“At first an ordeal and then an accomplishment, the daily run becomes a staple, like bread, or wine, a fine marriage, or air. It is also a free pass to friendship.”
~ Benjamin Cheever, Strides

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ice Baths for Dummies

Since I was paced a half marathon and then tacked on 3 extra miles this past Sunday, I thought to myself, perhaps it's time to suck it up and take an ice bath.   My standing joke with my training buddies has been "the closest I will ever get to an ice bath is if I fall in a snow bank during winter training."
Hahaha!  That's not a bath mommy!
I told my friends post-race that I intended to try an ice bath and they were full of lots of very helpful advice.
  • Start the bath water slightly warmer than ice cold, so that it's not such a shock to the system.  Then have your husband dump in the ice once you are sitting in it.
  • Start small.  As in - use a small bag of ice or whatever ice is in the icemaker in the freezer
  • Go in fully clothed.
  • Wear something warm on top - a sweatshirt or something.
  • Only fill the tub to just over your legs, or waist height.
  • Bring your kindle.
  • Bring a hot drink.

Despite all this helpful advice, I still managed to screw it up.  HA!  I took the start-the-bath-water-slightly-warmer-than-ice-cold advice a bit too far.  The bath water was more not-warm than it was cold.  The ice from the bag of ice melted so quickly...
It's melting...it's melting!
...that I made my husband go down to the ice-maker and get all that ice to add to the bath too.  And yes, I made him take another ice bath picture after the new ice was added.  I'm special that way.
Homemade ice is the best!
Mistake #2.  I did not account for the size of my tub when making ice purchasing decisions.  When I got home, Avery was napping, so using the smaller second bathroom tub was not really a good idea.  (It shares a wall with Avery's room.)   My master bathroom tub is big enough for probably me and all my training buddies to take an ice bath together. (That would be a whole DIFFERENT kind of blog).  Nonetheless, when I bought my ice, I stuck with the smaller ice bag based on the sound advice I was given of starting small.

The two mistakes together (starting temperature and quantity of ice), made for an ice bath that was cold when the ice was put in...and only sort of cold afterwards.

I didn't do the hot beverage, and didn't need to because of my earlier mistakes.  I did do the warm top - and that advice was the BEST ever!  And, not coincidentally, the one that I didn't screw up.  My clearance rack REI hoodie worked fabulously.

I also used a kitchen timer to make sure I stayed in for the right amount of time.  Even though my "ice" bath wasn't super cold, I stayed in for the full 15 minutes, I figured it wouldn't hurt.  And yes, having my kindle helped pass the time.

What what I do differently next time?
  • Keep in mind the size of my tub!  Buy 2 of the LARGE bags of ice.
That's it actually.  I would buy a lot more ice, so that I could still start with the tub water at a not-warm, but not freezing temperature.  I liked that, it wasn't bad getting into the tub to start with.  And, I actually liked it when the ice was added to that, the cold felt good.  My theory is that the ice melting so quickly wouldn't be an issue with a higher quantity of ice.  Or maybe I'm just deluding myself?

Apparently - I'm treating ice baths like one of my chemistry experiments...
I do miss these days!
I promise, I did not pull out a lab notebook and take notes as to volume of bath water, temperature and quantity of ice...but now I am tempted to measure the temp of the water.  What ice bath temperature is ideal?  Oops.  My nerd is showing!
Somebody else will laugh at this - I just know it.

Have you ever taken an ice bath?

Any advice to add to or change from what I was given or did?

Are you like me in that I only change one variable at a time?  HA!


  1. I can't even fathom to put my feet in ice bath!! I use to get sore feet when I start ramping my miles, and thought that since the feet was the only issue, I would do ice bucket for the feet. O.M.G. IT HURTS. It' doesn't matter if I have hot drink, wearing down jacket or with a blanket, it plain sent pain all the way to my head. Cannot stand.

  2. Haha! Congrats on your maiden voyage! I do ice baths all the time when I'm going over 12 miles. I run a cold bath with bath salts (so they can dissolve). Then I gradually add ice after I get in to minimize the shock value. I also roll up my sweatshirt a tad so it doesn't get wet and draw the cold water up. :) Hot drink, recovery fuel and reading material are all there as well.

  3. I hate myself for it, but I cracked a smile at that cartoon. I guess the PhD means I'd be a nerd even if I hadn't laughed.

  4. My husband has laughed at both of my ice baths (yep, only ever taken 2!). Definitely the hot drink! Advice, don't let your kids near your ice bath....mine thought it was hilarious that I had ice in the bathtub and they wanted to play with it. Yeah, not so fun for me when they kept splashing me more! I wore a sweatshirt and it was so cold after the water travelled higher. Definitely do NOT recommend a sweatshirt!

  5. Yes, I've taken many ice baths. My new doctor is against them, though, so now I have an excuse not to. The one exception he likes is if you can get into really cold water that's flowing, like mountain streams. So I'll still do those sometimes. But I'm done with the shocking tub version. My tub's never clean enough anyway.

  6. Mandy - my husband read that the water (after ice is added) should be between 55-62 degrees. I wear a sweatshirt (keep it out of the water, I just hold it up) and a knit cap on my head! I also have a Keurig so I run hot water through it and add a chicken bouillon cube. (cheap version of chicken noodle soup) I also read that you need to keep your toes out of the water. (don't think frostbite applies, but I really do not know the exact reason. However, on of my training partners put his toes in and he said he wished he knew not too!) I scoot in the tub and put my feet against the wall so I can keep my toes out without having to lift my already sore legs!!!!!!!

    Hope this helps! See you Saturday!

    Stephanie K.

    1. Thanks!!! I won't be there on Saturday! I leave for Virginia Beach on Friday, I'm running a race there on Sunday. :)

  7. That's pretty funny! Although if you hadn't told us about the freezer ice, I would never have known it was two different pictures! Your smile looked the same! I always use just freezer ice, wear a bathing suit bottom and a t-shirt on top. Riley always tries to get in with me and all kinds of fun like that! I love my ice baths but our big garden tub is leaking and we want to remodel the bathroom anyway so I have to use the hall one.....I'll be doing one after our 20 miler next weekend!


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