For those of you who follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you may have noticed our recent love affair with ice. Specifically, we’re Tweeting about the thrice-weekly ice baths we’ve been taking following our training sessions at Gym Jones. Training there is a whole different ball game, and after our first workout, we wondered whether we’d be recovered in time for our next session. Three days later. Enter our new favorite recovery tool – the ice bath.
The ice bath has long been used by professional athletes, long-distance runners and athletic trainers, but isn’t something your average gym-goer would think to incorporate into his or her recovery practices. For the weekend warrior, softball league participant or three-times-a-week exerciser, a post-workout ice bath probably sounds a little hardcore. And to some degree, it is – there’s nothing fun about sitting in a tub full (and we mean FULL) of ice for 15-30 minutes. But the recovery benefits far outweigh any potential short-term discomfort, and the effect it has on recovery is why we’re sharing our experience with you today.
The logic behind ice baths relates to the muscle damage that results from hard workouts. This damage is actually a good thing for our fitness. You train hard, which creates microscopic trauma to muscle and connective tissue. During your recovery period, those “microtears” repair themselves just a little bit stronger than they were before. (Say it with me, kids… you don’t get fitter while you are training, you get fitter while you are RECOVERING from training.)
But the damage done during a hard training session also produces muscle soreness and inflammation, which can interfere with subsequent training. Ice baths temporarily constrict blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. And immersion allows controlled, even constriction around all muscles, effectively blunting microscopic damage that you may not even feel. (You may hit the tub to relieve sore quads, but your calves, hamstrings, and hip/knee/ankle connective tissues will all gain the same benefits.)
The second advantage involves a physiological reaction provoked by the large amount of muscle submerged. After the initial shock of the ice-cold water, the body responds with vasodilation – a rapid circulation which flushes the damage-inflicting waste from your system. Once out of the bath, the area warms up again, and new blood rushes in to help the healing process.
Ice Me, Please
Many benefits of an ice bath are localized to the immersed area. (You’ll get some anti-inflammatory benefits systemically, but the real goal is to target the stressed muscle groups.) If your workout was a shoulder smoker or a general conditioning session, an ice bath won’t hurt, but where this particular recovery tool really comes in handy is when you’ve got specific muscular stress in an area you can actually immerse in the icy water. (If you’ve worked an area you just can’t cover in ice, you might want to consider a contrast shower instead.)
If you’ve got a Jacuzzi tub and can submerge your entire body in the ice bath, you’ve got more “ice me” options than those of us with a normal bathtub. (It’s also a hell of a lot tougher to submerge yourself in, though – that ice-cold water over your chest is quite a shock to the system.) If you’ve just got a normal-sized bathtub, it’s going to be darn hard to completely submerge your upper body. In that case, use the ice bath primarily after what Rob calls, “mother-smucking leg day”, like heavy squats, sprint intervals, or the mountain of wall-ball, slam-ball, Airdyne calories and bear crawls we did last week.
About a week into our new training regimen, we were instructed by Rob MacDonald (known around Gym Jones as “Maximus”) to jump into an ice bath after a particularly “meaningful” session. Despite Melissa’s hesitation, when Rob tells you to do something, you do it, no matter how unpleasant. Which is how, 20 minutes later, we found ourselves lugging five bags of ice (50 lbs. in total) into the bathroom, cranking the tub water to cold, dumping in the ice and hitting the tub.
The first few minutes were so unpleasant, we’re hesitant to describe them here for fear you’ll all stop reading. (Please do not stop reading.) You can’t breathe. You think you might actually die. You think, “This CANNOT be healthy.” It makes your brain scream that something is seriously Not All Right with your body. But soon, your breathing steadies, your legs and torso go all red and numb and it’s really not that bad. No, really.
We traded off in five minute segments the first time, accumulating 15:00 in total. (Since then, we realized it’s easier just to get in and stay in, doing all our time at once.) Getting out of the bath was a challenge since we couldn’t feel our legs, but we quickly dried off, hobbled over to the couch, threw on some warm clothes, made some hot tea and shivered our way back to a normal body temperature.
The next day, we were amazed at how good we felt. The comparison between our first workout there (rough, no ice bath) and this workout (even more rough, plus ice bath) was astonishing. Our legs were mildly sore, but not destroyed. We were able to squat and run the next day with no problem at all, in fact, and went back to the Gym two days later ready to hit it hard again. In just one session, we had become ice bath converts.
