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My First Ice Bath

April 16, 2012

Preparing the Ice Bath


After a weekend of tough endurance workouts and a dinner conversation on recovery and overtraining, I decided I would attempt my first ice bath. (Saturday I did a brick of 12 mile run + 45 min bike. Sunday I biked 75 miles with 3,700ft of climbing.)  I’m not injured. I just wanted to recover faster, and ice baths are supposed to help reduce inflammation.

According to Runner’s World, here are some other benefits that you can get from an ice bath:

–  offset the risks inherent to long bouts of running
– don’t only suppress inflammation, but helps to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles
– cold-water immersion generally produces a greater and longer lasting change in deep tissues and is more a more efficient means of cooling large groups of muscles simultaneously (vs. using ice packs)

If you’re contemplating taking an ice bath, I would highly recommend it!  I woke up the next morning with minimal soreness and ready for another week of Ironman training.  (Note: There is some controversy around taking ice baths, so please do your research before giving it a try.)

Here’s a quick guide of how I prepared my ice bath and the supplies I used.

Attempt #1 to get in the ice bath

1. ICE – I used 4 (7 pound) bags of ice, but Jeremy and I agree that 3 bags will be enough next time. We don’t want to break the bank each time we take an ice bath.  The water will get cold enough, but it’s impossible to keep it all from melting unless you have massive quantities.
2. Bathtub filled with cold water just deep enough to sit in it and hit below your belly button. If you need to submerge more than that, fill it up more.
3. Sweatshirt to stay warm on top & swim bottoms to stay more comfortable below. (Tip: If you have a two piece wetsuit, you can wear the top half to stay really warm!)
4. Timer – I’ve read and heard that you should never stay in an ice bath for more than 20 minutes. 15-20 minutes is the ideal timeframe if you can handle it. (Why waste more time freezing when you don’t need to?)
5. Optional: Swim booties to keep your feet warm – I swim with these in open water conditions to make the cold more tolerable, and it also worked here. If you need to soak your ankles, try to find something that won’t cover them so you can get the full benefit of the cold water.  Jeremy did the bath without anything on his feet.  His stung.  Mine didn’t.
6. Optional: Hot beverage, reading materials, your boyfriend, anything to keep your mind off the fact that you’re sitting in a tub full of ice-cold water.  I had Jeremy in the tub with me.  He’s 6’5″ so it was tough squeezing both of us in there, but he kept me warm!

Attempt #2: My butt is shocked by the cold!

How To Draw and Ice Bath:
1. Fill a tub with cold water that will cover your legs and hips, but no higher than your belly button so you can stay warmer on top. (Adjust water level if you need to soak other areas.)
2. Put approximately 20 lbs of ice in the tub. Water temp should be in the 50s farenheit.
3. Get in quickly (bundled on top!) because the ice will start melting, and you don’t want to psyche yourself out.  Melted ice is OK. The water will still be cold!
4. Soak for 15-20 minutes, but not a minute longer. Try to relax! 🙂
5. Wait 30-60 minutes before taking a hot shower (optional). I needed this because I was quite cold after my ice bath. All the socks and blankets couldn’t keep me warm enough!  It’s also a good way to relax the muscles.

Success! It takes a few minutes to adjust to the cold...

Alternatives to an Ice Bath:
If an ice bath isn’t for you, you can also use what mother nature has to offer.  A quick dip in the ocean, lake, or river can provide the same benefits after a tough training session.

In summary, I had a great first ice bath experience and plan on incorporating it into my Ironman training each weekend.  (I think a 100 mile bike ride definitely warrants one!)

Have you ever taken an ice bath?  Do you have any other tips to share?

  1. I love ice baths. They were invaluable to me last year while training for the Big Sur Marathon. One trick I learned right off the bat was to immerse yourself in cold water first, then pour in (or have someone else pour in) the ice. MUCH easier to acclimate

  2. I just bought a bag of Ice today and saw this post!! I have been thinking about doing the same thing! My feet are killing me after the training this week!! Thanks fro sharing!!

  3. Reblogged this on Bill: The Mortgage Guy and commented:
    After a grueling week of training I needed ice! Here is a fellow triathlete explaining her experience. ICE HELPS!

  4. triathlonobsession permalink

    Love it ! I always bring a good magazine (triathlon) to distract myself. The more you do it, the easier it gets. :). Elizabeth.

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