Steps to an ice bath

I really try to get in the habit of taking a full ice bath (vs. the ice bucket just for the lower legs) after my LONG runs. 

It doesn’t happen every single time, but those days that I am home soon after my run I definitely take one!  I got back in the habit post 18 miler this weekend and kept myself distracted from the coldness by documenting the steps for this blog post.

Aron’s steps to an ice bath:

1. Fill the tub with cold water.

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2. Change your sweaty running shirt for a warm sweatshirt.

3. Get a snack and/or cup of coffee to keep you warm.

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4. Get ice (I have an ice maker in my freezer I use, but when I drive somewhere to do my long run I try to remember to buy ice so I can get more).

ice5

5. Get in the tub with the water only!  This allows your body to get used to being in the cold, but not super cold.

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6. Let the water continue to fill until your legs are completely submerged.

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6. Dump in ice.  If it’s really hard for you, don’t dump in all the ice at once, add it in slowly and it won’t be as painful.

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7. Distract yourself with post run snack, tweeting, facebooking, words with friends, etc.  I try to stay for a minimum of 10 minutes.  After a couple minutes your legs get numb and it’s really not that bad.  I make sure to move my legs every so often so the water around them shifts.

8. Get out and warm up!  I make myself wait before jumping into a hot shower so I am not losing the effects of the ice faster than need be.  I did just put myself through sitting in a tub of ice, why would I want to lose an ounce of the benefits?  I wrap my legs in a big towel and continue to distract myself with various tasks for another 10 minutes.

Easy peasy!  It’s really not that bad I promise.

For me the keys to making it bearable are putting the ice in AFTER you are in the water and having things to keep you distracted while you are in there.

Do you take ice baths?

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40 Responses to Steps to an ice bath

  1. lena February 15, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    i love ice baths!

    the discomfort from ice baths is a distant second to the pain endured from a long run, game of soccer or any other hard workout.

    it is so worth it. however, i usually don’t get to take one because my kiddos beckon the min. i walk in the door.

  2. Emily February 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    You are my hero. I can not do ice baths.

  3. Matt @ The Athlete's Plate February 15, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    I take them occasionally. Not during winter ;)

  4. Marlene February 15, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    In the summer I was so diligent about my ice baths… I really need to get my nerve up again, but it’s so hard when I come home after being outside in the cold for 2-3 hours already.

    Fun documentation!

  5. James February 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    I’ve never done an ice bath. I’m currently training for my first marathon and did 18 miles on Sunday. I went home, did some light stretching, and took a nap. My legs are definitely sore still today. Are the benefits that great? Are you still sore the next day even with an ice bath?

    • Aron February 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

      Try it and report back! :) I don’t really get sore from long runs unless I run them hard or they are really hilly so it’s hard to say.

  6. Vava February 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    I’ve only taken a couple of “ice” baths, and I put the ice in quotes only because I never added the ice cubes to the cold water from the tap. It was cold enough, thank you very much! I also cannot imagine getting into a full tub. It’s a must to sit in there while it fills up. Not only does that let you slowly get used to it, but it also means that most of of legs are in there longer too.

    Now all I need is an underwear drysuit… There’s got to be someone out there with an entrepreneurial (sp?) spirit who can make that happen…

  7. Jesse February 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    i haven’t taken an ice bath in quite a while because i’ve been being a wuss because of the cold. haha. for me, i get in the tub first then turn on the water then add the ice so my body gets use to the water as the tub is filling.

  8. Kristy@RunTheLongRoad February 15, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    I’ll take an ice bath after marathons. I know I should do it more often but I really don’t like them. I also bite on a towel (dramatic, I know)!!

    • Aron February 15, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

      Haha I have never got in one after a marathon :) one of these races I will!

  9. Nelly February 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    I appreciate the tutorial! I have never taken an ice bath, but maybe I should try it sometime. I try to ice after longer runs, but sometimes I am even bad about that. haha

  10. Kim February 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Thank you for the tips! I have always wanted to do an ice bath but I was always too nervous!