The Chilly How-To
Ready to get started? Assuming you’ve got a standard bathtub, here’s our prescription. Grab three to five bags of ice – that’s 30 – 50 lbs. in total – from your local grocery store, convenience store or gas station. (More ice than that is overkill and can actually further damage muscles, and any less isn’t going to be cold enough.)
Next, you’ve got some pre-bath prep to take care of. Grab several towels (one for the bathroom floor, one for you, and possibly another small towel for behind your shoulder blades and/or to rest your elbows on in the tub). We always bring a chair into the bathroom, because it’s hard to stand for a few minutes after you get out. In addition, you may need someone to talk you through it the first time around – the chair, some good music, your favorite magazine or book and a friend willing to watch you suffer all come in handy.
This next tip is really important, especially for the men. For the love of Peter (and your Pauls), keep your underwear on. Ice cubes directly on your special parts will make the experience so much more unpleasant than it already is, and your legs get JUST as cold whether you’re wearing undies or not. We’ve also heard of folks wearing shirts and wool hats while soaking their legs, which may also help stave off shivers. On that note, make sure you’ve got some warm clothes at the ready – wool socks, warm pants and a warm sweater will help you bring your body temperature up faster post-bath. Finally, grab a watch or a timer of some sort, because you’re going to want to stick it out for at least 5:00 at a time.
Now you’re ready for the big show. Fill your tub with cold water – COLD, not luke-warm. Remember, the temperature of your tub will rise steadily with your body heat. Make sure the ice is crushed and not in giant blocks, and dump it all in. Now get in. Right now, don’t think about it, don’t hesitate… just get in, all the way, RIGHT NOW. Don’t give your brain a chance to rebel, because if you balk here, you might not ever get up the nerve to get in.
Now, breathe. Just breathe. We promise, you are not dying. You’ll have to fight your body’s “flight” mechanism for the first 2-3 minutes, which is why having a friend with you is such a good idea. Let them talk you through it, focus on your breathing, and just… sit. It helps to have your toes out of the water – we rest them on a 6” foam roller at the bottom of the tub, but if you’ve got neoprene socks, you can wear those too. It also helps to lean back against the wall, loosen your death-grip on the side of the tub and do your best to just RELAX. Eventually, your breathing will return to normal, everything from your belly-button down goes numb, and it’s actually pretty tolerable.
You’ve gotta stay in for at least 5:00 this first time around – but shoot for a solid 15:00. Dallas will sometimes soak for up to 30:00, but that’s about as long as you should stay in. The benefits don’t continue forever, as muscle and tissues will eventually tense up when exposed to that kind of cold for too long. The first time, we read scientific journals to each other to take our minds off the cold, but at this point we just hang out in the tub with a book or magazine until the timer goes off.
The Post-Bath Wrap-Up
When your time is up, be really careful getting out of the tub – if you’ve done it right, you won’t be able to feel your legs. Immediately get out of your wet clothes, dry off completely, and put on your warm stuff. Do whatever you can to warm up – move around, don’t sit still – but resist the temptation to jump into a hot shower right away. Let your body warm up naturally, and allow that swift rush of blood to continue the recovery process.
Another word of caution – expect to shiver for twice as long as your bath. That means you’ll be shivering – really shivering, teeth chattering and everything – for 30 minutes following a 15 minute bath. (So don’t plan on making any business calls or leaving the house for a little while.) Finally, a cup of warm tea or soup will help this process along, and make you feel more comfortable while you’re warming up.
So there you have it – our guide to the ice bath. Try it after your next front squat 5×5 or track repeats and let us know what you think. Got your own ice bath tip or trick? Share it in comments.
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I did a cold jacuzzi at my grandmother’s after I ran a marathon. The circulation of the jets kept it feeling colder, since I didn’t get a cushion of warmer water heated by my body building up around me. It also works to wiggle around every so often to keep the water circulated. Another thing that helps is to turn on the cold water and sit in the tub right away, letting the water fill up around your legs. Then toss in ice. It lengthens the whole process but makes it more enjoyable.
The time when an ice bath really shone for me was when I went out and did a late-June 7-mile run (my first hour+ run in a while, in hot weather) and ice bathed right after. I was able to go to a friend’s wedding that afternoon/evening and dance for hours without getting sore!
