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Ice baths - the practicalities

If you play football or rugby, then certainly ice baths would be helpful. So too for endurance athletes doing high miles - in this case it's only necessary to immerse the legs.

The biggest problem for most people is the practicality. For runners, the area that takes the most pounding is the feet and lower legs, in which case you can make your own ice bath fairly easily - get a bucket, fill it with cold tap water, then dump in as many ice cubes as your freezer can make!

I've frequently used this technique when training for marathons or long distance triathlons, and feel it does speed up recovery - but be warned, it can take some getting used to! Don't expect to be able to do ten minutes the first time - you'll be lucky to be able to tolerate to for more than a minute of two.

However, this is not such a bad thing - repeatedly soaking then removing your legs from the icy water will still encourage the blood to alternately flush and flow, and is thus helpful.

For athletes such as rugby players who take hits and abuse to their whole body, the only practical home alternatives are:

  • Filling the bath with cold water and as much ice as you have.
  • Alternating between hot and cold showers for 30 secs at a time.
Either technique will be effective, helping you to recover from that tough game, and be ready quicker for the next one.

So learn a trick from top performers like the England rugby team and Paula Radcliffe, and submit yourself to the ice torture - for ten minutes at least you'll be as tough and dedicated as them.

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