I’m sure you’re wondering why taking an ice bath requires an instructional blog post. Adding ice to a bath should equal an ice bath, right? Well sure, if you want to do it the
wrong painful way. I have learned a couple tips and tricks from various sources on the interwebs to help make soaking in sub-zero temperatures sublime, or at least survivable. Your muscles will thank you.
Step 1: Get ice.
If your freezer has an ice maker, I’d just use all of the ice sitting in there. The ice maker at my in-laws’ house is broken and the four ice trays we are using instead wouldn’t even fill a sink so I buy a 7 lb bag of ice from the local market, typically immediately following my long run. This is also because my local market has an amazing sandwich-making-department so I kill two birds with one stone. I think you’re supposed to ice closer to the end of your run, but in the battle of ice vs. food, food always wins.
Step 2: Get warm.
Change out of your sweaty clothes and put on warm ones. The components of this step will vary based on your gender and bathing preferences so I’ll just tell you what I do. I replace my cold, wet sports-bra and soaked running shirt with a dry t-shirt and sweatshirt, usually placing the hood over my head as well to keep the heat in. My running shorts and lady garments don’t accompany me in the bathtub and even if they did, they’d get wetter, so you don’t really have to worry about those. Obviously shoes and socks are removed as well.
Step 3: Get water.
Fill up the bathtub with cold water, enough to fully submerge your entire legs. This means all the way up so your quads and hips are under water too.
Step 4: Get reading material.
You’re going to be in the ice bath for about 15 – 20 minutes so I usually pick up a book or magazine to help distract me. I also set the timer on my cell phone once I’m in the bath so that I don’t have to keep track of the passing time and am notified by the alarm when it’s time to get out.
Step 5: Get in!
For me, this is typically the coldest part. You want to get into the bath before you have added the ice so that you can acclimate to the cold temperature before its freezing. I sit for a minute or two and when my teeth stop chattering, I add the ice. I have been putting in about half of the 7 lb bag which has been working great although I think I’m going to go big next time and see how much more I can tolerate. Start the clock once the ice has been added.
Step 6: Get defrosted.
As I mentioned, I soak in the ice bath for about 20 minutes. When I’m finished I drain the tub, wrap a towel around my lower half, and let my legs come back up to room temperature before hopping in the shower.
I’ve been increasing my long run mileage pretty quickly and haven’t been sore afterwards. There’s probably a combination of factors playing into this but I definitely believe these ice baths are one of them.
14 miles on Sunday!