Athlete recovery - The Ice Bath
An ice bath is one of the favourite ways our athletes choose to recover - There are many pieces of advice around ice baths out there, and, unfortunately, much of it is conflicting. What seems to generally be agreed upon though, is that if you think it will help (mentally), research shows it does.
The research: Ice baths reduce inflammation and improve recovery by changing the way blood and other fluids flow through your body, flushing away metabolic waste post-workout. It also increases your blood flow, which floods your cells with nutrients and oxygen to theoretically help your body recover. From a mental standpoint, you’re challenging your body by being exposed to different stresses and stimuli, which makes you more resilient and prepares you for different challenges.
Based on the research and our athlete experiences, there are many potential benefits of using an ice bath, especially for people who work out regularly:
- Eases sore and aching muscles
The greatest known benefit of ice baths, is that they simply make a sore body feel good. If you’ve ever had one, you know that after an intense workout, the cold immersion can be a relief to sore, burning muscles, just like a cold shower feels after a hot day.
- Helps your central nervous system
An ice bath can also help your central nervous system by aiding in sleep, and consequently, making you feel better from having less fatigue overall. Plus, it can help improve your reaction time and explosiveness in future workouts, helping you beat those personal bests.
- Limits the inflammatory response
Decreasing your temperature post-workout is said to help limit an inflammatory response that typically occurs due to the stress you’re putting the body through during exercise, and decreasing this inflammation will help you recover faster.
- Decreases the effect of heat and humidity
Taking an ice bath may also decrease the effect of heat and humidity if done so before a workout. Prior to exercising in hot or humid conditions, lowering your core body temperature a few degrees can lead to improved performance, so there’s no harm in testing the theory.
- Trains your vagus nerve
One of the main benefits of an ice bath is being able to train your vagus nerve. This nerve is linked to the sympathetic nervous system, and training it can help you face stressful situations more adequately, helping both mentally and physically.
So if you’re interested in recovering like the pros, we’ve gathered top tips from our athletes and researchers to find out how best to safely incorporate this recovery tool into your training routine:
- Temperature of the ice bath: Get it to approximately 10–15° Celsius or 50–59° Fahrenheit for optimal results.
- Time in the ice bath-: Spending too much time in an ice bath can have adverse consequences. That’s why you should limit your time to no longer than 10 to 15 minutes.
- Body exposure: It’s generally recommended to immerse your entire body in the ice bath to gain the best effect of blood vessel constriction, but submerging the areas or muscles that are sore or used most is a priority.
After this, you will feel optimised to hit every workout with a fresh body and mind, as recommended by the pros.