  11. J February 15, 2011 at 2:08 pm #

    In college we had ice bath tubes we would get into after workouts. We had little footie things to cover our toes so they wouldn’t get as cold! I haven’t taken a ice bath since college!

  12. Kelly February 15, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    I’ve always been too scared for the ice baths. I know I need them! Thanks for the step by step.

  13. nicole February 15, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    The only time I take ice baths is if I’m really sore. The rest of the time I just use the bucket. For some reason I have to wear long socks because it burns my skin so bad.

  14. Karyn February 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    i do not. i’ve thought about it before. i’ve even gone out and bought the ice. but i just couldn’t bring myself to do it! it’s always that by the time i get ready to step in my body has already cooled off and is chilled. ice is the last thing i want

  15. Annie February 15, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    I did my first ice bath on Saturday and it was hell! But my legs felt great the next day. I’m training for my first marathon and am wondering when ice baths are most beneficial – after a 6 mile long run, 10 mile, 12, etc??

  16. danielle February 15, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    totally worth it. my first marathon i couldnt walk for a few days, let alone run for almost two weeks. after my second marathon, i took an ice bath and was back to running within a few days. the atlantic ocean also works and is a little less painful if anyone lives near it :)

  17. Lee February 15, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    I’ve always been too chicken for an ice bath. I haven’t done farther than a half marathon in 4 years so I haven’t really needed one. At least that’s what I tell myself.

    If you need a new words with friends opponent, I’m djtippietoes.

  18. RoadBunner February 15, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    The short answer is, “no.” I used to do the bucket soaks but am at the point my quads probably need the ice more than my shins. But I’ve been too lazy. Not an excuse, I know. Can you actually tell the difference when you do ice baths? I have to admit I never really could.

  19. Jen February 15, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    I’ve taken ice baths twice before. Since then I’ve filled a bath with ice on several occasions but can never convince myself to get in – even though I know it’s not so bad after the first minute. What can I say? I hate the cold.

  20. Tina (MightyMite Runner) February 15, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    great post! Have you ever jumped into a creek or a lake post run/race? We have run Whiskeytown relay and the temp of the lake is perfect for a modified “ice bath” post run… also our local sycamore pool which is a creek that has been damed up to make a modified pool in the middle of Bidwell park. There are steps down into the pool area that are perfect if you have the gumption but I usually just sit on the edge and “jump” in!

    • Aron February 16, 2011 at 4:57 am #

      YES! When I run in Avila near my parents I always use the ocean after for my “ice bath”… love it!

  21. Naomi February 15, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    I starred this post in my Google Reader. I faithfully take ice baths during the summer, but during the winter…not so much. I’m already cold, and the thought of sitting in ice is unbearable. But you gave some great tips that I will try this weekend!

  22. Nancy February 16, 2011 at 6:16 am #

    I only took an ice bath once….that’s all I needed! I’m too woosey for it!

  23. Laura February 16, 2011 at 7:29 am #

    I have to get in the bath first and then start the water….
    In the summer they have been part of my regime but this winter has proven too difficult thus far. May try this week as it is supposed to be ‘warm’ for a change…

  24. Run Lily February 16, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    for my “ice-baths”, I stand in my unheated community pool. that thing is freezing in the winter… but after a few minutes when the pain subsides, i feel that i could use a little more ‘coldness’. I will try you ice bath routine. it looks pretty doable :)

    Question.. are you only supposed to you do your legs, is it bad to submerge your upper body too?

    • Aron February 16, 2011 at 9:28 am #

      I have no idea, but I really have no desire to find out ;) I figure my lower body needs it the most since my legs do most of the work!

  25. Holly February 16, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    i definitely use ice baths after long/hard runs. since it’s been cold and our pool isn’t heated, i just use it right now– no real ice needed! :) our pool temp is around 56 right now so that’s plenty cold for me! :)

  26. Michaela February 16, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    Yes! I love an ice bath — I try to take one after any runs that are longer than 12 miles. However, my current bathtub kind of sucks — the drain doesn’t close, so I have to use a Tupperware lid to keep the water from draining out!

