1. Build up to cooler temperatures. Rehab specialists all agree that one should gradually build up to temperatures of 12-15 degrees Celsius. You should be conservative initially and build your endurance because an ice bath can be a shock to your system. As you become more familiar with the technique, you can decrease the temperature.
2. Use the right gear. Your hands and feet are generally the most sensitive, so if your feet are sensitive then you could look at using a set of booties made from wet-suit material to make it more bearable. Runners are most likely to submerge only their legs, so their upper body will not be affected.
3. Recognise that thresholds do differ. Studies suggest that an athlete should stay in the water for between 5 and 10 minutes, but this is purely dependant on the athlete’s threshold and ability to withstand cold. As the person becomes more familiar with the process, they may be able to withstand colder temperatures for longer periods.
4. Seek to simplify. Find the most cost-effective and time-effective method of ice bathing. For example, fill a drum with some ice water and place it next to the field where you are practising, so you can submerge yourself immediately after your training session.
1. Don’t overexpose. Experts all agree that an athlete should not exceed 10 minutes in an ice bath. This is normally reserved for people who have some experience in using the ice-bath techniques. Between 6 and 8 minutes is generally regarded as the optimum period for submerging yourself, to have maximum benefit.
2. Don’t assume that the temperature always has to be the same. The water temperature doesn’t always have to be between 12 and 15 degrees Celsius. It can be slightly warmer and still provide you with recovery benefits.
3. Don’t rush for a hot shower. It is not always necessary to have a hot shower immediately after an ice bath. Allowing your body to warm up naturally again can be just as beneficial. It is sometimes recommended to just wear a warm shirt, have a hot drink or cover yourself in a warm towel and allow for a gradual warm up.
As with any new practice or routine, I would recommend you add ice baths as a new quiver to your recovery arsenal during a period of your season when you are not coming up to a key race, to see how beneficial it is to your body. Research is inconclusive as to the degree in which it does work, but it couldn’t hurt to try it out.
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