The picture you see here is of me, after my first marathon, sitting in a tub of ice in a Portland, Oregon hotel. It was 2003.
It took me some time to warm up to the idea of an ice bath (pun intended). Having spent most of my life in Alaska, I detested the cold and had no intention of ever placing myself in a freezing environment again if I could help it. During training for my first marathon, I would hear my coach recommend ice baths to his clients and I shuddered at the thought of it. Finally, after one particularly difficult training run, my achy, stiff legs convinced me to try otherwise.
It was so worth it.
The day the photo above was taken, I had finished my first and worst marathon ever. I was in a lot of pain. Sitting in this tub was like dousing a match in a cool glass of water. It was absolute, instant relief. It’s not always that dramatic, (nor should it be!) but the often dreaded ice bath will consistently allow your muscles to recover faster and reduce soreness by curbing inflammation resulting from microtears in the tissue. It is well worth ten minutes of discomfort, I promise!
That said, after hearing tales of runners prepping the tub and hopping in butt naked (and right back out!) I thought it may be important to share the best and easiest way to give yourself an ice bath. This comes from years of personal experience and a healthy aversion to the cold.
1) Suit up! Only your legs need to be submerged, which means you get to wear hats, gloves, and sweaters on the top half to keep your core nice and warm. Note the stunning model to the left (I did not pack my winter hat for Boston and tossed my gloves at mile 6, so I wasn’t as well insulated for this bath).
2) Place an inch or so of warm water in the bottom of the tub. This warms the porcelain and offers a nice transitional phase into the ice bath.
3) Hop into the tub, half-dressed, and turn the handle all the way to cold. Let the water rise until it is just above your thighs.
4) Dump in 2-3 bags of ice as the finishing touch. Bathe for 5-10 minutes, distracting yourself with a good book, that upcoming trip to Hawaii, reliving the glory of your athletic prowess, or conversation with a close friend who is sitting atop the toilet next to you.
5) Polish it off with a nice, warm shower and a happy dance!