Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Very First Ice Bath = Painful

After completing Thursday's semi-tough workout that involved 3 tempo miles at half marathon pace (they were between 7:34 and 7:42 but mostly downhill) and 7 total miles, I wanted to ice both my shins and both my knees.  So I decided to take the plunge, and lose my ice bath virginity.  It may be hard for many of you to believe that although I have been running for 4 years, completed 2 full marathons, 9 half marathons, and many other races, I have NEVER EVER taken an ice bath!  Let's get it out in the open, it's not because I didn't know they were good for me.  I was afraid.

 That's not me.  Or my teeth.       source 

And afraid I should be.  This wasn't even a real ice bath - there was no actual ice!  I filled the tub a tiny bit with the coldest water the faucet could muster.  Wearing socks, a sweatshirt, a ski hat, and holding a cup of hot tea, I got in.  I lasted a whopping 8 minutes, and though it did get a little better as time went on, it. was. HORRIBLE.  As more evidence of me being a weak little baby, the water wasn't even fully covering my legs and again, THERE WAS NO ICE!  But it felt good after, and I know it's good for me, and I will do anything (for love) to prevent that injury monster from coming back (but I won't do that).

          That's not me either.  And his knees are missing out on the benefits.   source

Although many of you are likely ice bath veterans, some of you may be asking, why would you ever want to take an ice bath?  According to Runner's World, "cryotherapy" (aka cold water immersion or ice baths) can reduce injuries by "constricting blood vessels and decreasing metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown".  In layman's terms, ice baths reduce inflammation and flush out unwanted toxins (like the dreaded lactic acid).  Further, ice baths provide more long-lasting benefits than using ice packs alone.  Despite these claims, as a researcher of course I wanted to know what the research says.  There is research, some of it contradictory, but the bottom line of all of it is that ice baths can only help, not hurt. 

Lesson Learned.  Ice baths are not my enemy.  I will take another ice bath (someday), with water that actually covers my legs, and maybe, just maybe, with real live ice.


Do you take ice baths?  How long are they?  How do you bear it?