These really do work. I remember when I was in the Marines and when I first started having the knee issues, they would shuttle me over to the infirmary, and make me stand in a barrel full of ice (up to my waist, in my sexy green nylon shorts) until basically I couldn’t FEEL my knees any more. As I understand it, the ice slows down the possibility of inflammation, but more importantly, when you are “thawing” the new blood pushes all the old, lactic-acid-filled blood out of your muscles, making a clean sweep of the debris in there from working out. I had originally used hot espom-salt baths because my father (a doctor) said that they do a similar thing – but I respectfully believe that ice baths are the way to go now.
On Sunday after the bike, not having my Marines constitution 20 years later, I decided to take a “sissy icebath.” I figured that this would do the trick without giving me a heart attack plunging into the ice bath all at once. It absolutely worked – today (Monday) I have NO lingering effects from the weekend, which is astonishing.
So this is a sissy’s icebath recipe:
Take a shower, scraping off the grease, dirt, etc. from your athletic endeavor first (it’s just too disgusting to be sitting in that during your ice bath!). Then, put on a really warm hat (I have a knit wool one from Peru with ear flaps and tassels – yeah I know you want a picture, sorry, that’s Proprietary and Confidential) and a really warm sweatshirt. Get a nice big warm drink – I use miso soup in a Thermos – but tea, anything like that is a good idea.
Put the ice next to the tub (a couple bags), and SIT IN THE TUB. Now, start filling it with cold water, and start a timer. As the water comes up your legs, it will be cold, but not a shock. Move around, lifting up your “cheeks” and such so that the cold water is swirling around. Yes, it’s cold, but not AS cold and shocking as plunging into the ice straight off. Drink your warm drink, and remember what a great athlete you are! Whoot Whoot!
Once the water is up around your calves and hamstrings, start adding the ice. Again, it will be cold, but not AS cold, since you’re acclimatizing.
Ultimately, the water/ice will come up to your waist, and your legs will be submerged. Now, hang out for 1/2 hour total (on the timer you set when you sat down). I know that usually they say to take an ice bath for like 10-15 minutes, but you’ve been sitting there slowly letting the water fill up – so I figure that it’s better to hang out a little longer. You want to be sure you have pulled the sweatshirt up, so that the back of it doesn’t wind up in the water. If you roll it a bit and even gather the front towards the back, you can make a pillow to lean back on.
Once your 1/2 hour is up, start draining the water and BE CAREFUL – remember, you have just done some huge athletic endeavor! Because I’m never quite sure whether I trust my legs or not, I generally let the water drain away pretty significantly, curl in my legs, then get up on both feet using my hands to push myself up. Get out, dry yourself off, and into some nice sweats.
The thing you will start to feel is the blood”whooshing back” into your legs as your legs warm back up. I like to visualize all the debris that is being washed away, and all the new, fresh blood flowing in. You do now want to take it fairly easy – meaning, if it’s possible, to put your legs up (I generally lie on the couch with my legs up and over the back), and drink a LOT of water, herbal tea, etc. to hydrate.
So, that’s the sissy’s icebath. It works like a CHARM, and I’m sure it breaks all sorts of macho rules. But better a sissy’s icebath than none at all! In fact, I think if you didn’t HAVE the ice, even using just the coldest water from the tap would do some good, sitting in it. Seriously.