21 Jun

Warming To The Ice Bath


Injury prevention is something never far away from the mind of an experienced long distance runner. If you have been a runner for a long time, then the chances are that you have suffered from an injury at some point. It's not pleasant. The pain itself is secondary. It's the blockade it puts on your ability to run that really hurts, that and the knowledge that race fitness is slowly ebbing away.

Of course, as the years accumulate, so too does your wisdom about injury prevention. Perhaps more importantly, your experiences lead you to take injury prevention more seriously. Warming up and warming down, stretching, cross training, quality footwear, good nutrition, hydration, gradual increase of training load, yes, over the years, I've added a few tools to my personal injury prevention kit.

Recently, I've added a shiny new one. It's something I didn't really expect to embrace. It was tentative at first, but now I have started to plunge myself into an ice bath after every run. Okay, it's not an ice bath in terms of the sort of wheelie bin overflowing with ice cubes that you might find Paula Radcliffe being plonked into by husband Gary Lough. It's a cold water bath, without a drop of hot, which I now sink myself into after every run. With an autumn marathon on the horizon, I am particularly keen to avoid injury, so am trying to cover every base. The truth is, I thought I would hate it and not really be able to sustain the habit.

Of course, the first five seconds are the worst, particularly when one particular part of the anatomy dips beneath the icy surface. But thereafter, it's plain sailing. The tingly feeling it has given me after a workout has become quite addictive. The science behind the practice is that the ice bath helps constrict the blood vessels and flush out muscle waste products generated by exercise. So far, I think it's working. The feelings of stiffness, the aches and strains just don't seem to have the same grip over me that they had before. I thought the ice bath would leave me cold, but in actual fact, I'm warming to it.