I bet this would help tremendously on my squat days but if my wife ever saw me come in the house and dump all that ice in the tub she would immediately pack up her things and walk out the door. I’m surprised she tolerates have the things I do already :).
I’m kinda scared but I’ll give it a try! I’ve been doing hot baths after tough workouts- is that bad?
This is great! Thanks for posting. Believe it or not, McDonald’s can bring some value to your icebath…they sell 10lbs bags of ice for a $1….I have been using the ole’ icebath for some time now, and always get 5 bags of ice from the “Dollar Menu.”
I have a question about over-training. Couldn’t doing ice baths potentially lead to over-training? Does this process repair muscle or just dull the pain? Do the muscles have ample time to recover from this?
My reason for these questions is due to the fact that I LOVE football. Every Sunday you see another athlete down for the year due to a torn ACL, muscle pull, etc. My guess is due to over-training and the use of ice baths so that they could perform in practice the rest of the week. Do I have a legitimate argument or am I just paranoid?
I’m curious to hear what you think about the alleged added benefit of ice baths burning calories due to your body using energy to stay warm, as referenced particularly in “The Four Hour Body”. Seems to make some sense. Have not heard much evidence anecdotal or otherwise.
You make it sound so horrible.. Its really not, quit being such babies:)
How long of window do you have to achieve the benifits of an ice bath? I take a lot of ice baths, usually directly after a workout, when I have time for it.. But on early work days when I have to head straight to work from the gym, will I still benifit from an ice bath even though its more than 6-8 hours postwod?
TIP FOR ICE BATH:
I bought a big plastic tub from Home Depot and it fits perfectly in my tub.. Now I am able to completely submerge myself!! Give it a try and don’t forget an ipod (sirus/xm radio app)
Lauren G. - Whole9 EE says
I’ve done this before and serioulsy felt the benefits after really tough workouts. My process is a little different though. Since I’m a huge wuss when it comes to sitting in a tub of cold water and ice, I’ve found that it works better if i just sit in the empty tub first, then start running the cold water and adding the ice. I find it just helps me acclimate easier. This might be helpful for people who don’t have the ‘kettlebells’ to just go straight into the tub. I then set the timer on my watch so that I can keep track of the time and also play music on my ipod and sing along to the songs to keep my mind off of how effing cold I am. I recommend 1980’s era Madonna as being particularly effective :)
Tim Dymmel says
I have used ice baths in the past. It was all very logical and, yes, even felt good when I was done and warmed up. And I “thought” I was ready to perform for the next game/practice/workout more quickly than without it. I even convinced my poor “cold-phobic” wife to submerge herself post-marathons.
Then I read the following article that used real scientific studies to show me that I was really just experiencing a nice warm teddy bear that made me “feel” good, but didn’t really affect my performance.
Phil Wagner is as legit as it comes when talking about using science for high performance.
So I am now a convert back to not using ice baths and I don’t feel like I’m missing out.
You’ll also notice his reference to studies showing compression gear not being show to help in performance or recovery. But I guess if we need that crutch, some will hold onto it. Though I enjoy reading how Whole9 likes to encourage others to remove their crutches.
Looking forward to the replies.
Dallas @ Whole9 says
Good question. While performing ballistic exercise immediately following an ice bath (cryotherapy) will decrease your peak power production and impair your proprioception (read: temporarily increase risk of injury), that effect is acute ONLY. That’s why you never ice before competition. If you think about the physical (i.e. trauma) demands of a game like (American) football, where the athletes are getting bigger, faster, and more powerful over the years, it’s no wonder to me that injuries are commonplace. I don’t think, though, that ice baths cause an uptick in injury rates. The reality is that football is a brutal sport, and in terms of increasing ACL or ankle injuries, wearing aggressive cleats (i.e. fixing your foot to the ground as you pivot your body over your foot) would do more to increase rotational-type (ACL, etc.) injuries than ice baths ever could. And I know you don’t want your favorite player to stop wearing cleats. ;) Long story short: the reperfusion (“rush of blood”) post-ice bath stimulates immune components that repair exercise-induced injury, and that is a net gain for the athlete. I love that you’re thinking critically, though. Thanks for the comment.
