I had a fabulous 10-mile run yesterday in neighborhoods around Rock Creek Park and Seminary Road in Silver Spring. I felt so good, I actually added extra hill loops at the end, despite being within site of my building (the point at which I usually say, “Screw this,” and run home).
How did I reward myself? My dunking myself in a pool of ice-cold water, of course.
The ice bath is one of those bizarre rituals of the long-distance runner that’s really hard to understand until you’ve done a few long runs and experienced the soreness that follows. Since I’m now the queen of injury prevention, the ice bath has become a regular part of my training program.
Physical therapist and ultrarunner Nikki Kimball explains the science behind the ice bath here, and notes that her favorite way to employ it is with “a post-race soak in a cold river or lake with fellow competitors.”
Here’s how it works in real life: You limp over to a supermarket or gas station immediately following a long run. You buy one or two bags of ice, and possibly a bottle of Advil as a side dish. You ignore the worried and confused stares of the checkout clerk and others around you. You proceed home, dump the ice in your bathtub, fill the tub enough cold water to cover your legs, and … get in.
Kimball recommends coping this way: “I put on a down jacket and a hat and neoprene booties, make myself a cup of hot tea, and collect some entertaining reading material to help the next 15 to 20 minutes pass quickly.”
I personally like Deena Kastor’s strategy. The Olympic marathoner told Runner’s World recently she likes to crank up a Madonna CD and sing along at the top of her lungs until her legs have acclimated (i.e., gone numb). Might be worth a try. If you hear me singing “Like a Prayer” (broken by some whimpers), you’ll know what’s happening.