. LOL
** I just did some quick, very basic research without access to any of the databases I used to have when working. All of my analysis and writing were done with two kids vying for my time, so please forgive my lack of detailed, well-written analysis.
25 thoughts on “Ask Mama*: Ice Baths”
Interesting. I've never done an ice bath. But I've really not done long enough runs to need them either.
I am not a scientist, I do however play one on TV…I take an ice bath after my long runs when I can. I took one after my 20 miler last sunday and felt great on monday. Two weeks ago I missed it after my long run and my legs were sore for 48 hours…
I've never done ice baths because, frankly, the idea freaks me out. But, many people claim they work wonders, so I think it's one of those psychosomatic things: If you believe it helps, it probably does.
I've done them with runs 18 miles or longer. I think it helps me…but maybe its the extreme colds that distracts me from the pain.
Well, I've never done an ice bath simply b/c I don't really think that I run long enough to do it. I dated a guy in HS who used to do this for his arm after pitching (baseball) and said that it really worked for him.Interesting stuff…
I've never done a for real ice bath, mostly because I hate baths. But I do stand in cold water in the shower. And sometimes I'll strap ice packs or frozen peas to my legs for a while.
I've done tons of ice baths and I love them. Most have been in the context of rugby where you play hard one day and know you have to play hard the next and I am going to say they work for me. Also getting back in a cold lake at the end of a triathlon makes me feel much better the next day than if I didn't.
I swear by ice baths after runs over 15 miles. I feel a big difference the next day. IMO really cold water works just fine as well.
Thanks for the explanation. I"m not sure I have the resolve to do them though!
I think you should definitely do a regular "ask Mama" feature! I have never tried an ice bath myself…too much of a sissy.
thanks for the info…gives me something to consider doing.
I used to do ice baths when I was training for sprinting in college track. It helped in that case because we were putting so much pressure on our legs and training for 2 hours a day 6 days a week. I guess its a good preventive maintenance trick and maybe even mental too.
the tought of getting into a cold anything makes me cringgee…ha!You should totally do "ask Mama"That would be fun!
I like the 'ask mama' post topic! I did a few ice baths during training for my first 2 halves, and I really like aron's idea of an ice bucket for feet, shins, an knees, and hope to do that more regularly.
I can't do ice baths in the winter, but I looooove them in the summer. They totally work, if you ask me.
Makes me shiver just thinking about it! I've never done an ice bath, but I do use ice on problem areas. Although I just got yelled at recently for that by the doctor who told me I need to be using wet heat….I'm not sure what to believe haha. But I like the ask mama idea
I love ice baths and have really noticed a difference in how my legs feel later in the day. When I skip the ice bath I am sore and stiff after sitting down for a little while. I feel awesome all day and the next if I take an ice bath.
I'm one of those crazies that swears by ice baths. It speeds my recovery. I try to be consistent with them if I run anything more than 15 miles.
No footnotes or APA-style references? Darn kids interrupting your research!I lurve my ice baths. Even if it doesn't have a physiological benefit, I feel better afterwards.
I usually put on a fleece shirt and bite on a cloth as I try to slither my way into the super cold water (lol). Ice baths suck. But they work.
I do ice baths after every single run. Even if it's only 3 miles. I seem to be injury-prone and I think it helps a LOT! I put tons of layers on top, hat, gloves, and blast some angry music – helps me forget how much I hate it….
I have never done one. But I wouldn't rule it out. I believe in the science behind it. Someday I may be shivering with all of you.
In the summar, I am fairly diligent about ice baths after long runs and I do believe it makes a big difference in how quickly I recover.I just can't bring myself to do it in the winter! That being said, I've been jumping into a hot bath after all of my long runs this winter and that feels great on tired, stiff & sore muscles. Believe it or not, it actually seems to help too.
hmmmm interesting!!! BTW – Keep ask mama, it's fun, and if are willing do to the research,we all benefit! Plus I have a lot of questions!!!! he he!
I don't know whether it's just placebo effect or not, but I really feel like an ice bath followed by some recovery type socks helps after long runs. Maybe it's just because it's so torturous I feel like it must work!