On some of our longer runs, Kevin shared his sister’s experience with ice baths. I had also read about them in Runners World, but had never considered trying one. That changed last Sunday. Here’s the story I shared with my running friends:

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I felt pretty good after our run yesterday – probably better than I deserved to feel given the amount of fluid lost. However, as I was climbing the stairs to grab a shower my legs started to do the lactic acid shuffle. I ended up taking one step @ a time wincing w/ each footfall.

I made it into the bathroom, took one look @ the tub and said .. yeah – I’m going to give it a try. I walked back downstairs to warn Michelle about my plans. I wanted to pre-explain the icy-screams she would undoubtedly hear. Of course, the stairs were a mistake. I had to white-knuckle the railing just to make sure I wouldn’t go ass over tea-kettle down the stairs (my grandmother always used that phrase – ass over tea-kettle .. I’m not sure what it means, but it seems fitting here)

5 minutes later I was easing myself into a few inches of cold water (no ice – I had emptied the bucket that morning for the cooler, and the cooler was still outside). I left the water running and gradually my legs were fully submerged.

I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t take anytime @ all to get used to the water temperature. It was actually relaxing sitting there, but I have to admit, I sat there for a few minutes and didn’t feel any different. It was fine, but I didn’t feel like my legs were cured.

I decided that 10 minutes was enough time. I was starting to prune up, and honestly, felt a little dorky sitting in the tub. I’m 6’2″/190lbs – a pretty big guy. I think our tub was designed for someone 4 feet tall and 70 pounds. I took up nearly every inch of available space in the tub.

I stood up, grabbed my towel, stepped out of the tub and … walked downstairs pain free. it was amazing! 10 minutes earlier, I was wincing with every step. Now I was bounding down the stairs. Just to test it, I walked back upstairs .. no pain @ all.
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I wrote that last Sunday – July 2. I felt so good on Monday that I made a promise to take another ice bath this Sunday. It’s Monday morning, and my legs feel fantastic – my butt is a big knot, but I expected that based on the hill workout we had yesterday.

My secrets to a successful ice bath:

  • get in the tub while the water is still filling – it will cut down on the shock of the cold water
  • there’s no right amount of ice – whatever’s in the tray is fine – just make sure the water is cold. if you have no ice, just enjoy the cold water
  • bring something to drink with you in the tub – I’ve developed a taste for orange juice after my runs
  • give yourself @ least 10 minutes in the tub after the water has filled to a reasonable level (over the tops of your legs)
  • just relax .. I make sure to warn my family what I’m doing. Otherwise, I have a 2-year-old pounding on the bathroom door trying to get in to see what Daddy’s doing in the bathroom.

I plan to keep experimenting with ice baths. Yesterday, as the water from the tub was draining, I took a hot shower (I was already wet, so why not?). It felt great – the mix of cold water still on my feet and hot water hitting my back and face – very therapeutic.

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