Ice Bath 101

Alma had asked me the other day how I did my ice bath, so I thought I would post for everyone.  I think there are several keys to a good ice bath and it has taken me a while to perfect it.  But I believe, I have it down to a science.  
it shouldn’t be THIS scary

I will start off by telling you, I WAS NOT a bath person until I started running.  I didn’t even like taking hot baths-partly because I have always rented and something about an apartment complex bathtub creeped me out.  But, last year when I was training for my first marathon, my opinion changed.  After my first 16 mile run, I sucked it up and did the ice bath–I didn’t feel like I had a choice.  I wanted to recovery quickly.  I have now gotten to the point that I enjoy both ice baths and hot baths, which is nice!  But on to the ice version.

1.  Buy 3 bags of ice.
     The gas station I always go to sells 10lb. bags so that is what I use.  It seems like a lot, but the first one will melt quickly.

2.  Start with lukewarm water.
     I tried starting with cold water and find that to be too painful.  Have it so you can at least get in without freezing to death.

3.  Wear clothes if you need/want them.
     I am usually so hot after running that the lukewarm to ice cold doesn’t bother me.  I just keep my sports bra on, I’m not a fan of wet clothes, but you could leave more if you want to.

4.  Fill up the water to hit just above mid leg.
     The ice will end up covering much more so no need to over do it.

5.  Get in the tub before you ice and THEN add 1 bag.
     It is easier to adjust to the water change once you are already in.  So hop in the lukewarm tub before adding ice.  My bath is usually warm enough that the ice melts quickly.  I also make sure to add the ice towards the bottom of my bath–near my feet and lower legs.

6.  Slowly add the next 2 bags.
     I have found that adding the ice after you are in leaves certain “areas” unharmed by the ice.  It stays down near your feet/ankles/lower legs.  The bath will be nice and cold after the 3rd bag and the ice shouldn’t melt immediately.

7.  Sit for 15-20 minutes.
     My optionals below make it less painful….

1.  Add bath salts.
     I am a HUGE fan of Joyful Bath Co. products.  The owner is an athlete, uses all natural products, and        makes several that are good for muscle recovery.  I like Mellow Yellow the most for this purpose (although Ginger Snap is a good option too).

2.  Make a cup of coffee (or tea) to keep your insides warm.
     I can’t drink coffee before I run (I’m sure you can guess why) and it’s nice to enjoy a little caffeine and warmth once I am done.  And of course, it offsets the ice in the tub.
3.  Have music in the background, a good magazine and possibly your phone.
     Honestly it’s the phone that gets me through it.  If you are careful and not clumsy and won’t drop it in the water, make the call to catch up with friends/family.  The bath goes by so much quicker if you are on the phone and distracted (you can always try speaker phone if you are scared to hold it near the water).

I usually wait a little while to shower so that my legs can get back to a normal temperature.  I know that some people don’t believe in ice baths, but I truly believe they speed up my recovery process.

Do you ice bath?  If so, do you do anything differently?

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  • I've done the ice bath thing twice and definitely think it helped too. I didn't use as much ice though. I started the water, got in wearing a sweatshirt, and proceeded to drink tea and text message the whole time. Wasn't as horrible as I thought it would be!

  • THANK YOU! That was perfect! And putting a shout-out on my blog, it definitely sounds like the critical factor in surviving the ice bath, hoo-ha intact, is to get in med cool water first THEN add the ice. I was doing a direct plunge. The only other thing would be to buy a big bin and wade in.
    Ok, so for my next long run (my first 20 mile run), I will stop at a gas station to buy ice bags and follow your directions. THANK YOU!!!!

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