Ice Baths and Performance

Ice Baths and Performance

Is it time to warm up to ice baths or should we keep them on ice?

Ice baths and performance have been a staple in elite athletes but is the practice truly worth it, especially for the everyday athlete. As a cyclist, runner or triathlete it has a time and place but making sure you do it at the right time in your periodization is key.

How to take an Ice Bath

Ice baths, when done properly, can help to constrict blood vessels and flush waste products out of your system. The ideal temp to get your water down to is 50-60 F but don’t feel the need to start at the coldest temperature possible! Start on the higher side and slowly work the temp down as you continue to use ice baths in your training routine. You can use an everyday kitchen thermometer to check the temperature to make sure you are staying within a safe range.

As for how long you should not spend in the water, the absolute max of 10 minutes is when first starting out. This is especially true if you have no one overseeing you. Also, much like with temperature, start shorter and work your way up.

Do Ice Baths Improve Performance?

When you should be using ice baths is fairly up in the air and also lacks real strong evidence they even work. One thing is for sure, if you did any kind of weight training you should skip any kind of ice bath as it will slow any recovery and in some, increase muscle soreness the following days. It should also be avoided in preseason and preparation phases of training, as it has been shown to slow training adaptations. During those times an active recovery effort has been shown to be just as, if not more effective.
 
The one area where they can be beneficial is in endurance events that are multiple days, especially those that take place in high temperature environments. A good example of a time to implement them would be at events like La Grind Gravel Stage race or Breck Epic.
 
So the right time to take an ice bath is a multi-day event but if you are just training in the off season it is likely better to skip it for the time being! If you still have questions or looking for help on how to plan your training plan around peaking and using ice baths, endurance coaching may be right for you!

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