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Benefits of ice bath for athletes

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Discover the benefits of ice baths for athletes.

Cryotherapy, a technique in which the body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures for several minutes, has gained prominence for its rejuvenating benefits. But it’s been a favorite way for athletes to recover for quite some time now. Not convinced? Read more about the benefits before you dive into the cold.Benefits of ice bath for athletes


Although you will find plenty of advice on ice baths, unfortunately, much of it is contradictory. What seems to be generally accepted (like so much else) is that if you (mentally) believe it will help you, research shows that it will.

Moderation is also a factor in the effectiveness of ice baths, as the more you expose yourself to baths where you notice an effect, the less the effect will be if you do them too often.

That said, ice baths should be reserved for after the toughest training sessions or competitions, or when you have to run again soon after; it is then that the ice bath can be a salvation.

“I like to take an ice bath after training, usually after a hard race, for about 15 minutes or more, depending on how cold the water is. Ice baths are nice after a hard workout, or soon after, to lower your body temperature for recovery. I usually try to take an ice bath right after I run if I can, and if I feel discomfort, I take a hot bath with Epsom salts at night.”

  • On Zap Endurance Athlete Tristin Van Ord

In this way, the ice bath is a reward (although when you enter the water you may think otherwise), and therefore a goal and a reward after giving everything.

How to take an ice bath at home?

What a surprise, you will need a bathtub to take an ice bath. If you don’t have one, you can also buy a kid-sized pool that will work just as well, or a large bucket (for a more focused swim from the waist down).

The next thing is to fill your bathtub with the ice. Once again, the experts do not agree, some claim that you should only put ice in the bathtub, while others defend that putting water and ice in a ratio of around 3:1 is better to cover the entire body.

Our recommendation is based on two factors: the amount of body that will be submerged in the ice and sheer practicality. How much of your body you submerge in the tub depends on what you’ve focused your training on. For runners, you might think that only the legs and feet need to be dipped, but often the hips and back are also sore areas after long runs, so dipping the whole body makes sense.

And speaking of meaning, the second practicality factor has precisely to do with that. It’s not easy for most people to get enough ice to fill a bathtub and cover their entire body, that’s where the 3:1 ice to water ratio makes sense.

How cold should the water be?

Water turns to ice at 0°C. For an ice bath, the water should be around 10-15°C. Achieving this temperature usually takes about 10 minutes if using a 3:1 water to ice ratio, or instantly if there is only ice in the tub. Once prepared, it’s time to dive in and let this healing water do its work.


According to Matt McClintock (also from the On Zap Endurance team ), 10°C is a good temperature to start with.

“If you find it difficult to get in, maybe you can start with the water at around 10°C. In addition, he remembers that the most complicated part is the first 4 seconds. It’s about overcoming them.”


How long do you have to soak?

This is the first thing you want to know as soon as you get in the water. The magic number to aim for is 15 minutes. Research has shown that this is the most effective time to get the most out of cold treatment. After 15 minutes, the effects wear off as quickly as ice.

Here are some tips for beginners from Chari Hawkins, our uncertainty-defying heptathlete:

1. Go in with a bang: A lot of people go in first one toe, then another… That doesn’t help what you’d like. Understand that you’re going to have a couple of minutes of discomfort, and then your body will acclimatize or “go numb” and you’ll forget you’re there!

2. Temperature: If you are going to prepare an ice bath at home, make sure that you do it at a good temperature. If it is too cold, it will be almost impossible to hold on, and if you go too hot, you will not take advantage of the advantages it offers. Knowing that the temperature is correct can also have a positive effect on your mind.


3. Neoprene for the feet: If you intend to take ice baths frequently, I recommend that you get shoes for ice baths, they are made of the same material as neoprene suits and help keep your feet warm. much hotter.

4. Make it a brain training exercise: One thing I ALWAYS do when taking an ice bath, whether I’m alone or not, is trying to be the “toughest” person I can be by taking an ice bath. Honestly, I am now a person who looks forward to ice baths.

What to do during the ice bath?

You have achieved it and you can bear the cold. And now that? You will be looking at the clock to keep track of the 15 minutes you have to be in there, but there is something key that you must take into account: breathing.

Due to the shock and panic that your body undergoes when you enter the bathtub, most people begin to breathe quickly and shallowly. In reality, what is intended is the opposite: to inhale deeply to allow the lungs to circulate more oxygen throughout the body.

Remember, the cold is to encourage the blood to flow faster through the muscles, which helps transport the repair elements to those tears produced during training or running, so the goal is to breathe more deeply and consistently. To get into a good rhythm while showering, breathe in for 7 seconds, hold your breath for 2, and then breathe out for 7 seconds.

Another tip that many professional athletes follow to endure the bath is to put your hands under the armpits or on the back of the knees: those areas where the skin is thinner are usually the most sensitive of the body on ice. Putting your hands there can help you fight off the pain while those 15 minutes (or 900 seconds, if that helps) go by.


Are ice baths safe?

The longer you spend in the tub, the more numb your body will be, which can lead to an immediate loss of strength and therefore make it difficult to get out of the tub in some circumstances, especially if it’s your first time.

That is why it is recommended to have someone nearby the first few times you decide to take an ice bath at home so that there is someone to help you (and distract you) in case you need it.

It should also be noted that frostbite and hypothermia are often caused concern for people considering ice baths, although both are unlikely because the water is above freezing (in the case of frostbite ) as the last 15 minutes or less (hypothermia usually starts within 30 minutes, at least). Still, we are all different, so listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

What to do immediately after the ice bath?

The alarm sounds: 15 minutes have passed. Don’t rush out (as you may slip), take your time, dry off, or take a hot shower to help with the numbness caused by the ice bath. Some people claim that it will take about 20 minutes to get back to “normal”, and if you feel cold, hot tea or coffee can help speed up the process.


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