Ice Baths are BAD for Your Running

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Finally, something that isn’t going to cause me more pain in my perpetual effort to be a better runner!

Ice Baths are bad for your running!

Yes, you read that right!   According to Ross Tucker, PhD., and Jonathan Dugas, PhD. (in a great article in Running Times Magazine), inflammation is a necessary part of adaptation, something we all need if we are going to improve in our running.   According to the doctors, the inflammatory process is necessary to clear out cells damaged from running to make way for stronger cells.   In other words, inflammation helps you get stronger if you let it do its job.

Amazing how the body takes care of itself, huh?

I have to admit that I have taken very few ice baths in my running career, because as all of you well know, I am a BIG FAT BABY. And I HATE to be cold.   But the few times I forced myself to do it, it felt like absolute torture!   So, I am dancing the happy jig right now because I don’t have to feel guilty about not plunking myself into a vat of ice after every run. Yippeeecayay, Eskimo Pies – no more frozen naughty bits!

Now, all this jubilation aside, if you are used to taking NSAIDs and/or icing a lot, it will be important to really pay attention to your body.  You may not be as adept at reading pain signals.  Learn to distinguish between “normal” training discomfort and the onset of an injury.  Knowing your body is one of the most important factors in optimal training.

Now, take off those compression shorts/tights (they’re inflammation minimizers, too) and jiggle like the rest of us!

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Author: Carilyn Johnson

See all of Carilyn's writtings at CarilynJohnson.com

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2 Comments

  1. I read that same article. But it didn’t say ice baths were BAD for you. It said that you shouldn’t dunk yourself in ice baths routinely after every hard workout — yes, so the inflammation can do its job. But it did say that ice baths after a really long and tough race DO help with the soreness and pain and can help you recover in time for your next round of training.

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  2. “Instead, they discovered that at the end of training, the non-ice-bathed limbs had gained more strength, more circulation and more endurance than their ice-bathed counterparts. Even VO2 max (as measured in single-leg tests) had gone up more in the non-ice-bathed legs. The conclusion: Ice baths are counterproductive. “[They] retard rather than support the desired improvement of muscular performance,” the scientists wrote in a 2005 online edition of the European Journal of Applied Physiology.”
    Not exactly BAD for you but their science showed a lot of comparatively negative aspects. I think icing feels good at times and relieves pain but not sure that it’s helpful for me being a better runner anymore.

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