  27. Rosaura February 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm #

    Thank you Aron for those great tips about ice bath. I used to take ice bath for 20-30 min. after my long runs, with a hot tea and a book, radio or any other thing that can distracted me from the pain at the begining, and no problem after 8-10 min. I have a little problem right now and I can not use ice bath anymore, but while I was doing it, no injuries, no soreness or pain. Highly recommended!

  28. TNTCoachKen February 17, 2011 at 3:55 am #

    No ice baths for this guy, I’m too tall! I’ve use lakes after a run though….

  29. Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef February 19, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    what good tips! i haven’t tried to make myself do an ice bath yet but next weekend is my first 18 miler for this training cycle and i’m trying to convince myself to do it…

  30. Kelsey @ Go Girl July 26, 2011 at 6:45 am #

    These are some fabulous tips, but I just have one question. When is it appropriate to take an ice bath? Is there a certain number of miles you should have ran that day/week? Or how long should you wait to take one after your work out?

    • Hugh April 11, 2013 at 6:44 am #

      Take it right after you do a long run (depends on how your body feels really, a long run for you could be 2 miles, it could be 10 miles for someone else or vice versa) or unless your feeling pretty sore. I run every other day for recovery purposes and just to give myself a day off as a reward. I would do two days in a row about 3-4 times a month only because I was training for a marathon. I would always feel so much better after, especially when I would stand up, let the water drain out and start taking a luke warm to warm shower afterwards. No more then 20 minutes of soaking in the cold water though and only up to your waist line or at least until your legs are covered in water. And always build up to it. You don’t want to shock the body. The way I did it was I would sit in the tub and then start the water. After it would be full enough to cover my legs I would dump the ice into the tub.

  31. Hugh April 11, 2013 at 6:23 am #

    I took them even during winter during my training for a marathon in 2010. You almost have to, it’s a part of getting through all of the pain of training especially for recovery. I figured if I was going to go through the hell of running many miles then I could certainly handle an ice bath. Like the article suggests above you can work up to it to ease any shock or pain of taking one. Sometimes right after a long run I couldn’t wait to get in because I was so hot and sore. After awhile my body got real use to it. I highly recommend it if you are going to run a 26.2 mile marathon. It really does help your muscles recover faster, you have a better chance of avoiding injury and you feel a lot lot better after each run. The ice cold water drives the bad blood out of your muscular system in the legs, replacing them with cleaner blood and thus quicker healing. When I first heard of ice baths and the benefits of them I got real interested. But it took me almost two weeks to finally try it after I built up enough courage in my mind to do so. You train your body to get use to it. At the age of 47 I finally ran in and finished my first marathon. The reward of finishing made it all worth it and I had one of the best times of my life.

    • Hugh April 11, 2013 at 6:42 am #

      I took them even during winter during my training for a marathon in 2010. You almost have to, it’s a part of getting through all of the pain of training especially for recovery. I figured if I was going to go through the hell of running many miles then I could certainly handle an ice bath. Like the article suggests above you can work up to it to ease any shock or pain of taking one. Sometimes right after a long run I couldn’t wait to get in because I was so hot and sore. After awhile my body got real use to it. I highly recommend it if you are going to run a 26.2 mile marathon. It really does help your muscles recover faster, you have a better chance of avoiding injury and you feel a lot lot better after each run. The ice cold water drives the bad blood out of your muscular system in the legs, replacing them with cleaner blood and thus quicker healing. When I first heard of ice baths and the benefits of them I got real interested. But it took me almost two weeks to finally try it after I built up enough courage in my mind to do so. You train your body to get use to it. At the age of 47 I finally ran in and finished my first marathon. The reward of finishing made it all worth it and I had one of the best times of my life.

  32. Alan July 14, 2014 at 9:33 pm #

    May I know how long later can I do the ice bath after my long run?

    After my ultramarathon, it will take at least 2 hours before I get home. Is the ice bath still effective for the muscles after 2 hours?

    Thanks for the advice. =)

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    [...] At home I decide to take an ice bath, using tips from Aron. Except I’m teeth-chattering cold so I sit, fully clothed, in waist deep ice-cold water (just [...]

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