Ice Bath - Love Them Hate Them

A few days back, I Instagramed a picture of me standing in the sea after #GCAM15. Some laughed while some PMed me asking what was 'Cyrotherapy'. Well, the answer can be googled but here's my reply anyway.

Cyrotherapy is also known as ice bath. Commonly practiced by sportsmen (and women). The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
In sports therapy, an ice bath or sometimes cold-water immersion or cold therapy, is a training regimen usually following a period of intense exercise in which a substantial part of a human body is immersed in a bath of ice or ice-water for a limited duration.

Popularised by marathoner Paula Radcliffe who says "It's absolute agony, and I dread it, but it allows my body to recover so much more quickly". If you are wondering how it really feels, I think Mike Kahlenberg sums it almost accurately "It is definitely stimulating. Your feet freeze, your voice changes a few octaves and if you're a man you freeze your balls off." However, that is really true for your first few times.

I confess that I pretty much look forward to my ice baths these days. When my sports doctor first told me about it, I asked him if he was kidding me? I mean cold water baths were bad enough so who would want an ice bath or even sit in a tub of iced water? 

Here's my personal account on ice baths:
One: When having an ice bath within an hour after my long run, it actually helps to reduce any stiffness that sometimes occur resulting in penguin walks or groans when walking up or down staircase. This has worked even with my running 21-16km-21km on 3 days back to back for my Route 68 training with no stiffness or discomfort.
Two: Some days when I can't get into a tub within an hour, I keep an ice pack in my car so that I can ice the affected parts a little before I reach home. 
Three: Have a shower to clean off the sweat and grime from your training. Dry up and then wear something warm to keep the upper body warm. Have an alarm set for 10 to 15 minutes, a cup of your favourite warm drink (I love having ginger tea or green tea after training) and a good book or a game to distract you for the soak.
Four: Fill the tub with water up to you waist or hips when you sit. Add in the ice progressively instead of jumping straight into a tub of ice water. In Malaysia, 1 bag of ice from 7-11 does the trick though I normally will have a few trays of ice ready. These days I keep a few 1.5Litres water bottles frozen. They come in handy for these ice bath days and also as an alternative 'foam roller'.
Five: After 15 minutes, I would dry myself and hop onto bed and hide under the comforter for another 5-10 minutes. Most friends I know will grab a nap at this juncture.
Six:  Some say that ice baths help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of our muscles. Maybe it is true so as a precaution and to aid the body, hydration with plain water is essential.
Seven: Do not soak for more than 15 minutes. Step out if your legs or toes feel numb. Step out slowly.
Eight: Warn your family members that they might hear some funny screams from the bathroom.
Ice bath in a tub in the comforts of home.
Champion weightlifter Karyn Marshall taking an ice bath after the Crossfit Games in 2011. I don't soak up to chest level...just up to my belly button.

And in the absence of being able to access a proper ice bath during the race, hop into the nearest water spot. During the Gold Coast Airport Marathon, I wasn't the only one who made our way to the sea beside the race village.

It was really cold when the wind blew. Otherwise, it was quite a good session.
When doing your cyrotherapy in public, it helps doing it with a few other like minded ones so that you can while away time chatting or giggle together when the wind blows.

It will be painful the first few times but you will love the effects thereafter. I do not take an ice bath after every training session. Only when I have done a long run of at least 25km or a hard session that I can feel my legs disowning me. For all the positive effects, if you have not tried ice baths, do give it a try or two. You might just fall in love with it.

Do share what are some of your favourite post run recovery methods. Or do you also love the ice bath as much as I do?

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