WHY DO ATHLETES TAKE ICE BATHS?

WHY DO ATHLETES TAKE ICE BATHS?

 

When it comes to post-workout aches and pains, more and more athletes are turning to ice baths. While cold water therapy has been around for a long time and can be used by non-athletes as well, we’re seeing big surges in popularity for athletic regimens due to the standout benefits and how easy they can be to do with the right tools and products.

Why Do Athletes Take Ice Baths? Benefits & Advantages

When you exercise and challenge your muscles with a tough workout, proteins and hormones flow into your muscle fibers to repair them, making you stronger. When athletes immerse themselves in ice water after exercise, it can help to slow the inflammation process down, improving recovery time and reducing the chance of developing injuries.

Cold plunging also benefits your state of mind — jumping into cold water, if only for a few minutes, takes a certain mindset. You have to be willing to push your body and mind to adapt to uncomfortable conditions, which can strengthen your willpower and competitive drive. Some of the major athletic benefits include:

  • Reduces inflammation: Inflammation is the body's response to injury and is marked by pain, redness, and swelling. Ice baths may help reduce inflammation by constricting blood vessels and temporarily reducing the flow of blood to the area. This can tone down pain and swelling from workouts and strenuous physical activities.
  • Reduces muscle soreness: DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, is common for athletes after strenuous exercise. It’s caused by tiny tears in the muscle that occur during exercise, which is how muscles grow stronger as these tears heal. However, they can still cause pain and discomfort. Ice baths may reduce muscle soreness by numbing the area and reducing inflammation.
  • Improves circulation: Poor circulation can worsen (and lead to) several muscle issues, including pain, swelling, and cramping. When paired with heat therapy (like saunas), ice baths help improve circulation by increasing blood flow and reducing pain and discomfort. After you leave the cold water, your body starts to warm up again and increases circulation to the outer extremities and muscles. Long-term, this constriction then increase in blood flow may help improve general circulation.

 

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Do Many Athletes Actually Use Ice Baths?

Plenty of professional athletes swear by the ice bath. From elite runners and weightlifters to football and basketball players, the post-workout ice bath is a common part of their recovery routine.

For example, sports personalities like Cristiano Ronaldo and Usain Bolt are renowned for their praise of ice baths and other forms of cold therapy. In fact, Ronaldo once bought a $50,000 cryotherapy ice chamber. Luckily, you don’t need to drop this much on a cold tub when you can get a top-quality cold plunge for under $5,000 (or even less with HSA/FSA eligibility), which saves you time and money in the long run.

Runners

Distance runners subject their legs to thousands of repetitive impacts with every session. This constant pounding breaks down muscle tissue and leads to a buildup of metabolic waste products, both of which contribute to post-run soreness and fatigue. Ice baths make your blood vessels constrict, which reduces blood flow and limits the inflammatory response that causes muscle soreness. This allows runners to train harder and more consistently.

Football Players

Football is characterized by intense bursts of activity punctuated by hard collisions. These high-impact encounters often lead to inflammation and swelling, which can significantly impede range of motion and hinder performance. The cold water acts as a natural decongestant, constricting blood vessels and reducing fluid buildup in the muscles and joints.

Soccer Players

The Beautiful Game demands exceptional levels of endurance and agility. Soccer players have to be able to sustain high levels of activity for extended periods while also possessing the explosive power to change direction quickly. Cold water immersion after games and practice promotes faster muscle recovery between matches, allowing players to maintain their stamina over a long season. Some research also suggests that ice baths, when combined with heat therapy (a.k.a. contrast therapy), can improve circulation. This may lead to better muscle function, giving players an extra edge on the pitch.

Cyclists

Cycling puts your legs through a unique kind of strain. Hour after hour, your quads, hamstrings, and calves are subjected to the relentless strain of pedaling. This constant workload leads to muscle fatigue and DOMS that can leave cyclists feeling stiff and sore for days after a long ride. The numbing properties of ice baths can alleviate the intense muscle soreness associated with DOMS, allowing cyclists to get back on the road sooner and continue pushing their limits.

F1 Drivers

Formula 1 demands not only physical prowess but also exceptional mental focus. Drivers endure immense G-forces while battling extreme temperatures and making split-second decisions at breakneck speeds. So it's no surprise that F1 drivers have also embraced the benefits of ice baths. Cold water immersion can be a huge asset for mental resilience and cooling body temperatures after racing in desert or humid environments. The shock of the cold water also promotes a sense of calm and focus.

Combat Sports

Fighting sports like MMA and boxing are as physically demanding as they come. Muscle soreness and inflammation are inevitable consequences of these fights, but ice baths are used to provide much-needed relief. It reduces pain, and the improved circulation from ice baths may promote faster healing of cuts, bruises, and other injuries — allowing fighters to get back into training and competition sooner.

Can Non-Athletes Do Ice Baths?

They certainly can (and do). Whether you’re an athlete, someone who wants to feel their best, or someone who just wants to try an ice bath, cold plunging has benefits for everyone. Here are just a few more ice bath benefits that are relevant to everyone, even those of us who aren’t professional athletes:

How Long Do Athletes Sit in Ice Baths?

When it comes to how long to sit in an ice bath, the sweet spot to get the benefits without going into the danger zone is 2-10 minutes. However, how long you sit in an ice bath depends a lot on your comfort level. Listen to your body and do what feels right. For those just starting, try shorter sessions and build up to longer ones. If you feel extreme discomfort, get out. Loving it? Stay in a bit longer!

Luckily, we have free science-based protocols on how to cold plunge to maximize benefits and results. Click the link below to get your free PDF of our protocols!

Download our free cold plunge protocols PDF!

Are There Risks for Athletes During an Ice Bath?

As with all things, there are some risks associated with ice bathing. The most important consideration is to consult with your doctor before jumping into an ice bath or starting a cold plunging routine.

  • Cold injuries: Sitting in cold water for too long can lead to cold injuries such as frostbite or hypothermia. This is why it’s important to make sure that the water temperature is not too low and to get out of the tub if you start to feel pain or extreme discomfort.
  • Dizziness: Sitting in an ice bath can cause blood vessels to constrict, which may lead to dizziness in some cases. It’s important to get out of the tub if you start to feel lightheaded at any point.

Cold Plunge Tub vs. Traditional Ice Bath

While anyone with a tub can create their own ice bath, it can be quite a hassle. You need to purchase the ice, transport it, fill the tub up, wait for the water to chill, then keep testing and adding ice until it reaches (and maintains) the temperature you want. Not to mention the draining and cleaning after each time to prevent bacteria and mold from growing. With a dedicated cold plunge tub, you don’t need to worry about ice at all — you simply:

  • Set your temperature digitally
  • Enjoy clean filtered water on demand
take the plunge

When it comes to sports facilities and gyms, more and more athletes (whether professional or not) are trying cold plunges for recovery. Providing these amenities can boost the effectiveness of their workouts, reduce the chances of people looking elsewhere for this equipment, and be a selling point for new customers.

Our All-In Commercial model is built exactly for these environments, where multiple people use the water, and it needs to be clean and clear without additional hassle or maintenance. Our tub uses sanitation, filtration, an integrated skimmer, and powerful cooling to create the perfect conditions for an effective ice bath, keeping the water crystal clear between each session. Learn more about how the All-In Commercial can enhance your business’s offerings today!

Medical Disclaimer: All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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