I posted an article blasting ice baths, a couple days ago. Here is an article regarding the benefits of the ice bath.
By Scott Douglas; Published December 19, 2012 in Runners World Home Running Times
Studies suggest help with muscle recovery if you do the baths correctly.
Long a practice of elites, post-run ice baths have come under a bit of–mixed metaphor alert!–fire lately, on two grounds: that regularly taking ice baths blunts some of the desired effects of training, and that there’s little evidence to support proponents’ claims that they speed recovery.
We’ll get to the first contention later in this article. Concerning evidence for ice baths’ efficacy, consider that just last week on this site, sportsmedicine doctor William Roberts wrote, “there’s no evidence base that shows their effectiveness.” Two new studies add some evidence in ice baths’ favor.
In the first, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, nine runners ran for half an hour at a not-slow steady pace, then did an interval workout. Afterwards, they put one leg (“to the level of their gluteal fold,” as the researchers put it) in an ice bath for 15 minutes and left the other leg out.
When the researchers measured physiological parameters in the runners’ legs post-ice bath, they found that hemoglobin levels were lower and tissue oxygenation were higher in the leg that had been in the ice bath. These changes are what proponents of ice baths say make them effective, as they’re consistent with reduced swelling in muscle tissues. Or, in the words of the researchers, the ice baths “decreased microvascular perfusion and muscle metabolic activity.” Of course, that doesn’t prove that ice baths “work,” but it’s evidence that they bring about the post-run changes people taking them are trying to achieve.
Which brings us back to the contention that regular ice baths can diminish some of the benefits of training. The thinking here is similar to what we wrote about last week concerning anti-inflammatories–slight post-run swelling is part of the process that leads to improved fitness once your body has recovered from a hard workout. By habitually taking intentional steps to limit that slight swelling, you’re not getting as much benefit from the workout. In this approach, runners should limit ice baths (and anti-inflammatories) to when they have above-and-beyond soreness or swelling and need to return to normal functioning as soon as possible.
A second new ice-bath study looked at one such situation. Published in theJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport, it had runners do two hard runs on three occasions: with a 15-minute ice bath at a temperature of 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit) between; with a 15-minute ice bath at a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) between; and with a 15-minute rest between. When running as long as they could at a submaximal effort in the second run, the runners lasted the longest following the colder of the two ice baths, followed by the less-cold ice bath. When they did nothing between, their time to exhaustion was four and three minutes shorter, respectively, than when they had the ice baths.
While few, if any, of us run races within 15 minutes of each other, this study suggests that a fairly cold ice bath immediately following a hard effort better prepares you for another hard effort in the near future. Such a strategy would make sense, for example, if you’re doing weekend races on subsequent days. It should also help if you’re running multiple legs in a road relay.