Melissa @ Whole9 says
Jenn: That’s been our experience as well, with muscle soreness. Plus I just find the ice invigorating – when I get out, I’m up and ready to go. Perhaps it’s mental as much as physical, but if I enjoy the process and experience positive effects, why wouldn’t I continue?
Diego: Ha! You could always try a contrast shower instead… she’d never have to know. (As long as you can keep your mouth shut when the water goes really, really cold…)
Jules: The idea is that if you’ve got some inflammation going on as the result of your training session, more heat isn’t going to do anything to reduce that. As a PT, Dallas will tell you ice, not heat, immediately following an injury. As resistance exercise is essentially microscopic injury to muscles and connective tissue, the same principles would apply. While not all studies confirm the benefits of an ice bath, the majority I read DO say that heat (in the form of hot baths) following a workout impairs recovery and performance by increasing post-exercise inflammatory markers.
Michael: But what if someone saw me getting out of the car (with our Whole9 license plate, wearing my Whole9 hoodie) and running into a McDonald’s? Scandalous. ;)
Brian: The idea that you can shiver your weigh to weight loss is stupid, despite what Tim Ferriss is trying to sell you. There are no shortcuts, which is why something like the 4 Hour Body – which is essentially a get-rich-quick scheme that sells a lot of books but doesn’t actually make real people any healthier – gets us so fired up. The best way to manage your body composition – STILL – is to eat good food (not too much), move your body, sleep a lot and reduce stress. Period. (Sorry to take that out on you. It’s not your fault for bringing it up.) ;)
Nick: The idea is to get those inflammatory markers down and blunt that microscopic damage ASAP. While a bath hours after your training session won’t hurt, you’re missing out on the majority of the purported benefits, so it’s probably not even worth it. In the case of an early AM workout, try a recovery contrast shower after your training session instead.
Lauren: That’s another method I’ve heard from folks, but I don’t have the “kettlebells” to do it your way! Feeling that cold water creep on up… Brrrrr. I do like your musical recommendation, however. We rocked the Rural Alberta Advantage during our last ice bath and found it much easier to tolerate than something all soft and soothing.
Oh nothing to be sorry about, I mostly agree with your assessment of the 4 hour body, and if I had believed in using ice baths to burn calories, I would have tried it already. Keep up the great work.
Mike H says
I’m wonder about the linear nature of the benefits of this. I know Whole9 is all about hardcore adherance, but but what about a cold water bath sans ice? What about 3-4 minutes of cold at the beginning of your shower, then switching over to hot? Is that stuff worth doing? What about warming up w/ a shower after your ice bath? I mean if you’re already stinky from your workout…
I love this post. I remember when Michael @ Gym Jones started suggesting I incorporate ice baths into my recovery and it makes me laugh to recall the gasps, curses and exclamations of disbelief as I first followed this advice. Since then, I’ve used it after racing and workouts and as you stated above, it does and did get a lot easier to adjust to. (The underwear bit made me laugh out loud remembering how quickly I learned to use my bathing suit in that frigid bath instead of “bare butting” it.) For the icebaths during the winter, i have even been “guilty” of bringing a steaming cup of hot tea or coffee in with me. Eveni f it hadnt helped to warm my chest, it sure helped me deal with it mentally. Ha.
My sister-in-law is a Rockette and takes ice baths after her shows. Just this past Christmas, I told her how happy I was “regular folks” don’t have to worry about that post-workout. I generally read your site to learn about what food to eat, but it seems every few weeks I’m eating my words too ;)
Susan M. says
Being a Certified Athletic Trainer myself, thanks for the shout-out to all of the Athletic Trainers out there! :) I remember being an athletic training student in college and marvelling at our Division I football players soaking chest-deep in frigid ice water in the whirlpool baths post-activity and initially thinking they were just a bunch of dumb jocks. But lo and behold, they were on to something! One of my friends, a hardcore runner, touts the benefits of a post-run ice bath, particularly after her long-distance training days for her first marathon last year. Thanks for bringing this often-neglected recovery tool to light in your postings. I have never used ice baths myself, but I’m thinking I should start incorporating them due to the fact that I have chronically tight calves that tend to get sore after a particularly intense workout or after a run (when I haven’t been running consistently).
