Ice baths can be extremely helpful for your athletic performance. We're going to cover everything you need to know about ice baths. Why an ice bath is used, what it does, how to prepare an ice bath and the temperature of the water, and when you should be taking an ice bath. Let's dive right in!
Why Should You Take An Ice Bath?
This is really an easy answer. Because that's what extreme bad asses would do. Period.
I'm playing! There's actually science behind it I swear! When we workout we are literally tearing apart our muscles, which is why you get sore and fatigued. We need to help our muscles rebuild themselves by doing recovery work. Recovery methods help speed up the healing process, which is exactly what ice baths do! Ice baths are used as a recovery method for fatigued muscles.
When you sit in an ice bath your blood vessels constrict and don't allow for much blood flow. Depending on your water temperature optimal constriction can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Upon getting out of the water your body begins to warm up causing blood vessels to dilate and allow for a rush of fluids to the muscles. It's best to do some light movement and stretching when you get out of the ice bath to help blood circulation return to normal. This process helps to remove metabolic waste in your muscles that cause fatigue.
Pretty cool huh? So let's talk about preparing your ice bath!
Preparing Your Ice Bath
If you type Ice Bath into the search bar on YouTube get ready for an info overload of a Dutch man named Wim Hof, an extreme athlete whom is famous for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures. He has made the ice bath seem very intimidating.
Because of his world records for swimming under ice and a barefoot snow/ice marathon, he has popularized something that I like to call ridiculously-cold-ice-baths-for-no-good-reason. You'll get videos of people swimming in frozen lakes, fully submerging themselves in tubs with nothing but ice and all sorts of crazy negative degree ice bath challenges.
Team, I'm here to tell you some really great news... THAT SHIT IS CRAZY AND UNNECESSARY!
Yes y'all! An ice bath in no way needs to be that cold. Now you might be thinking...
But what about those freezer tubes that you stand in for 2-4 minutes called Cryotherapy?
It's basically the same thing. It's just ridiculously cold therefore speeding up the process.
For a successful ice bath you want your water temperature to be somewhere between 50° - 60°F. If you're newer to ice baths I encourage you to start at a warmer temperature because they can be rather uncomfortable when you first get in.
Team, in some mountainous areas of the country the tap water coming out of your faucet is that cold! Some of y'all don't even need to add ice to your ice bath! Here is Austin, Tx the average tap water temp is 69°F. I don't need to add a ton of ice to get the job done!
Ideally, for your ice bath you want to pick a tub that you can stand in, but if that's not available your bathtub will work well! If you have a heart condition of any kind I don't suggest submerging it under the water without having some supervision.
Ice baths Are a Recovery Method
They're used to help fight fatigue and inflammation in muscles and joints. They can be done as often as you'd like, but they're really helpful right after an intense workout that leaves your body feeling sluggish or during a recovery week in your training plan.
If you're a big weenie about the cold, like me, you can even get into the tap temperature water, allow yourself to adjust and then pour ice into the tub. Keep in mind that it takes about 2 minutes for your body to go numb. The first 2 minutes are going to suck. Your joints may feel tight and be in a little bit of pain. Unfortunately, that's just how it goes, but once the body goes numb it's really quite relaxing! Grab a book or do a face mask and enjoy!
So Team, when I say you should take an ice bath I'm not asking you to go for a swim under a frozen lake or sit in a tub of ice cubes. To get good results from your ice bath you just need a bathtub with some cold water in it.
I hope you found this helpful and informative!
Now get out there and Train Like An Athlete, and recover like one too!