Posted by: runawaynotes | October 20, 2012

Ice bath, the love/hate relationship

The first time I’ve heard about ice baths was when I was training for my first half marathon. Some of my more experienced fellow runners were telling stories of their first time trying an ice bath after a long training run, and the experience didn’t seem like anything that a sane person would ever willingly subject themselves to. I mean, why would anyone try to sit for 10 minutes in a tub of water so cold that they would need a sweatshirt and a mug of hot coffee just to endure the process? And how much difference would taking an ice bath really make to justify torturing your body in such a brutal manner after a long run? Well, I think I finally got my answer.

The first ice bath I took was a couple of weeks ago after my 16 mile run. It wasn’t an “ice” bath in the truest sense of the word because my husband, who is determined to save me from myself by not allowing me to push my body beyond reasonable limitations, has done some research on what temperatures are safe and made me keep the water temperature at 59F. You may say “59F doesn’t sound that bad. It’s pretty far from freezing.” All I can say to that is “59F is pretty freaking cold if we are talking about water temperature!” Even though I was already soaked and shivering after running in cold rain for 3 hours, the second my butt touched that cold water I squealed in the most undignified manner. I sat in that tub with a steaming mug of hot chocolate in my hands and tried really hard not to move. Even the slightest fidgeting made the cold water slosh against my body and would cause the sensation to get that much worse.

After I finally climbed out of that tub, my sadistic loving husband would not let me take a hot shower for another hour so that a sudden change in temperature wouldn’t “give me a heart attack”. So, I had to warm up gradually on my own under a thick blanket. Interestingly enough, after I finally took my shower, I was feeling almost 100% back to normal. I was awake and alert and even though my muscles were still sore, I could go about my day without any additional accommodations. I repeated the ice bath experience the following Saturday. Even though I was already prepared for what that water would feel like, I still squealed when I first lowered my tush into the tub. My husband got a good chuckle out of it, and the only reason why I did not drag him into the tub with me to teach him a lesson was the fact that doing so would slosh the water around and make it feel that much colder. Even though that day’s 17 mile run was particularly grueling (because of 79% humidity), I was feeling energized enough after that bath to go to a friend’s birthday party – and wear my high heel boots! So, clearly, an ice bath was working its magic.

I did wonder though if it was really the bath that was responsible for my energy and relative lack of muscle soreness. So, I decided that today I would not subject myself to the experience of shivering in a tub for 15 minutes with a mug of coffee in my hands while my husband sits on the bathroom floor next to me and tries to distract me from the fact that there are ice cubes floating around me. Instead I took a good old (nice and relaxing) hot bath and then curled under a blanket to take a nap. I hate to say it, but even though a hot bath feels SOOO much better compared to the misery of the cold one, it did not have nearly as many therapeutic properties as the cold one did. I’ve been feeling tired and sluggish all day, and my muscles are still sore enough to make me walk like an old lady who forgot her cane at home and has to ask a hot young man (that would be my husband) to help her get up from the restaurant booth. As much as I may enjoy playing a damsel in distress, this is not how I want to feel every weekend for the rest of the Fall. I guess it’s back to ice baths for me. Next week will be a 20-miler [sigh]; I need to stock up on hot chocolate.



  1. I used to do the ice baths as well. I hated them. I tried epsom salt baths and didn’t notice any effect, though I have a friend who swears by them. Now I just rest. It’s just not worth the cold torture!

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