Monday, January 16, 2012

Ice, Ice, Baby

I seriously suffered from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) while training for my first marathon. Remember the old Tums commercial where they sing, Tums, Tums, Tums, Tums, TUMS!?  My husband and I like to sing DOMS, DOMS, DOMS, DOMS, DOMS! We're athletically nerdy that way.  I smartened up while training for my second marathon.  Anytime I ran longer than 12 miles, I took an ice bath.  I was pleased to discover that it kept the soreness at bay.  Over the last couple years, I've refined my technique so that this experience is as pleasant as possible. By golly, I actually enjoy them now.

You'll need:
  • 24 pounds of ice
  • a down jacket
  • a warm fuzzy hat
  • a mug filled with your favorite piping hot beverage
  • reading material to distract you 
  • a bathtub
  • a timer
  1. Fill your tub with enough tepid water to fully cover your legs, butt and hips.
  2. Pull on your hat and jacket. Set your hot drink, reading material and timer on the tub ledge. Have your bags of ice next to the tub.
  3. Sit in the tub, relax and let the water cool down. Adding the ice will be less of a shock if your body slowly adjusts to the temperature change.
  4. Pull a bag of ice in the tub with you, undo the twist tie and gently empty the first bag at your feet. Repeat with second bag but this time empty it onto your legs. Finally add the last bag to your glute region. You can also have a loved one dump the ice on top of you. I like to do it myself. I enjoy pouring the ice on my husband. He has the greatest facial expressions and says kooky things like "My boys! My boys!" In a voice a few octives higher than his normal voice.
  5. Set the timer for 15-20 minutes. Trust me, you don't want to be in there any longer than necessary. They say that time range is perfect. Any less, it's not effective. Any more, is overkill.
  6. Sit back, sip your hot drink and read your book or magazine until the timer goes off.
The stuff

My upper body

Lower body
 How are ice baths healing?

According to an article in Runner's World:
Cryotherapy ("cold therapy") constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the cold source, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow, which helps return the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. "Ice baths don't only suppress inflammation, but help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles," says David Terry, M.D., an ultrarunner who has finished both the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run and the Wasatch Front 100-Mile Endurance Run 10 consecutive times.

If you haven't yet tried one, I encourage you to give it a go! 15 minutes of slight discomfort will prevent days of muscle soreness and may prevent injury. Cold rivers and lakes are excellent substitutes for ice baths when you're out on the trails.  Enjoy your ice, ice baby!

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