Ice Baths 101
Professional athletes from many major sports leagues (NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, UFC) have been quoted saying they use ice baths as a part of their regular training program.
But why exactly do they subject themselves to freezing water? What’s the benefit?
This guide has been designed to answer common questions athletes and weightlifters have about ice bath therapy.
What, exactly, is an ice bath?
An ice bath is a simple term for cryotherapy or cold therapy. Considered a crucial part of an athlete’s sport recovery program, it’s how professional and collegiate sports organizations keep their athletes injury free.
Ice baths reduce recovery time, increase performance, and help to prevent over-use injuries. Ice baths are also the top choice when recovering from a sports injury. It is the process of submerging hard worked muscles into approximately 40 degree F water, for usually about 10-15 minutes.
Why would anyone willingly submerge themselves in ice?
Ice bath therapy helps to reduce the amount of time needed to recover between workouts or training sessions. Most athletes understand increasing workouts means seeing better results, sooner.
Knowing this little secret helps to coax the most cold-resistant athlete to take the plunge. For athletes who want to train hard two, three, or more times a week, recovering quickly is essential. Without properly recovering between workouts, an athlete raises their risk of sustaining an injury.
So, how do I take an ice bath?
It’s a simple process:
Have on hand a watertight container large enough for you to sit in, a bathtub works fine, some people use a child’s wading pool.
20-30 pounds of ice (depending on the size of your container.)
Timer, reading material or other diversions.
After your workout or training session, fill the container with water. The water level should be at least to your hips once you are in. The water does not have to be cold, tepid can work too, and it’s easier to get into. The water will feel cold, but much easier to acclimate to than trying to get in after the ice is added. Once you’re able to completely submerge your lower body, add the ice. The clock starts now, set the timer for no less than 10 minutes but no more than 15. Some people stay submerged for 20 minutes, which is fine, but never stay longer than 20 minutes. Take your mind off the cold by doing some reading or listening to music. Just remember to keep an eye on the time.
How do ice baths help athletes train more?
Usually, after a hard workout or strenuous training session, your body needs time to rest and recover. You probably feel a little sore or stiff for a few days, and couldn’t imagine even a light workout. The ice water helps to cool muscle tissue down, break up lactic acid, reduce swelling, stiffness, and/or pain, and provide you with a refreshed feeling.
You won’t need as much time off between workouts, because you’re not sore, stiff, or tired. You’ll also be more likely to attend your next workout session because you’ll feel better and ready for another hard session.
How do ice baths help athletes avoid injuries?
When working out or training, the biggest threat to success is over-use injuries. Joints, tendons, and muscles can become injured if not allowed proper healing.
The human body is an amazing machine. When exposed to cold, certain things happen in an effort to keep warm, one of them being, constriction of blood vessels. This also helps to minimize swelling from the normal micro tearing of muscle tissue.
After an ice bath, the body opens up those blood vessels and rushes blood to the cold areas, in an effort to warm the tissue. This actually increases circulation. Increased circulation means more nourishing and healing blood supply to muscles and less inflammation to joints. Ice baths actually help to keep your muscles, ligaments, and tendons healthy and flushed of toxins.
Are there any other benefits?
Some athletes and sports medical professionals believe using ice baths before a competition, especially in warm weather conditions, will give the athlete an edge.
Starting a competition with a cooler body temperature than the rest of the pack, gives the athlete the advantage of conserving precious electrolytes lost in sweat. It delays the time when the body begins to sweat in an effort to keep cool.
Ice baths also reduce the fluid and size of blisters in record time! It works for the same reasons on your skin as it does in your muscles. But quicker! Usually, if you climb into an ice bath with a blister, you come out with the loose skin over the blister area intact, without the fluid. Leave the skin in place until it dries, it will fall off in a few days, without the pain of raw exposed skin.
The Cold Tub is a new ice bath alternative that enables athletic trainers and medical professionals to deliver ice bath therapy consistently with almost no maintenance and upkeep. No Ice Required!