Most of you will know that I’m not just a personal trainer- I also compete in Iron Man competitions in addition to having been a competing cyclist. I’m personally a big believer in ice baths but like so many things, opinion does seem to be split. Many elite athletes, professional sports teams and top physiotherapists swear by them but there are others who dismiss their value as a recovery aid; sighting a lack of scientific evidence.
My perspective is that you should try it for yourself. I wouldn’t dream of completing an iron man or a gruelling training session without following it up with an ice bath. As uncomfortable as I may find it, the increase in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) I feel without an ice bath is far more unbearable. For me the difference is so significant that I can’t believe it’s merely a placebo effect.
The theory: Intense or repetitive exercise causes micro-trauma (small tears) in muscle fibre. The ice bath is believed to turbo boost the healing process. The cold water constricts blood vessels, reduces swelling, flushes waste products and reduces tissue breakdown. As the body reheats the increased blood flow quickens circulation thus speeding recovery.
Give it a try. The water doesn’t actually have to be icy but does have to be cold. The general guidance is for the water to be between 10-15 degrees Celsius. Especially if it’s your first time, 7/8 minutes should be enough and you should really feel the difference. As tempting as it might be, don’t jump straight into a hot shower afterwards. The gradual heating of the muscles is where the benefit lies. You can wear additional clothing on your top half and drink something hot to make it more comfortable. Find what works for you and stick to it.
Next Blog: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
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