Taking a post-workout plunge in an ice water bath is a common practice among many athletes. Known as cryotherapy, it is used to recover faster and reduce muscle pain and soreness after intense training sessions or competitions.
The greatest benefit of ice baths, it that they reduce inflammation and improve recovery by changing the way blood and other fluids flow through your body. When you sit in cold water, your blood vessels constrict; when you get out, they dilate (or open back up). This process helps flush away metabolic waste post-workout and it can be a relief to sore muscles.
An ice bath can also help the nervous system by aiding in sleep, and consequently, making you feel better from having less fatigue. In the long run it can help improve reaction time and explosiveness in future workouts.
How cold should water be?
Water turns to ice at 0 degrees Celsius / 32 degrees Fahrenheit. For an ice bath, the water should be around 10-15 degrees Celsius (around 50-60 Fahrenheit). This usually takes around 10 minutes to achieve if using a 3:1 water to ice ration. When it’s set, jump in and let the healing water do its thing.
How long should you be in there?
This will be the main question you will be asking as soon as you jump in. The magic number to aim for is 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, the effects are diluted just as the ice soon will be.
How to "enjoy" the ice bath?
Due to the shock and panic you put your body in once you enter the tub, most people naturally begin to take shallow, fast breaths. The opposite is actually what you want to do: deep inhales to allow more oxygen into the lungs to be moved around the body. Remember, the cold is to encourage blood to flow faster inside the muscles, helping bring the repairing elements to those tears from your training or run, so deeper, constant breathing is the aim of the game. As a guide, breath in for 7 seconds, hold for 2, then out for 7 seconds to find a good rhythm in the bath.