I did a thing. I took my first ice bath. Its something I’d been wanting to try having even suggested to me by multiple people who know that I have constantly beat myself up in the gym and only recently have considered maintenance an integral part of my training process. I put it off as long as i could.
I’ll just say this, I hate the cold. I live in southern Louisiana. Its hot, its humid, its perfect for me. My husband and I took a trip to Boston last December and I felt like i was going to die of hypothermia every single day we went sight seeing. Boston is a gorgeous city but thirteen degree weather is not ok for me.
So why would I finally cave and take an ice bath? Simply put, my coach told me to. When the boss says jump, you don’t even ask how high you just jump with everything you’ve got in you.
Perhaps you’ve seen some of your favorite athletes posting pictures or videos on their social media of them taking ice baths. Different type of cold therapies are becoming more prevalent for athletes to reduce inflammation and soreness. Athletes are constantly beating up their muscles. A muscle recovery plan is extremely important to allow the athlete to perform when needed and not be restricted by fatigued, overuse muscles. So how does it work exactly?
According to an article I found by BridgeAthletics.com, submerging your body in the freezing water constrict the blood vessels in the limbs forcing the blood to move into the center of the body by the heart. Coming out of the water, the blood returns quickly to the limbs having been oxidized and removing lactic acid. Essentially recovering the muscle and reducing inflammation (http://blog.bridgeathletic.com/ice-bath-recovery).
Here’s how I took my ice bath. Ordinarily in order to do this you would have to go to your nearest supermarket or gas station to get several bags of ice. However, we live near my cousin who owns a commercial ice machine. My husband filled two large buckets and one ice chest with ice. We then filled our large soaker tub with water about half way, dumped the ice in and let it sit for a minute. I collected several towels and my chunky bathrobe for after.
I was nervous but i could have never imagined what was about to come. I kept thinking to myself “how am I gonna do this?” My husband, having experience with this courtesy of his former football days, suggested i just simply go for it. Just submerge quickly and settle in.
I honesty tried. It was so cold, like a thousand knives stabbing every inch of your body. I laid down with the water coming up to my navel and tried to slowly submerge farther. It wasn’t working, I couldn’t move, I was in as far as i was going to get.
I needed to stay there for ten minutes. LONGEST TEN MINUTES IN MY LIFE.
At one point i swore my toenails were falling off.
The idea was this, I had it in my mind, how i was going to do this thing. I was going to jump in sit submerge and take it like a champ. Instead i slowly descended trying to slide down further and further until my shoulders were under. I’m going to be completely honest I only got to my waist and lower back. I was literally frozen in place.
The only words i could manage to get out of my mouth were “F***”, “I’m going to die”,
“I’m seriously going to die!”, and “TIME!?”
At 9:30 my husband, sick of my whining, pulled me by my arms out of the water. I could not move my legs to step out of the tub. I had no feeling in my limbs. My arms were stuck in that weird Barbie position. My torso was fixed in a semi bent over position as my back hunched trying to hug my Barbie arms close to my body for the tiniest bit of warmth.
My brain kept telling my body to move, take off your bathing suit, grab a towel and warm up! It wasn’t working. I wasn’t moving.
Hubby rushed to grab my towels, tried his best to remove my overly complicated swimsuit, and wrapped my robe around my shoulders. At this point i was able to maneuver my arms into the arm hole. I took a few steps and felt like a newly born deer taking the first steps of its life. I didn’t get very far. I could feel my blood flowing back into my arms and legs It took me what seemed like a million minutes to finally be able to slowly walk to the living room. I plopped on the edge of the couch in shock of what just happened.
In the end I could definitely feel relief in my muscles. Prior to both having my muscles scraped by my chiropractor (another story for another day) and the ice bath i could feel my muscle fibers straining to perform the simplest movements like just walking or crossing my legs to sit. The biggest difference i felt was upon returning to my regular workout regime post show. I don’t dread cardio like i did before because I don’t feel like my muscles are being pushed to a breaking point beyond the normal fatigue of the given activity.
Would i do this again? Geez. I really don’t want to answer this because my initial response would be a definite, no. However, if my coach instructs me to take an other ice bath I’ll have no choice. I do what my coach tells me to do because i pay him to know what is best for me and any successful athlete or person is only successful because they listen and learn from those who know better. Ten minutes of complete physical pain is completely worth the glory of being my best on show day.
There is one thing i think I’ll do different next time. The next time instead of being impatient, partially filling the tub. I will fill the tub all the way. I think my initial plan of a quick submersion would have been more successful had the water been higher. Honestly, I don’t know how to make this horrifically unpleasant experience any better but if I discover any of those tips in the future I’ll be sure to let you know.