muscle soreness

How to Do an Ice Bath

In a recent post, I discussed 5 ways of treating muscle soreness. One of them suggested ice baths as a valid way of not only treating, but preventing muscle soreness from workouts. Jenny, one of my students who is a doctor, the one who hasn’t faltered in her attemts to get me onto the ice bath regime, read my blog post and sent me a few methods for doing ice baths. I’ll post them here.

This one comes from an article from Runner’s World:

“First you have to get ready. Prepare your post work out recovery smoothie, protein drink or recovery bar, set it next to the bath. Collect reading material.“Overcome pain” would be a good choice, the latest edition of “Runner’s World” or “The Ultimate Fighter” works too. Undress. Put on a woolly hat, woolly scarf and mitts. Step into the empty bath. Turn on the taps for a lukewarm flow of water and sit. Once there is an inch of lukewarm water covering the bottom of the bath, turn off the hot tap and just let the cold water fill up the remainder of the bath to cover the legs completely, higher if you also did a hard abdominal muscle work out or arm training. Screech, shiver and curse a few times. The cold water is usually cold enough, but for the masochist reader, you can add ice cubes once the body is covered. Make sure you keep your hands dry. Wait two minutes. The shivering usually stops and you can reach over, grab the food and book, sit back, relax and enjoy for 15 minutes. Dream of future glory. No sane competitor will be doing this: You are the champion.”

And here is the method that Jenny uses herself from an article written by physical therapist and runner Nikki Kimball:

“Over the years, I’ve discovered tricks to make the ice bath experience more tolerable. First, I fill my tub with two to three bags of crushed ice. Then I add cold water to a height that will cover me nearly to my waist when I sit in the tub. Before getting in, I put on a down jacket and a hat and neoprene booties, make myself a cup of hot tea, and collect some entertaining reading material to help the next 15 to 20 minutes pass quickly.

Though scientific research exists to support the use of ice baths to promote recovery, no exact protocol has been proven better than others. In general, water temperatures should be between 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and immersion time should ranges from 10 to 20 minutes. Among top runners, I see ice bath techniques that vary within and on either side of these ranges. My favorite method is the post-race soak in a cold river or lake with fellow competitors.”

Or if you’re like me, you might have to get a friend to assist you and use the method as applied in torture sessions by certain military dictatorships as depicted in the following image:

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5 Ways of Treating Muscle Soreness

Sometimes when I do intense sessions of grappling, throwing or breakfalls, I’ll wake up the next day or two days later with sore, aching muscles due to the strain of the training. Here are a few treatments for muscle soreness that can help.

1. Gentle exercise. Medical research suggests that you shouldn’t completely avoid exercise when dealing with muscle soreness. It’s quite the opposite. You should instead do light exercise that keeps the affected muscle(s) in motion. Blood circulation helps clear up the lactic acid build up that causes muscle soreness.

2. Ibuprofen (aka – Advil). While Ibuprofen doesn’t speed up muscle recovery, medical studies suggest that it does decrease the pain in the meantime.

3. Baths. A hot bath won’t cure muscle soreness, but it does help to take the edge off. I find it helps to throw in a cup of Epsom salts, which is said to help reduce muscle stiffness. According to a student of mine who is a doctor and avid fitness enthusiast, cold baths are a great way of preventing the soreness before it sets in. She says that if you can stand to immerse yourself in ice cold water for 5 minutes soon after you do an intense work-out it can do wonders for muscle soreness prevention. I’ve used cold water immersion for treating joint injuries, but I just can’t bring myself to fully immerse my body in ice water.

4. Stretching/ Yoga. They say that stretching doesn’t really do anything for reducing muscle soreness, but many people find that it helps make them feel better. There are some studies that the regular practice of yoga does help prevent muscle soreness. I find that yoga helps me, but only when I do it regularly.

5. Proper warm-ups. Medical studies suggest that properly warming up helps reduce post work-out muscle soreness. Experts suggest that you should do 3-5 minutes of exercise that gets your heart beating faster, like skipping, running, or gentle shadowboxing. This can take longer though if you’re training in a cold environment. Once you’re warm, it’s also a good idea to do some dynamic stretching, using movements that are similar the ones you’ll be doing in your work-out. These kinds of stretches should be done with steady, controlled movements, not explosive ones, which can injure muscles.

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