In my blog hopping, I've seen a number of people post about taking an ice bath after a long run to help with recovery of the leg muscles. My initial thoughts were that an ice bath sounds absolutely horrible. Why would you want to do that to yourself?!?!? I did the requisite googling to find out more about it, and had to admit that the theory did sound convincing. But the thought of actually doing it...not so much.
I went for a run yesterday and did 10 miles. My legs were feeling pretty sore in the last couple of miles of the run, and I could tell I was going to be feeling it for days. When I got home, I thought...what the heck. Let's give this a try. If it's horrible, I don't ever have to do it again. But.....IT. WORKED. I'm a believer. I now completely understand why people will subject themselves to this torture. I felt like a new woman after spending 10 minutes with my legs submerged in freezing cold water. I'm not going to lie. It wasn't the most fun I've had in ages. But honestly, it also wasn't that bad, once you get past the initial shock.
My method was to crank up the heater so the air around me was warm, and wear a sweatshirt to keep my upper body warm. I filled the bathtub about waist-high with cold water, sat down and submerged my aching legs. Then...I added a big bag of ice. Painful, but necessary. I set the timer for 10 minutes and read a book to try to get my mind off the fact that the lower half of my body was freezing. When the 10 minutes were up, I gladly drained the tub, took a hot shower and was no worse for the wear.
I'm telling you...it worked WONDERS. Usually, when I run that far (not that I've done it all that much!), my legs ache for days. Within an hour of finishing the ice bath, my legs felt great. They were a little sore last night, but much better today than they normally are the day after a long run. If you run longer distances and get sore when you do it, try this. Just once. I don't think you'll be sorry you did, once it's all said and done.
If you want to learn more about the theory behind how the ice bath helps with muscle recovery, there's a good explanation here.