Icing your muscles after working out can help bring down unnecessary swelling and reduce pain to preserve muscles for your next training. During an extreme workout, your muscles tear in tiny amounts, which later heal, creating stronger, tougher muscles. This regrowth of stronger muscle tissue is ultimately what athletes and bodybuilders desire, but the inflammation directly after the workout causes discomfort and requires attention.
Why It Works
A cold sensation triggers blood vessels in your muscles to constrict. This reduction of swelling in the muscle tissue slows down the metabolic activity, giving your muscles a chance to properly recover from your workout. After your skin is warm again, the blood vessels open, and the blood returns fast enough to flush the metabolic buildup from your muscles quickly and efficiently without hours of pain and with less muscle tissue loss than if you had left your sore muscles untreated.
How It's Done
Cold water therapy, or "cryotherapy." is a full-body submersion in an icy tub of water directly after an extreme workout to cool large, deep systems of muscles all at once. If this task seems too extreme, the writers at Runontexas.com recommend wearing your clothes into the bath to help absorb the shock and say that a 15 to 20 minute bath is sufficient, allowing for 30 minutes of room temperate warming afterward. Runners and professional athletes who live by cold water therapy claim that the process preserves sore, hot muscles and prevents injuries, making the next athletic event a less daunting feat.
Who Recommends It
Two-time Olympic miler Kevin Sullivan tells Byron Powell of IRunFar.com that his keys to recovery are hydration, nutrition, massage, yoga, and ice baths. Ultramarathon runner and physical therapist Nikki Kimball is a strong advocate of the method. However, ice baths aren't just for runners; The "Washington Post" snapped a photo of NFL player Santana Moss soaking waist deep in an ice bath after a game, and sports doctor Kevin Plancher tells Bleacher Report that the use of hyperbaric chambers and ice baths are worth trying. Body builders, professional athletes and runners alike swear by ice baths.
If plunging waist deep into an ice bath doesn't sound appealing to you, there are still plenty of less drastic ways to cool down after a tough workout. Applying ice packs to specific areas of the body that worked the hardest will give you some relief from soreness, and a good cool-down procedure such as stretching or yoga will help your muscles flush waste and recover from a hard day of training.