How an Ice Bath Can be a Great Training Tool

Type: Tough Intervals
Distance: 20.0 miles
Time: 1:00:15
Average Watts: 181 watts
Normative Power: 195 watts
Average Heart Rate: 156 bpm
Total Work: 685 kJ
Average Speed: 20.0 mph

My run on Saturday as a little rougher than I let on. I wanted to go a little longer than what I did but had to quit at 8.0 miles because my calves were in some pain. Not the dull they must be hitting failure pain but the acute type that feels horrible. I think I just went too fast or something. The good news is by Sunday they were feeling fine. I had wanted to run this morning, but I ended up substituting a bike for a run today. I may try and pound out the run tonight. I just felt like it would be the best to give them another 12 hours off.

In the DVD Player: Race Across the Sky This is a documentary about the 2009 Leadville 100 mountain bike race. There are few documentaries that can make you feel like you are there, but this one accomplishes the goal. In 2009 the Leadville 100 MTB Race was won by none other than Lance Armstrong. In 2010 it was won by Levi Leipheimer. I actually picked this up on the recommendation of the Fat Cyclist, who I think is hilarious. The funny thing about Fatty is I live about 2.0 miles away from him but our cycling paths have never crossed. I did Ironman St. George with him and I saw him a couple of times on the run and said hello, but that was as close as I have come to talking to him. Fatty is a rockstar in my opinion, and you can read his blog here. You can see the trailer for the movie here.

Ice Baths and Recovery

Oh how I love an ice bath. Seriously. I know it sounds a little crazy, but there is nothing like the feeling of submersing half of your body in near freezing water. Asking me to do the same for my whole body is a little sketchy, but you give me the chance to do it for half of my body and I am there.

I ski and duck/goose hunt, so being outside in the freezing cold weather is not an issue for me. I have fallen through ice while duck hunting in single digit temps with a two mile hike back to the truck. On that day my fourteen layers literally froze together. I think that is the closest I have been to frostbite and hypothermia. I have been on top of Snowbird when a blizzard blew in and we had to ski down by feel. In a storm like that once I gave my shell to a kid I was skiing with who was starting to go hypothermic. I know they pulled people from the water at Ironman St. George at the Sand Hollow Reservoir who were in the beginning stages of hypothermia. That water was cold.

So you may not be cold tolerant like I am. I understand that some people do not love the cold. I would prefer to be hot any day of the week, but I can handle just about any cold you throw my way. If you can’t I understand.

So ice baths do not scare me. I think they are a wonderful recovery tool that can help you get over the fatigue caused by a tough workout or all out effort like you would put forth in a race. Really, there are a ton of benefits to a post-workout ice bath. Like I mentioned, after my run Saturday my calves were hurting. I don’t love taking pain killers, so I jumped in the tub. I actually have really cold water leaving my tap and I measured it at 47º F on Saturday. I usually will fill the tub, jump in, and dump a bag of ice that I buy at the store into the tub. But Saturday 15 minutes in the cold water without ice was all I needed.

My process is simple. Usually I will take a quick shower to get the stank off of me from my workout. I like to think I smell like roses after a tough workout, but my wife and boy would claim otherwise. After the shower I will start the bath on pure cold water. I will throw on a pair of 100% wool socks to keep my feet warm longer. When the water is high enough to cover my legs completely, I just take the plunge and lower myself into the water. This just sucks. There is no two ways about it — you will be cold for a couple of minutes. Then I usually pour a bag of ice into the tub with me. I stay in for as long as I can stand it, but never longer than 20 minutes. I will usually take an ice bath once a week after my long run or ride.

Saturday I literally got out of the cold water, jumped into a hot shower a couple of minutes later, and then went about my day. My legs were a little tired, but nothing like they should have been. As a matter of fact, the pain in my calves was gone, even without compression sleeves. I don’t understand the science behind an ice bath, but from what I understand they are a fantastic way to help decrease inflammation, fluid build-up, and soreness. If you want to read a short article about them, here is a good one for you.

I know it is very simple and probably one you may skip, but here is an informative video about an ice bath and how to take them.

I suggest if you are sore and you just can’t shake some residual fatigue, take an ice bath. While they may be worse than kissing a girl and finding out later she is your cousin, they are a fantastic tool when it comes to recovery!

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...