Ice Baths to Recovery
In Texas we’re excited when the temperature drops below triple digits in the hot summer months. The idea of ice baths for recovery after a long run doesn’t take too much convincing. Cooper Fitness Center Sports Performance Specialist and Running Pro Will Lawrence stands by ice baths as a daily recovery routine for himself as an athlete and for his clients at Cooper Fitness Center.
Will was first introduced to ice baths when attending Abilene Christian University where he was a decathlete. He said he has continued with the ritual and shared it with all of his athletes ever since.
So besides escaping the Texas heat, what are the benefits of taking ice baths? The cold therapy not only decreases risk of swelling, but also provides a rush of blood to the targeted areas which clears out metabolic wastes. Will said this leads to quicker recovery.
He recommends ice baths as preventive care for high-intensity runners. “I suggest ice baths to my athletes who are training for a race,” Will said. “Ice baths act as prehab so you don’t have to go to rehab.”
When a pitcher leaves the mound the first thing he does is ice his shoulder and elbow. That same practice, in the form of an ice bath, can be used for any activity like running that causes repetitive stress to a targeted area.
Ice Baths 101
If you don’t have access to a facility with ice baths, simply fill your bath tub with cool water. Dump a few ice trays from the kitchen or stop at a local convenient store for a 5-10 lb. bag of ice. The water should be between 50-60 degrees and should not rise above your waist. Will recommends icing for about 15 minutes—up to a maximum of 20 minutes.
If you don’t have time to sit in an ice bath or if it is too uncomfortable you can ice the targeted areas. Will said oftentimes he will only have discomfort in his feet and lower calves. To escape the ice bath, you could use two large construction buckets (or whatever you have at home) and fill them with ice water. If your knees also bother you, consider taping them with ice or gel packs while your feet are in the ice bath.
When first attempting the ice bath, start off a little warmer and progressively your body will adjust to the colder temp. While in the ice bath, it may help to have something to distract your attention from your freezing joints and toes. Try reading a book, watching TV or even have a warm cup of tea in hand.
Are ice baths for everyone? No. Will recommends ice baths to athletes who are training for a race and running 20 miles or more a week. For athletes like this, Will says it becomes a part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth. Just like an athlete would stretch daily, it’s just another act to prevent injuries and be on the road to a quicker recovery.