With so many double bubble days on the calendar (aka back to back days of high mileage training), I’ve been seeking out the best ways to recover from one workout to the next; because, let’s be honest, my post run “eat all the food plan” isn’t exactly research based😁 So I started looking into some common running “myths” to see what the professionals had to say, but once I started looking I realized it’s a lot! So instead of bombarding you with a 10 page essay on the do’s and dont’s of recovery, I decided to split it up and explore each “myth” one week at a time!
With that being said let’s start it off with one of the most common, and my most despised recovery urban legends, the ice bath.
Ice, ice baby!
For a long time now, ice baths/cold water immersion (CWI) have been all the rage for runners and athletes attempting to enhance recovery, but why? The rationale behind CWI is that it cools the bodies temperature and decreases swelling and inflammation by reducing blood flow to the muscles; which is great right? Well, not necessarily if you’re looking at **building and adapting according to new research from the University of Queensland. This research (and many others like it) is showing that if you hop in a post-workout ice bath you are reducing the blood flow to the affected muscles, which prevents the growth and formation of new muscle fibers. This done over time adds up to smaller gains in muscle size and strength.
But hold on a second, don’t start scooping the ice out of your tubs too quickly! Most of the research so far has been done with volunteers participating in strength training programs, and it’s still not clear if we can assume that the same is true for endurance athletes. Many researchers say that since the two sports have such different demands on the body we can’t! A large Australian study looked at the effects of CWI on elite cyclists and found that ice baths didn’t hurt performance and may have even helped!
To soak or not to soak…
Just as I expected, the jury is still out on whether or not runners should spend their time post-run soaking in an icy tub. Given this information, my plan is to continue to avoid the torture of an ice bath like the plague until the research tells me otherwise! I absolutely HATE the cold and have never been able to put so much as my baby toe in a tub full of ice, so the lack of proof in it’s support is A-okay with me!
However, if you’re tougher than I am and use ice baths on a regular basis, particularly after strength training, it’s certainly worth thinking carefully about what you’re expecting to get out of them. And if you’re looking for a change (and prefer the heat like I do), new research is starting to come out showing that hot baths and saunas may be helpful in improving performance by lowering resting temperatures and increasing blood plasma volume…this sounds more up my recovery alley😉
** DISCLAIMER: To be clear, the information I’m seeking out is relative recovery during the TRAINING period which involves building and adapting. This is a lot different than an athlete trying to recover during competition season as during competition you would be looking at healing and recovering to best compete again within a short period of time.**
Next up, the urban myth of compression socks, are you a believer or a skeptic?