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.