A few weeks ago we wrote about the importance of recovery, especially after a high intensity workout and showed you how to use tools like massage sticks and lacrosse balls to work out the kinks of your muscles. Check out that post here.
Another great technique for recovery: the ice bath.
But first, how does it work?
In simplest terms, exposure to cold helps numb the pain of the small tears in the muscle fibers that come from either working out muscles you haven’t used in a while (we’re looking at you leg day) or muscles that are being used repetitively. According to Active.com, ice baths “constrict blood vessels, waste products and reduce swelling and tissue breakdown,” helping to jump start the healing process as the tissue warms back up.
While you should always be careful when trying a new technique, here are a few should and shouldn’t’s to help make your first ice bath as painless as possible.
You Should: Go slow when figuring out the perfect water temperature.
Your bath water doesn’t have to resemble the artic tundra for you to get maximum benefits. Especially during your first couple of baths while your body is still adjusting and responding, working with a little warmer temperature (trust us, it won’t feel that warm once your in) is best. Look to somewhere in the 55-60 degree range and only adjust by a few degrees each time.
You Should: Keep in mind that what works for some to rebuild muscle strength, might not work for you right away, or at all.
Be patient with yourself and give your body accurate time to respond. And if it doesn’t work, scrap it.
You Shouldn’t: Treat this bath like a luxury bath.
This is not the time to distract yourself from the numbness with bubbles or bath bombs and linger in the bathtub. According to Active.com, 6-8 minutes is plenty so get in and get out!
You Shouldn’t: Immediately take a hot shower after.
Warming yourself after an ice bath is important (think sweatshirt, blanket, etc.) but many of the effects and healing powers are created as the body gradually warms itself.
Ice baths, when used properly, can be an excellent way to recover your muscles. Try it and let us know how it goes!