Ice baths and other cold activities

I need to hit the rewind button on this post-you know, like on old school VCRs. Today I am rewinding to Saturday when I did my longish run. I try to hit a 10-12 mile run at least once a week to keep the motor running strong come marathon training, which starts one week from today (yikes!). My favorite place to do these runs are down in Colorado on the Front Range. Why? Well, it is 2,000 feet below where I live in Wyoming and not only is it also 20 degrees warmer, but much easier to breathe with all of that oxygen. I busted out 11.5 on the roads around my mom’s house. At about mile seven, I started craving an ice bath.

Chillin' in the river

I know “craving ice baths” is probably not a normal thing. But, I have been ramping up the weight training and running to create a solid base for the marathon. In doing so, I have been working my legs completely out of their comfort zone and into the pain zone. They say that ice baths are good for recovery:

Cryotherapy (“cold therapy”) constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the cold source, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow, which helps return the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. “Ice baths don’t only suppress inflammation, but help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles,” says David Terry, M.D., an ultrarunner who has finished both the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and the Wasatch Front 100-Mile Endurance Run 10 consecutive times. (Source)

I started ice baths 1.5 years ago. I was at the height of my running and was just about to take first place in my division at the Breck Crest Mountain 10k. I was also about 1 month away from fracturing my foot in half and taking a 10 month hiatus from running. I started soaking in cold mountain rivers (like the one above), then I came home after a 15 miler in the dead heat of July and looked like this:

Sweaty and gross, yet some would say "glowing"

My roommate had left a bag of ice in the fridge after a day of fishing, so I decided to take an ice bath in a real tub. Now, when the lactic acid ache sets in and my feet and legs feel on fire, I seem to find myself addicted:

Drinking a beer after a 16 mile run is NOT a good recovery technique, however it makes the bath more tolerable

As you can see, they are cold-hence the hat and sweatshirt. Yes, I do wear my shorts into the bath tub too (I wouldn’t want you to think that I was posting naked pictures of me) and read “The Economist” to make the time fly. I aim for 20 minutes in the tub and usually only do these for anything over a hard 10 mile effort.

Does it work? Can I tell the difference? Well, I put in 11.5 miles at an average pace of 8:55(super good for me) and the next day we spent 4 hours skiing (7 miles total) and skinning in the backcountry-

Followed by another day of skiing in a foot of powder at Steamboat Springs:

I left my camera in the car while I skied, but here was a quick self portrait by the car. So, the ice bath carried me through for two more days of hard leg workouts. I’m not going to lie, I hurt and limp a bit. However, I cannot bring myself to take an ice bath after skiing in the cold snow all day. Good thing it is back to the real world of working tomorrow and four- 10 hour days, because my body needs a rest.

PS….If we had this truck then I wouldn’t have to exert so much energy skiing uphill and thus the ice baths would not be necessary.

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