If you’re a long distance runner, you have most likely felt both the positive and negative effects of your exercise routine. Shorter runs can be relatively quick and painless, but if you’re reaching the higher mileage, you most likely need to think about post-workout recovery. After an intense workout or a long run, the best way to reduce soreness and inflammation of tissues and joints is to take a post-run ice bath.
Even though the thought alone might send chills down your spine, an ice bath is not as bad as you think. It does take some getting used to, but the benefits are well worth it. Learning to take a post-run ice bath when you start increasing those miles will save you from a world of soreness and prevent running injuries.
As soon as you get in from your long run, fix yourself a quick snack and drink a cup of tea, coffee or hot water to help prepare your body for the cold water to come. While you enjoy your food, fill your tub with pure cold water. Make sure the water level is just high enough to cover your lower body. Don’t torture yourself by submerging any more of your body than is necessary. Once the tub is filled to the appropriate level, wear a sweatshirt or wrap a towel around your upper body to keep yourself warm. Get into the bath slowly, allowing yourself to adjust to the water temperature.
When you’ve adjusted enough that you can at least breathe normally, add a five-pound bag of ice to the water. Once again, give yourself time to adjust to the temperature, and then add another five-pound bag of ice. Ideally, you want the temperature of the water between 55 and 60 degrees.
Try to take your post-run ice bath for approximately ten minutes. If you experience any numbness, get out of the bath immediately. Once you finish, dry yourself off and regain your senses! Enjoy a full post-run meal and approximately forty-five minutes after your bath, you can take a warm shower. Do not do this sooner or you will negate the ice bath you just subjected yourself to!
Your first time might seem unbearable, but remember that taking a post-run ice bath will prevent future grief. Each time after the first will seem more and more tolerable. If you have a real aversion to cold, try taking your post-run ice bath wearing tights or sweat pants.