Ice Baths are Evil, and Awesome

IMG_0094After completing my exhausting 20 miler yesterday, I was in dire need of some recovery advice.  I googled “how to recover quickly from a long run” and decided to follow the advice in the first article that popped up. It was “9 Ways to Get Rid of Muscle Soreness After A Hard Run” by Coach Jeff on  It was full of good advice, including a timeline on when to do each task, and step by step instructions. It was all fun and games till my DIY ice bath…

The general idea (reason why most endurance athletes swear by an ice bath during recovery) is that they are believed to suppress inflammation and help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles. And I’ve recently read that my old ritual (taking ibuprofen after a long run) wasn’t doing my body any favors. It turns out that your body can stop remembering how to heal itself and fight inflammation over time, if you’re always reaching for the pills. So with much trepidation, I decided to take the plunge.

I filled one large plastic food container with as much ice as I could fit and dumped it into the freezing cold tap water. I didn’t use a thermometer. I just ran the water as cold as it could be. I was already cold and stiff-legged as I submerged my first toe and the remainder of my first foot under.  In some ways, those first moments were more painful than the run itself. It was really unbearable for only about a minute or two, but that felt like FOREVER. After 3 minutes though, something pretty cool happened. I couldn’t feel my legs. My achy, sore legs no longer bothered me. It was almost instant relief. And the rest of the day I was able to walk up and down my stairs just fine and function as if the run never happened. In the past, I would have just taken some ibuprofen to numb the soreness and reduce the inflammation, but not anymore.

Maybe I’m a masochist, but I’m  kind of looking forward to my final long run (another 20 miler) next weekend so that I can take my next plunge. My marathon is now less than 3 weeks away so recovering from my long runs is crucial.

Legs don’t fail me now…




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