This past Sunday was my final long run in training for the Richmond Marathon. Woohoo! It's taper time!
When I came home, after eating and stretching, I filled up the tub with cold water and added 20lbs worth of ice for my routine ice bath. I know it does not sound very fun at all, and I'm going to come go ahead and admit it, but I HATE cold water with a passion. Especially in the winter months, it takes some lengthy pep talks on my part to get myself into a tub of ice water (just ask my husband). Even so, I've been doing this weekly basis because it has been a huge help in keeping me injury free over the past year. With marathon #4 for 2012 coming up in 3 weeks, that's a big deal for me!
Second to nutrition and rest, ice baths (aka cryotherapy) are an effective way to recover from the damaging effects of a run. Why is it effective? This is because the cold water in an ice bath constricts blood vessels and reduces metabolic activity to reduce the swelling and tissue breakdown common with hard or lengthy bouts of exercise. Upon exiting the ice bath, blood flow to the legs is increased in a manner that helps to flush out toxins produced during the run and jump start the healing process.
The result? Less soreness, reduced recovery time and reduced risk of injury!
Here are a few guidelines to get you started:
- An ice bath doesn't need to be below 40 degrees. Usually 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit is sufficient.
- Aim to spent 8-15 minutes max in the water.
- Wear a sweatshirt and drink something warm to prevent your upper body from getting too cold. Have something to keep your mind occupied rather than staring at the clock!
- Use some sort of stick to circulate the water while you are sitting there. This keeps it refreshingly chill.
- Buying weekly bags of ice can get expensive, so I recommend freezing a bunch of old water bottles to achieve your desired temperature. Also, a cold stream, lake or nearby river can be equally effective!