Are you wondering if ice baths benefit runners? You see elite athletes doing it all the time, but they are so unpleasant that you want to ensure they are the right thing to do.
What are Ice Baths
Before we “dive in” (pun intended), it’s important to clarify what an ice bath is.
- Ice baths are when you submerge yourself in 55-degree Fahrenheit (12 degrees celsius) water for 10 to 15 minutes after exercise.
If the water is warmer, or if you do it for less than 15 minutes, it’s not officially considered an ice bath.
Pros and Cons of Ice Baths for Runners
When we are talking about the benefits of ice baths for runners, there are two strong schools of thought:
- They love it and swear by it
- They hate it
Let’s talk about the second group first, and then we will dive into the benefits that the lovers preach. You can read my opinion at the end. I think it’s important that you know both sides of the coin.
Arguments Against Ice Baths
The truth is that most scientific studies show that there is no real benefit to suffering the discomfort of ice baths for runners.
One of the most common conclusions is that ice baths actually reduce your body’s ability to repair itself.
This study, for example, found out that the cold-treated legs had built 11 percent less new protein than the legs of subjects doing a strength training program that did not do ice baths.
Here is another study, and here is another one where the conclusions are the same, ice baths have no real benefits for runners.
5 Ice Baths Benefits for Runners
And even though there is no actual research supporting any ice bath benefits for runners, many athletes and coaches swear by them. Here are some benefits you can expect when doing ice baths after your runs or workout.
- Improves Muscle Recovery
- Reduces Inflammation
- Prevents Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
- Improves Circulation
- Supports immunity
Some people even suggest that it can cure diseases and keep you sickness-free. One of the most prominent advocates is Wim Hof.
What I Think of Ice Bath for Runners
As a running coach, part of my job is to test as many theories and training strategies out there, and ice baths are no exception.
I don’t like them, I suffer too much, and I can’t feel any difference in my recovery from doing them. But, when I have a particular soreness or pain, when I’ve tried hot-cold therapy, I feel the soreness reduce, and my injuries heal faster.
Instead of doing ice baths, I believe your time and money could be better spent sleeping more and reducing the overall stress in your life.