As the rest of the world dumps ice buckets over their head for ALS - a worthy cause and raising an incredible amount of money for said cause - endurance athletes sit in ice baths after a long bout of exercise. The most current research on ice baths proves them to be an effective, and efficient tool for recovery. The total immersion of the lower body allows the larger muscles to receive the full effect of the ice.
Cold water therapy works this way - the cold water constricts the blood vessels, which decreases metabolic activity, helping to prevent swelling and the breakdown of tissue. Once the body warms up the blood flows at an increased rate, which helps the body to flush metabolic debris away, including lactic acid, from the muscles. This helps to keep inflammation at bay and helps promote recovery.
Here’s how to do it. Place two to three bags of ice in the bathtub and fill the tub with cold water. Wear warm clothes on your upper body, maybe a hat and keep your shorts and socks on. Having a hot drink helps. Slowly get into the tub. Stay in for 10-15 minutes. Then slowly fill the tub up with hot water, to allow your body to adjust to the change in temperature.
It sounds shocking and horrific. It’s not. Once you adjust to the temperature, it actually begins to feel good. And you might even start dreaming about an ice bath during a long run. I know I do.