The Magic of an Ice Bath

All serious runners know that ice has special properties and is a critical part of one’s recovery regimen (e.g. “Sore muscle?  Ice it.”)  However, I only recently discovered the magic of an ice bath.

Last month, immediately after running the Albuquerque Marathon, I went back to my hotel room (the bridal suite at the Hotel Albuquerque at Old Town – we asked for the “best room”) and immersed myself in a 10 minute ice bath.  Amy, Raj, and Stef  (my traveling marathon fan club – at least for this race) were in the other room watching the US Open (tennis, not golf) and were subjected to an outburst of “holy fucking shit” and 60 seconds of maniacal laughter as I got used to the temperature.  The last 9 minutes were fine, although I was disoriented and bemused when I got out of the tub.  I felt great the next day, although I forced myself to take a week off from running (every time I thought about running, Amy said “Brad – rest” using her best golden retriever command voice.)

On Saturday, I was in Bells, Texas at my parents farm for the weekend.  If you know me and my love of land, you’ll be able to trace it back to my parents farm, which they bought when I was in college.  There’s nothing like 100 acres that is yours to wander around on.


My dad got up at 6am, drove me 15 miles away from their house, and dropped me on the side of the road.  He drove back; I ran back.  I had a kick-ass run (a mile / minute faster than normal due to the lower altitude, plus I felt great.)  When I finished, I went upstairs, filled the bathtub with cold water, and dumped two huge bags of ice that my mom had bought at the gas station into the tub.  My outburst was even more colorful this time (“you’ve got to be fucking kidding me”) followed by peels of laughter as my body got used to the cold.  Again – I settled down – and this time hung out for 15 minutes in the tub reading 24: Trojan Horse.

Four hours later, I felt great and was ready to go for another run.  I managed to hold off until the following morning when I did a very comfortable hour run (at least for my legs), although I slept too late and ended up in 90+ degree heat.

I’m two for two with the ice bath, and am now a complete believer.

  • when you get back in town and need an all natural “ice bath”, just head down to Boulder Creek after a workout (or South Boulder Creek in your end of town)… I’ve been doing that for years – works real good!

  • Kevin

    Hey, if you add the ice after you get in the bath (and after your body has adjusted to the cold water without ice) you’ll be able to skip the expletives next time…

  • PRoales

    Here at Purdue the intercollegiate athletics complex as a really nice built in cold water “hot tub” that is something like 50 degrees. Maybe you should look into having one installed if the ice baths keep working out for you…

  • I just did a 22 mile run this morning and tried the ice bath for the first time. I filled the tub with cold water, dumped in three 10-pound bags of ice and took a step. I was just standing in the tub, ice up over my calves, haven’t even tried getting down in it… the expletives were warranted!!! I just couldn’t get myself to sit down in it so I kneeled down, ice over half way up my thighs. I set my cell phone timer to 10:00 and waited. As soon as the timer hit 00:00, opened the drain, let the water run out and then… a hot shower never felt so good especially since it was 28 degrees when we started running. I think the second poster has the right idea, add the ice after you’ve gotten in the tub. I’m thinking that buying a plastic garbage can and 10 bags of ice for right after the marathon would be a good idea.

  • Derek

    Kevin…I'll try that tip next time.

    My reaction to my first ice bath was just a colorful…and effective. I had learned I MUST ice my knees after everything more than 7 miles or I am in pain the next day, but in training for the Detroit Marathon a couple years ago I started one of my long (22 miles) runs a little late and finished around noon with temps around 85 and decided to try the ice bath. I was schocked how good I felt the next day. I now force myself to endure one after every run of more then 15 miles. Anything less than that and a cold shower will do the job before I ice the knees.

  • J.P.

    Tuck your johnson before you sit down. The heat from your legs will hold until you get used to the temperature.

  • Ice bath? I can’t believe it!