Dallas @ Whole9 says
While we think it’s good to question “conventional wisdom”, we see a lot of folks (especially in the CrossFit and Paleo communities) categorically throwing out the mainstream recommendations simply because they’re… mainstream, or conventional. We think that’s a mistake. Here’s our take on Dr. Wagner’s post. The primary study he references (Nemet, et al.) draws some conclusions that, I think, are over-reaching. After all, it’s ONE study. It’s folly to use one or two studies to base an entire theory on – those studies should be corroborated by others before saying, “yes, I definitively know a brand new truth.” You should never pin your entire theoretical construct on a single paper (or even a couple), especially if it’s an outlier. A solid perspective is a complex blend of years of experience (I spent 9 years as a physical therapist and 7 as a S&C coach) and many, many pieces of literature. That paper is interesting, but even those authors had a few interesting things to say that I think are worth noting. I’ll get to those.
The fact that both inflammatory AND anti-inflammatory cytokines were acutely increased postexercise/post-treatment doesn’t surprise or bother me at all. It’s an indicator that your body has “checks and balance” to control runaway/excessive postexercise inflammation. Some uptick in inflammatory mediators is necessary to stimulate repair of the microscopic “damage” done by intense exercise, but there needs to be tight controls on those so as not to actually increase exercise-induced damage/inflammation. Hence the uptick in anti-inflammatory mediators as well. Those checks and balances are complex.
Also worth mentioning is that 4x250m sprints at 80% max velocity (for conditioned athletes) are perhaps not as “destructive” as something like, say, Murph or Filthy Fifty or max 4x100s. So to extrapolate the results of one study on sprint repeats to apply to more intense or heavily loaded training is over-reaching, in my opinion.
I’ll also make the point that a major benefit of an ice bath happens in the hours after getting out. The “rebound” of blood flow (and, I suspect, of anabolic hormones, though I have no literature to support that) following cryotherapy is beneficial in the recovery process, similar to the increased perfusion with recovery massage. An acute (<1 hour) suppression of anabolic hormones postexercise (potentially by reducing certain inflammatory markers like IL-1b, which are one of the acute triggers for muscle and connective tissue anabolism) is no more worrying to me than an increase in postexercise inflammatory markers – it's a result of exercise, and the bigger factor is what happens in the 24-72 hours postexercise, not just one short hour afterward.
The authors state:
"First, we determined the effects of cold-pack application only 60 min after the end of exercise. The significant effects on anabolic, catabolic, and pro- and anti-inflammatory mediators indicate that longer effects of cold-pack application should be studied as well. "
So… even the authors of the study Dr Wagner references acknowledge that their single study did not adequately evaluate the effects of ice application beyond 60 minutes postexercise. Since And since many of the benefits (or potential benefits) of ice baths extend well beyond one hour postexercise, it’s illogical to conclude that there is no benefit to ice baths if you only examine the first hour postexercise. Ah, the danger of pinning everything on one horse.
If you’re interested in digging into more of this research, there’s plenty out there. The general consensus is that while there is much conflicting evidence, ice and/or cold baths are not harmful and may enhance recovery. I’m sure that the training protocol has the ability to dramatically impact the study results, so extrapolating one sprint protocol with localized ice application to apply to other cryotherapy modalities (like ice baths) and all athletes is a bit much for me.
If you’re doing fine without any ice, good for you. But I reject the idea that one guy and one study are reason enough to ditch a potentially useful modality altogether. Maybe I just like my placebo.
Great post. I have used ice baths during marathon training for the past 2 years and have found the REALLY help with recovery.
Sorry if this has already been answered. I would like to know how long after a workout would ice be of any benefit. For instance, I workout during lunch. If I take an ice bath that evening will I still get the same effect?
I too have used iced baths on several occasions….and am a newbie convert. My only issue is/was here in NY in the winters. Even though my house is heated, I find it really hard to warm up afterward. It takes me hours–like 4-6hrs to feel warm. The next day though, it is sheer bliss!
I usually wind up talking to a friend on the phone and get sidetracked with the time and have also found wearing a hat to be real helpful/
Dallas @ Whole9 says
Short answer is no. In order to maximize the benefits of ice baths, I’d try to get into the bath within an hour or two postexercise. It’s like putting ice on an ankle sprain – the sooner the better, though I suppose a few hours later might be better than none at all. If it were me, I wouldn’t bother with an ice bath that many hours after training, and I’d opt for a contrast shower instead, since that’ll give you more systemic, stimulatory effects (compared to the more acute, localized effect of the immersion bath). Good luck!
