Professional triathlete Bree Wee explains why sitting in an ice bath can help aid the recovery process.
What if I told you I have a top secret? Something that helps reduce inflammation of tissues and joints, relieves soreness, is good for the bones and speeds up recovery? What if this can keep you training hard and going strong day after day? I bet you’d want to buy what I’m selling. Most triathletes are on a mission for the next best thing, the faster, lighter, tighter, stronger and anything that promises to help you perform better. Put your money away and run for the freezer! Grab a popsicle while you’re there!
Ice! Ice! Baby! Frozen water is a wonderful invention and athletes from across the world have incorporated it into their routines.
It’s inevitable: if you swim, bike or run at high intensities or for long durations of time the body is going to break down. The daily wear and tear adds up and before long lactic acid, achy muscles and fatigue has set in. Hello tired, inflamed, heavy legs! Time for some recovery baby! A 20-miler can cause certain areas of the legs to be damaged. While inflammation does help circulate blood flow to those areas, it is necessary to help with the healing process of the damage we create. Ice baths are a great aid and can also help promote blood flow.
So how do ice baths help to boost the body’s recovery process? An ice bath causes the blood vessels to tighten and drains the blood. Once you step out of the cold, ice infested water your body begins to warm and new oxygen filled blood begins to flow throughout your legs. This helps nourish the cells and flush lactic acid out. Some athletes help the recovery process by doing more than just stepping out of the tub; they have a contrast bath (warm water), just to be sure muscles warm back up.
If ice baths are new to you, this may sound ridiculous since you are not a polar bear. But, maybe you are just a little curious. I’m going to pretend you are curious. To make the time spent freezing worth it and to get the full benefits, the water needs to be about 50-53 degrees. Sorry, that’s more than the ice that comes from one ice cube tray. If you’re going to hop in a tub, make sure there’s enough ice to get the water to the correct temperature. Let’s pretend you don’t live in a tropical place like me and you have a cold lake nearby. You can stand waist deep (get the hips in) in a lake made of bitter, cold water for the same effect. Take your pick, cold lake or ice. Be sure you stay in for 15 minutes. It’s cold but worth every chatter of the teeth.
Put the hooded sweat shirt on and get in! Grab some hot chocolate and your legs will appreciate it!