Brrrrrrrrr!! Ice baths, don’t exactly sound like a lot of fun. So why earth would you take one?
Benefits of Ice Baths
- Reducing inflammation – Immersing yourself in cold water causes your blood vessels to contract. It reduces blood flow to the tissues and is thought to mitigate some of the damage caused by intense, or long periods of exercise.
- Reducing pain – Lots of studies do agree on this. That the perceived level of pain, or post exercise muscle soreness, is significantly reduced after a dip in an ice bath. Return to ‘normal’ pain free muscles is quicker than doing nothing at all.
- Cheap & easy – ice baths are an effective tool at reducing post exercise soreness and increasing recovery. They are comparable to the effects of compression gear – which at £45+ can start to become expensive. You can very easily set up an ice bath at home.
- Increase training capacity – by reducing muscle damage and increasing recovery ice baths can be a very effective tool for any athlete; if you’re training 6 days a week or 2 days a week, it will still improve your capacity to rest, recover and build. Used in conjunction with compression gear, active recovery, sports massage, clean eating and good sleep you’ll be maximising your performance.
How to set up an ice bath at home
Well, you could very simply add some ice to cool water in a bath and hop in! But here are a few tips for you:
- Timing – the ideal window seems to be about 20mins post exercise but make sure its as close to your session as possible
- Dress well – an ice bath is about getting your muscles cool, not all of you – so wrap up warm up top! Pop a t-shirt and hoody on. Just make sure you can immerse yourself from the waist down
- Ice – you don’t actually need ice, cool water from the tap will do just fine. So you can breathe a sigh of relief!
- Getting in – Well just hop in! But if you are like me then that isn’t an option! So put a few inches in the tub then get in, once you’ve gotten used to that then set the tap running and let the water slowly fill the tub. There is a risk of shock with cold water immersion, so there is a genuine reason to take it slowly if you’re finding it challenging!
- And staying in – Once in and adjusted often people find it much much more comfortable than the actual getting in! But research shows that between 5-20mins is the sweet spot. So if need be set yourself a timer if you’re finding it tough. But make it easy! Read a book, watch some TV or drink a warm cup of tea.
So give it one a go and let us know how you get on!
For other ways to improve your recovery check out these blog posts
- The best ice pack ever!
- How to make your own ice massage tool
- The power of Sports Massage
- Optimising sleep