Ice Bath For Recovery: Why Athletes Swear By It

Ice bath for recovery

‘I do an ice bath after every single match throughout the year, whether it has lasted one hour or four hours because I just feel like it helps me.’, said Andy Murray, the two-time Wimbledon tennis champion. 

Taking an ice bath for muscle recovery has been sworn by athletes. Elite athletes commonly plunge into an ice bath at 12–15°C as a form of post-exercise therapy to reduce muscle pain and soreness after training sessions and competitions. This goes without saying; it sounds extremely uncomfortable and even painful, and yet, ice baths are incredibly rewarding. But how exactly does it help our body?

What happens after you exercise?

So why is it that your muscles get sore after you exercise? Exercising intensely can cause microtrauma and tears in your muscle fibres which stimulate your muscles to repair and strengthen while adapting to post-exercise stress. This explains why you usually feel pain and soreness 12-72 hours after exercise, which is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Soreness delays your recovery process, making ice baths a powerful intervention!

Why ice bath for recovery?

How necessary is an ice bath for recovery? Can’t we just take a freezing cold shower? Well, with a shower, you’re just spraying your body, while ice baths are  more beneficial because compressing yourself in the cold distributes the bodily effects of ice baths more evenly throughout your body. 

Although stress-inducing, immersing yourself in cold water during an ice bath prompts your blood vessels to constrict and brings down your metabolism, slowing down your breathing and sweating. This slows down blood flow and shifts lactic acid away from your muscles. When you get out of an ice bath in a shivering cold, this is actually where your entire body will warm and increase blood circulation. The nutrient-rich blood flow to your muscles helps remove metabolic waste accumulated during your exercise. As a result, ice baths provide relief for muscle soreness, help reduce swelling and tissue breakdown, muscle edema and fatigue, as well as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Why are ice baths popular among elite athletes?

Ice baths have garnered acclaim from elite athletes like Naomi Osaka, NFL players, professional boxers, and bodybuilders. As it has become a secret weapon for the pros, scientific research supports the remarkable impact of ice bath for recovery. 

A 2018 meta-analysis of 99 studies found that cold water immersion (CWI) or ice baths, especially with water immersion lower than 15°C, substantially alleviate delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), perceived fatigue, and inflammation. Furthermore, a 2016 study of jiu-jitsu athletes highlighted the benefits of post-training ice baths sessions, showing their effectiveness in reducing muscle soreness and enhancing muscle power recovery within 24 hours. 

Worry not, these benefits athletes enjoy from ice baths are accessible to all. The study findings emphasise that the advantages of ice baths extend beyond elite sports. In fact, anyone (including you!) can harness their health benefits. Beyond muscle recovery, ice baths also promote calorie burning, strengthen immunity, increase metabolism, protect brain function, enhance mood, and boost your metabolism. Its popularity among elite athletes only underscores that these benefits can be a part of your wellness routine, too.

Heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill taking an ice bath

Athletes swear by it, we think you should too

Whether you’re a seasoned athlete striving for peak performance, or just a health-conscious individual prioritising your self-care, taking an ice bath for recovery is worth exploring and offers you a thrilling and rewarding experience. Beyond its remarkable capacity to relieve soreness and muscle-aching pain, ice baths extend their benefits to helping with relaxation, heightening focus, and bolstering your mental health. 

Immersing yourself in the cold isn’t merely about physical recovery; but it is mainly about allowing you to put yourself first. Ice baths can revitalise your mind, rejuvenate your soul, and help you reconnect with yourself. 

Ready to experience the power of ice baths for yourself? At Xtreme Ice Baths, we care about your well-being and we are here to support you. We offer a diverse range of high-quality ice baths designed to cater your specific needs. Push your limits, but don’t forget that recovery is just as important. Sit back, relax, and let our ice baths do the work.