Our marathon training group met at Portland’s Duniway Park, just below OHSU and the Veteran’s Hospital. We ran up and over the hill, down into Burlingame, across the freeway, and into Tryon Creek State Park. Though we didn’t have any steep climbs, the course was filled with rolling hills.
After seven miles, four of us turned around while the rest of the group logged an eighth mile. Without our pace leader, we went a little quicker than we should have. By the end of the run, my body ached. My IT band was sore. My calves were sore. My toes were sore.
I drove home, hobbled across the lawn, hobbled up the steps, and hobbled into the bathroom. I popped four ibuprofen (as per doctor’s recommendation) and took an ice bath. When I hopped out fifteen minutes later, my legs had no soreness at all. They’ve been (mostly) pain-free ever since. (They’re tight, and that’s for certain, but there’s very little pain.)
The ice bath is a beautiful thing. Here’s how I do it:
- I begin drawing a cold bath. I don’t turn on the hot water at all. I simply fill the tube with cold water from the tap.
- While the tub fills, I put on a sweatshirt. Some of my running buddies wear mittens and a hat, but this seems like overkill. Yes, the sweatshirt is going to get wet.
- While the tub is still filling, I get in and sit down. It’s cold. I squeal like a baby. I stretch my legs out in front of me and sit upright.
- With my wife’s help, I add a 20-pound bag of ice. Many people just use their ice cube trays. In reality, you don’t need to add ice at all.
- I sit in the water for 10-20 minutes. Actually, for the past two weeks, I’ve been using twelve minutes as the Magic Time. (This was recommended by the physical therapist who makes announcements before the training runs.)
- When the ice bath is finished, I peel off the sweatshirt and take a brief hot shower — just enough to soap off the stink from running.
- After a quick bite to eat, I do my post-run stretching. (Note: A couple of commenters have pointed out that this may not be a good idea. It may be better to stretch before the ice bath. Do what you feel is best.)
Though the ice bath is uncomfortable at first, my body adjusts after a couple of minutes. (Well, it becomes numb more than anything.)
Though the scientific research indicates ice baths are of dubious benefit to a runner, psychologically they are amazing. And for me, there seems to be a real physical difference. The idea behind them is that the cold engulfs the legs, restricting the blood flow and reducing swelling. This, in turn, reduces pain.
For myself, and for many other runners, this seems to be the case. I plan to continue using them as a valuable part of my marathon training.
Photo by Allspice1.