Ice Baths and Leg Drains For Faster Post Workout Recovery

The past few summers I’ve attended a women’s running clinic which has helped me improve my technique and speed plus I’ve received some good tid-bits from the trainers.

All of the coaches at the clinic are experienced runners.  One of them is a women’s cross-country coach and she has an abundance of tips to share. There are two post-workout recovery tips that she shared that I’ve been intrigued with:  Ice baths for muscle soreness and leg drains for fresher legs.

Are ice baths good for humans too?

Are ice baths good for humans too?   (Flickr photo by Tambako the Jaguar)

Beyond personal experience, is there any real evidence that these work?

Ice Baths

I’ve never been a fan of the ice bath.  I prefer heat on my sore muscles, but there is some research that shows that taking a dip in ice water will reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).  A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reports that Australian sports scientists found that, compared to doing nothing, cold water immersion reduces inflammation DOMS in the few days following the workouts.

Other research from the University of Ulster in Ireland shows that when participants sat in an ice bath for several minutes after cycling, running or lifting weights, muscle soreness was reduced by 20%.  The conclusion was based on data from 17 studies involving 366 people.

However, a word of caution came from both studies.  The Australian scientists believe the ice bath treatment should be used sparingly because the inflammation that occurs after a hard workout is part of the training process and if eliminated will reduce the benefits of the training.

The Ireland researchers warns that immersion in ice water can cause shock and increase the heart rate and the long-term safety of this method has not been thoroughly studied.

An occasional portable ice bath in place of full immersion might do the trick, especially when you feel muscle soreness is going to get in the way of your regular training program. You can learn how to make one at Runner’s World.com. 

Leg Drains

My running buddy and I have been consistently doing leg drains after our runs since our coach told us about them.

Leg Drain

A leg drain simply means that you lay in front of a wall that you can prop your feet up on so that your legs are over your head.  The theory is that this drains the used blood and lactic acid out of the legs and replaces it with fresh blood making for a quicker recovery.

Leg drains are a yoga pose that David Good over at Lulumon.com is passionate about.  He sees leg drains as an opportunity to take a moment to relax and let your creative juices flow while you restore your legs.  Beyond the brief period of reflection and relaxation that comes with the leg drains, Good says they help with digestion, regulate the thyroid, are good for your lower back, and will help cure insomnia if done before bed.

He doesn’t have to convince me.  I’m a believer in leg drains and agree it may be as much about the mental aspect as it is the physical.

What Else?

What tips do you have for faster workout recovery?

(*Leg drain photo compliments of Pinterest.)

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