John, CrossFit Endurance says
YES! I was actually talking about ice baths today with a client. I am so glad you all wrote on this; it will bring a lot of exposure to how great ice baths really are. At the CFE seminars, we prescribe the use of ice baths for recovery and we actually stress the point you all made in bold about recovery > training.
Awesome stuff, as always.
Rob Whole 9 EE says
I heart Ice baths. They are terrible in the beginning but the recovery is genius.
Steph D says
I’m no stranger to ice baths after playing collegiate sports. They are the best way to recover, hands down, and last year at regionals while everyone was achy and sore the next day I was on the road to recovery.
My tip– like someone said below, get a large plastc trash can from Home Depot. I can completely submerge myself up to my chest (it’s safest if you keep the heart out of the ciy water) and you can get those lower back and ab muscles as well.
Tip #2– if you submerge completely in something like the trash can I mentioned above, wear socks, wrap plastic bags around your feet, and tape them around your ankles. Suprisingly if you keep your feet pretty warm it helps you get through the experience a little better.
Tip #3– if I am in an ice bath, there is a towel in my mouth. Seriously- cannot get through it without biting something because that intitial 2 minutes is TORTURE for me, no matter how many times I do it.
Oh, the other reason ice baths rock? They’re a great place to practice your fun and interesting swear words. It amuses my husband. I guess that’s what I do instead of biting down on a towel.
What a great, timely blog! I’d never thought of, or really heard about, ice baths. Today we did “The Lumberjack 20” which consisted of 20 185# deadlifts, OH squats, dumbell squat cleans and lots of running. My one rep max to this point was #185 deadlift…..but I did all 20!!! Super fantastic! After the wod all I could think of was….well…..maybe this is the perfect time for me to try ice baths.
I walked (painfully) into Publix on the way home, got my ice, and tried not to over-think anything. Whoa! Truly, ice baths are the Fight Gone Bad of tub soaking! I got my 15 minutes in, dressed in my winter woolies and sat in the southern sun for about an hour.
I have to say…although I’m still sore( yay, me, 20 deadlifts and everything else) , I’m looking forward to being able to wod and work ( a non sitting job) tomorrow.
Thanks for this!
As a follow uo…my legs feel MUCH better this morning. I def. should have soaked my lower back , though, which was only intermittently soaked this time. When I do deadlifts “wrong” my lower back is engaged. But really, truly, box jumps today and I am not NEARLY as stiff as I’m hearing my fellow lumberjack-ers are.
Thanks for all the tips, guys!
Luke R. says
Can you talk at all about some of the potential dangers (if any) of an ice bath?
It sounds great, and I’m hoping to give it a try, but I’ll probably be doing this completely solo and won’t have a spotter (unless one of my pit bulls is smart enough to pull me out if I pass out… Judging from their blank stares, I doubt it), so I want to make sure I’m 100% aware of what I’m getting myself into.
1. I’ve read a few things from the magical wisdom of the Internet that say you shouldn’t immerse yourself past your heart due to potential heart problems. Is this true? That argument actually sounds pretty stupid to me, but I’ve been proven to be the stupid one before.
2. Is there any REAL risk of going into shock? Another Web gem.
3. Any risk of falling asleep in this bath? I know cold/numbness can lead to drowsiness. I don’t want to wake up in Heaven… I hope it’s Heaven anyway. If my theology is wrong, maybe I’ll wake up as a beetle.
…those are all I can think of off the top of my head, but any other risks/concerns you can address would be appreciated! Thanks!
“mountain of wall-ball, slam-ball, Airdyne calories and bear crawls”-can you translate this into english? Im curious as to what these workouts actually are.
Thanks Melissa, makes sense! Guess I better ditch the post-workout hot baths :(
Melissa @ Whole9 says
@Luke R: You’re talking about sitting down in a bath that’s nowhere near freezing for 5-15 minutes. The risks are low, if you follow the instructions we’ve given you. Immersing yourself up to your chest is generally unnecessary, as the muscles you typically target with an ice bath are in your legs, and perhaps your lower back. And I can’t imagine anyone falling asleep in a 15 minute ice bath – it’s cold, but again, we’re not talking about falling asleep outside in the snow in the middle of winter. If you’re concerned, start off slow, with 1-2 bags of ice for 5 minutes at a time. You can jump in for 5:00, jump out for 5:00 and repeat and still gain many of the benefits.
