The Art of the Ice Bath

Since I’ve gotten a lot of comments about taking ice baths on some of my recent posts I thought why not share a quick “how-to” on preparing and taking an ice bath!

While the research on the benefits of ice baths for athletes is unclear at best, it is believed that taking an ice bath may constrict blood vessels, flush waste products and reduce swelling and tissue breakdown (Source: Active.com – 8 Ice Bath Dos and Don’ts).

So, if you’re up for the challenge of plunging yourself into a bathtub full of ice, here’s what I do to make the experience as pleasant as possible!

1. Buy ice!

I usually buy 2 bags of ice at the grocery store before my long run so I’ll be ready to take an ice bath when I get done.  (If you have a super duper ice maker in your freezer you can use that too, but my husband would probably kill me if I wiped the house out of ice!)

Buy Ice

2. Bundle up & bring distractions!

Just because the bottom half of you is submerged in ice doesn’t mean the top half of you needs to be cold too!  I usually put on a hooded sweatshirt and sometimes even make a mug of tea for my ice bath!

Distractions are one of the keys to the ice bath!  I’ll usually grab a book or bring my phone (which I’m sure I’ll regret the day I end up dropping it in the tub!) hoping that they’ll help me forget about the mini polar plunge my legs are taking!

Ice Bath Distractions

I re-read this book every round of marathon training!

3. Fill tub with cool water.

You want the water to be cold enough so that when you dump the ice in it won’t immediately melt it all!  (I may have learned that one the hard way…)

Ice Bath Water Only

4. Get in tub.

Yes, you read that right.  Get in the tub BEFORE you put the ice in!  I have to give credit to my running friend Christine for this tip, but getting in and adjusting to the already cold water without the ice really makes the whole thing MUCH more bearable!

Ice Bath Getting In

5. Add ice!

And, once you’re feeling pretty comfy sitting there in that cold water (which really doesn’t feel all that cold any more…), IT’S ICE TIME!

Ice Bath Adding Ice

6. Soak for 6-8 minutes!

Ice Bath with Ice

7. Warm up.

Before jumping right into a warm shower it helps to let your legs adjust and come back to “room temperature” before shocking them with hot water!  I usually dry off, throw on some sweatpants, have a recovery drink or a snack and then jump in the shower.

Love ’em or hate ’em, ice baths are definitely a personal preference, but I really do think that they help with my quick long run & race recovery!

Do you take ice baths for recovery?

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a health professional, only a yoga teacher and fellow runner sharing recovery tips that have worked for me!  Please consider your own health circumstances before taking an ice bath and consult with your doctor if necessary!  

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19 thoughts on “The Art of the Ice Bath

  1. I have definitely started using ice baths since I first read about them here and (I think) they are such a huge help! First 2 half marathons with no ice bath, can’t walk the next day. Second 2 half marathons with ice bath, the next day walking around like I never ran! …thanks for the tips! 🙂

  2. Oh I’m getting cold just reading this. I like the idea of a hot beverage, I’ll have to try that the next time I gather my courage and plunge in.

  3. I’ve always wondered about the elusive ice bath, haha…and have definitely heard/read the “controversy” about it. But I figure, if it works for you, then go for it! Whatever makes you feel better after running 18 or 20 or 22 miles, right? It’s something I do plan to try…I figure this Dopey training plan is going to demand it, haha. Will definitely be keeping your tips in mind!

    • The ice baths were especially helpful for me between the back to back long runs so I see a lot more in my future during Dopey training! I say give it a try at least once and see if it works for you : )

  4. Loved your disclaimer…. by causing intense vasoconstriction from the cold…. it is theoretically possible the cause a person with minimal cardiac reserve to go into congestive heart failure. But then again, such a person would most likely not be going for a “long run”! dad Sent from iCloud DJN

  5. Unfortunately I do not have a tub, but I try to run my legs with cold water in the shower since I have a removeable shower head attached to a cord. Probably not the same, but I sure get super cold!!! Good tips for when I do have access to a tub someday 🙂

  6. I usually stay in my ice bath for 20 minutes and I really need to let my legs warm naturally, but the lure of getting it all over with and being clean and dry is too tempting!

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