My take on ice baths

When you finish a long run, or any strenuous workout really, the first thing most people want to do is get a long, hot bath or shower. Sooth the muscles and everything.

But really? After a long run such as a half marathon or even more a full marathon (or also an ultra, though that’s nowhere near my mindset at this time), that’s actually about the worst thing you could do. See, the hot water will just make your joints swell up more, and that will make them more stiff. So what do you do?

Hello ice bath.

Yes, it sounds hellacious, and it’s not the most fun thing in the world, but it helps to decrease the swelling in the joints thereby decreasing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and also improving recovery time. Very good things for sure!

Now, last year I went to a session about marathons that was held at Jack Rabbit, and the topic of ice baths came up. The guy doing the session told us what he did, and I found that it made the concept slightly more bearable. So here’s what you do…

First off, I wore shorts and a hoodie during my ice bath after the Disney Half. You don’t have to be in that cold tub naked!
1) Gather ice and put it next to the tub.
2) Start the cold water running in the tub.
3) When the water is about 1-2 inches deep, step in and sit down.
4) As the water deepens, gradually add the ice a couple of handfulls at a time.
5) Once the water level covers your hips, you can turn off the water.
6) Sit for 10-15 minutes. I think we’d stopped by the food court at All Star Music so I could get hot chocolate to sip while I was in the tub.

After about 10-15 minutes, I got out, took off the wet clothes to hang up, and dried off. I went and sat on the bed to drink some water or powerade and eat a banana and something else. About 30 minutes later, I took a lukewarm shower to clean up from the race.

I wasn’t skipping the next day, but I wasn’t immobile. So that’s a good thing!

Now, my challenge here in NYC is two-fold. Starting with I’ve got a pretty long subway ride to get back to my apartment. Cabs don’t really like to leave Manhattan for the outer boroughs, plus it would be really expensive. So I do as much stretching as I can, and I’ve decided with the Queens Half coming up if I feel ANYTHING twinging, I’m going to get ice when I finish. Hopefully that will combat stiffening up immediately afterwards until I can get home. Then comes the second problem: I don’t have a tub in my apartment. So what I’ve done after my long runs (more than a 10K distance) has been to take a pretty cold shower, trying to get the water to focus on my hips and legs. It’s not perfect, but it works as well as anything.

So that’s how I do ice baths! 😀 For those who were wondering.

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4 thoughts on “My take on ice baths

  1. Thank you for posting this. I am going to have to start doing this as my long runs get longer, and especially after my 15K and Half Marathon races. Nice to know I can stay in my shorts and shirt for the ice bath too.

    My suggestion to you is: rent a hotel room in the city. Then after the race, you can literally ‘chill out’ in the hotel room, drink hot chocolate, and relax. Avoid the ‘how to get home’ stress entirely and make the hotel stay just part of your overall arce experience.

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