@Jordano: You can find most of those movements via Google – for example, wall-ball is described here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TC2FmcPH64o Our workouts contain a bunch of movements with strange names – some are names the Gym Jones guys made up, others (like slam-ball and bear crawl) are pretty standard exercise movements.
Neil J. says
Great post! Quick question. What is the reason for moving around post ice bath. Like you mention, I have a hard time walking after a good soak. I make it to my warm bed, and that’s it for the next hour or so. Is there a risk in the body taking longer to warm back up?
Melissa @ Whole9 says
Neil: For us, it’s just about practicality. We get out of the bath and shiver like crazy, and we find moving around decreases our shiver time. Sitting in a blanket or in bed is a fine way to warm up, though, if that’s what you prefer. You just don’t want to artificially warm yourself up with a hot bath or shower – let that “blood rush” do its job naturally.
Luke R. says
Thanks for the reply Melissa!
My question is how long is it ok to totally submerge your body (up to the neck) in the ice bath. It sounded like most people are just doing the lower half simply bc the standard bathtub won’t fit the entire body. 30 min neck deep seems hard on the heart.
Thanks for the info! Tried this out the other day. Not totally sure it helped, but it was numbingly-fun for the 15 minutes, haha.
Since after-workout nutrition and ice bath therapy are both most effective within an hour after your workout, which one do you guys emphasize for recovery purposes?
Dallas @ Whole9 says
Belly deep is adequate. You’re not trying to create an actual hypothermia.
We plan ahead so our PWO nutrition takes, like, 5-10 minutes while we’re still at the gym. Then… ice bath as soon as we get home. So… we prioritize both.
Thea taylor says
Are you going to post anything about your experience at Gym Jones. Or did I miss that post. Thanks for all you do.
Melissa @ Whole9 says
Thea: We’ll probably not write an article just about our training at GJ. While we are both totally in love with the quality of training we’re getting there, we’re not going to publicize the day-to-day workings of their facility here. We do Tweet/Facebook about our sessions once in a while, however, so follow us on Twitter or Facebook to follow along and see examples of our Gym Jones workouts.
Thrive Lancaster says
I have seen this done while playing hockey. We played a 80+ game schedule and a couple kids would take an ice bath prior to every game. They used a plastic 55 gallon drum. Tried it a couple times..burr. May try it again now that I am older and doing Crossfit.
I tried a mini ice-bath today after my return to seriously working out! It was awesome! I only had a few ice packs and I only stayed in maybe 5 minutes, but my legs feel better already. I was really surprised at how strong the involuntary reactions are when you’re dipping yourself in ice water. In the bath I totally couldn’t breathe and kept making ridiculous squealing noises against my will while telling myself to shut up and deal with it. There was NO shutting up and dealing with it. I think I’ll use it to practice my exciting swear words like someone commented above! :)
Melissa, you may want to actually read Tim Ferris’ book before discarding it. You both preach many things in common, you’d be surprised…It is an unfortunate tendency in the health and fitness field to promote one’s view as truth for all and above all others. This is not the best path to evolution. I would have hoped that your experience with Crossfit or your current experience @GJ would have helped you rise above that.
yes, icing and contrast showers are great and in cold climates just tap water baths are fine too, ours is 36 degrees and the effects are as good as ice baths but a little easier.
Jim Simpson says
I know this is an old post, and I’m not sure if you’re still monitoring comments on it, but I’d be interested to get your take on Kelly Starrett’s recent post on Mobility WOD regarding the drawbacks of icing: http://www.mobilitywod.com/2012/08/people-weve-got-to-stop-icing-we-were-wrong-sooo-wrong.html
1. All the athletic trainers who just read this appreciate the shout out! 2. I have had to drag every single one of my athletes to the ice tub and pretty much use brute force to keep them in, but after their first one they are sold! After the 3 minute mark it’s all down hill. Just a heads up- some people do have a systemic response to an ice bath- nausea and on a rare occasion vomiting- this is not all that common, but you’re not crazy if it happens.
Melissa @Whole9 says
@Jim: Dallas has had several conversations with Kelly directly on this subject. They agree to disagree.
@Ashly: Thanks for weighing in!