What Is An Ice Bath?
In sports therapy, an ice bath, or using cold bodies of water like pools, lakes, rivers, oceans, etc are a part of a training regimen usually following a period of intense exercise. While it is becoming popular among athletes in a variety of sports, the method is controversial depending on who you ask. In my research there almost seems to be a perfect 50/50 balance for people supporting it and people who think it's actually a negative. Many athletes use cold water immersion after an intense exercise workout in the belief that it speeds up bodily recovery. Some scientific studies suggest a mild benefit such as reducing muscle damage and discomfort and alleviating delayed onset muscle soreness. Other studies suggest that cold water immersion may slow muscle growth and interfere with an overall training regimen.
Ice Bath's vs Cryotherapy?
My positive experiences with cold baths led me to want to try a cryotherapy session once I discovered it was another option. During an ice bath, soft tissue and muscle located fairly deep in the body begin to freeze and in return lose their capacity. Cryotherapy does not actually freeze the muscle tissue; it's the perception of freezing by the body’s nervous system. A process that would take multiple sessions of 30 minutes or more to achieve in an ice bath takes only 3 to 5 minutes in a Cryotherapy treatment. What I've noticed though is that fans of one versus the other depend solely on their personal experiences. For example with me, I've done many ice baths and felt great after each one. Whether it was sitting in my tub filled with ice water or ending a run and getting in the pool or ocean. After 10-20 minutes depending on the water temperature I've felt great. When I attended a couple cryotherapy sessions I felt like I wasted my time and money and still felt the same. I looked at the fact that I could buy 2 twenty pound bags of ice for $6 and personally feel recovered and refreshed or drive to my local spot, spend $35 or more and feel nothing. It just seemed obvious for me personally to save myself time and money in what works for me instead of something that doesn't.
Even The Elite's Can't Agree
This is the point I want to use to prove that in the end, they both work. I've interviewed 70 elite runners. Runners from all distances from 100 meters to 100 milers. Track, road and trail runners. I have not seen a majority choose one over the other. As mentioned before, it seems to be 50/50. When you see Lebron James using Cryotherapy and Mo Farah using ice bath's, how do you know which one you need? Or maybe both work? Or heck, maybe neither work, and you just need a good foam rolling session or deep tissue massage. This is where things can go all over the place and options will be thrown around left and right. But when I see runner's like Meb Keflezighi finishing a run and sitting in a cold river, it makes me think, ice baths really are beneficial. But then I talk to elite ultra runners like Stephanie Howe who disagree and I wonder. But in the end, I go back to my experiences and have determined that like everything in life, not everything works for everyone.
The Recommended Do's And Don'ts
I really never looked up anything about ice baths before my first experience and thankfully I didn't cause myself any harm but from research I would at least like to share some do's and don'ts I've discovered during my research for this blog. Some recommend filling the tub with cold water, getting in and then adding the ice. I've found this messy if my wife isn't home to help me so I just fill it up, add the ice and slowly ease myself in. It's recommended to wear something on your feet to protect your toes. I'll admit that I don't do this but I'm also pretty hardheaded. It's recommended to wear a long sleeve top to protect your torso. I also don't do this, but I do wear a beanie on my head. It's recommended to wear shorts or tights to protect your low body from the cold. Believe it or not, I actually listen to one of these suggestions. Each person has their own cold threshold so make sure you don’t over do it. If you feel you cannot handle the cold get out immediately. It's not recommended to exceed the recommended time of ten minutes. As the last point mentions though, everyone has different tolerance levels so I've actually been able to stay in for up to 20 minutes while still feeling fine. It's not recommended to take a warm shower immediately after an ice bath. You should gradually warm your body. Warming your body from the inside is suggested as a good idea when having an ice bath. So you can sip on your favorite hot beverage while submerging your body.
Find What Works For You
In the end, you have to find what works for you. In a world where we see celebrities advertise things and no longer easily fall for it, we know we must discover the truth. I've talked to so many people from elites to beginners, wrestlers to runners to basketball players to body builders. From men to women, different races, blah blah blah. Research for yourself all of the methods available. Try as many of them as you can. Find what works for you. It's honestly that simple. In the sport of running I've found shoes that I've like from multiple brands while hating others from the same brands. I've found nutrition products that have helped me and done absolutely nothing for my friends. Most of us like different brands and swear by them while others think we're crazy. Whether it's politics, religion, sports, music, or any other topic we can debate about in life, there will never be one that everyone agrees on because we all experience different things. When it comes down to ice bath's, we all have different bodies, doing different things and experience different results. Just because it works for me and I swear by it doesn't mean it will for you. If anything, browse through the interviews on my page and read the different responses and you'll find out exactly what I mean. Just find what works and enjoy the recovery as it allows you to continue doing what you do in bettering yourself physically!