Facts About Ice Baths
Does the very idea of dunking yourself into an ice bath send shivers down your spine? Have you ever seen the Russians take a dip in an ice hole in the middle of chilly winter and thought – NO? Before you discard the idea of an ice bath you should know that it can actually be beneficial for you. If you are a serious or professional athlete, you may even find recovery easier. Before you fill your tub with ice and take the plunge, read on and discover everything you need to know about ice baths.
Soothe Those Burning Muscles
Pre-season training for many athletes can be brutal. It can involve hours of running or working with heavyweights. At the end of such a session, the muscles can feel like they are on fire. Submerging yourself in an ice bath may be just the thing to cool down those burning muscles and give you instant relief. An ice bath can also facilitate the recovery process of such an intense workout.
Improve Your Performance Before Competing
Ice baths are not just beneficial after an intensive workout session. They can also be immensely beneficial before a challenging competition. If you’ve decided to run a marathon or a cross-country race on a hot day, taking an ice bath prior to such an event can lessen the effects of humidity and heat. All you need to do is take a short soak in an ice bath about half an hour before your competition and you can reduce your core temperature enough to give you an exceptionally good start.
Boost Your Central Nervous System
A soak in an ice bath can stimulate and boost your central nervous system. It does this by helping you sleep more peacefully which results in less fatigue the following day. Also, rather than lull your senses as a warm bath does, an ice bath will definitely perk you up and make you infinitely more alert as well as fine-tuning your reactive responses.
Train And Strengthen Your Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is one of the main nerves that connects your body to your brain. This nerve is in charge of certain sensory activities as well as motor skills. Sitting in an ice bath can improve the function of the vagus nerve because ice baths can train this vital nerve to effectively deal with situations that may otherwise stress your body.
Any type of strenuous activity be it from exercising or working can cause muscle inflammation. This inflammation can be a swelling of the affected muscles and make it considerably difficult to function until the swelling subsides. You can take anti-inflammatory medication but it would be more beneficial to sit in an ice bath for a short amount of time. The cold will quickly reduce the inflammation and swelling and gives you instant relief.
Improve Your Circulatory System
Sitting in an ice bath will initially slow down and constrict the flow of blood in your circulatory system but that is only temporary. After your ice bath, your body will slowly start to warm and circulation will speed up and give your post-workout aching body a boost by accelerating the healing process. Health and fitness buffs also swear by the benefits of an ice bath as it lessens swelling and tissue damage as well as facilitating the flushing of waste products and toxins from our bodies.
How Often Should You Sit In An Ice Bath?
There is no definite rule on how often you can or should sit in an ice bath. Those who engage in strenuous exercise or professional athletes may benefit from a daily ice bath while others may deem this excessive and take an icy dip on a less frequent basis. It is very much a personal decision but even so, you should consult a physician before taking the plunge.
How Long Should You Sit In An Ice Bath?
Sitting in an ice bath may take a bit of getting used to. When you first sit in, you can expect the iciness to be a real shock to your system. If you can’t handle it for too long, try and endure the cold for a few minutes and increase the time with each ice bath. Keep in mind though, that 10 to 15 minutes is usually more than enough to sit in an ice bath so try not to overdo it and risk exposing yourself to hypothermia.
What Is The Ideal Temperature For An Ice Bath?
The usual temperature for an ice bath is between 50 – 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10 – 15 degrees Celsius). You definitely do not want the water to be too cold. If you are just starting a regular routine of taking ice baths, you may want to start with a slightly warmer temperature and gradually cool it down. It may be somewhat uncomfortable at first, but give it a few minutes and you may find it quite invigorating.
An Ice Bath Is Not for Everyone
While ice baths may be very beneficial, they are not for everyone and may even pose some serious risks in some people. Those with a pre-existing coronary or cardiovascular disease should avoid ice baths or, at the very least, should seek the advice of their doctor before considering this form of cryotherapy. Ice baths can also be of danger to people with high blood pressure or those with diabetes. It is the drastic drop in your body’s core temperature that can exacerbate these pre-existing health issues.
What Not To Do with Ice Baths
It stands to reason that you will feel quite cold after an ice bath but you should allow yourself to warm up gradually. Avoid the temptation to rush into a hot shower to warm up. You are much better off snuggling under a warm blanket or stepping outside in the sunshine to warm yourself naturally.
While there are definite benefits to taking regular ice baths, caution is always advised and, sometimes, it’s enough to simply take a cold shower.