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Try an ice bath to aid muscle recovery

If you’re training for some intense fitness activity — say, a marathon or triathlon — consider adding ice bath therapy to your regimen to help your muscles heal.

Woman with sore muscles after working out

Borrow from pro athletes’ training regimens, and try an ice bath to help you recuperate after an intense workout. Why would you want to immerse yourself into extremely cold water? When you exercise vigorously, your muscles get small tears in their fibres, which you experience in the form of soreness. When you immerse your body into the icy water, the low temperature reduces soreness, strain and inflammation, helps prevent your muscles’ tissues from breaking down, and encourages your cells to start healing those tiny tears in the muscle.

If you have access to a hydrotherapy pool or a Scandinavian-type spa (such as Body Blitz in Toronto), then take advantage of the cold-water pools available. But you can also take an ice bath easily and safely at home. Here’s how.

You’ll need (as you might’ve guessed!) lots of ice

Make lots of ice cubes in your freezer, and buy ice packs or bags of ice at the grocery or convenience store.

Fill your bathtub with cold water

If it’s your leg muscles you want to immerse in the ice bath, fill your tub with just enough cold water to completely cover your legs when you sit down in it. Fill the tub up more if you’ll need to immerse your arms too.

Add ice to your bathtub

Add enough ice so that the temperature of the bath water reaches 12 to 15 degrees Celsius. Water any colder than this can be dangerous to immerse your body into (and you may feel faint), so it’s best to use a thermometer to be sure your ice bath therapy will be effective yet safe.

Ease into the tub slowly

It will shocking at first, but the more you practice ice bath therapy, the easier it’ll become. When you first start taking ice baths, remain in the water for a few minutes only. Stay in longer each time after, working your way up to 10 minutes per session. Don’t try for any longer than that, as staying in cold water too long can actually damage your muscles. To help yourself get used to the cold water, consider bringing a cup of tea to sip on as you sit immersed in the bath.

Follow up your ice bath with a regular-temperature shower

To further help reduce muscle stiffness, follow up an ice bath about an hour afterward with a shower at your usual warm temperature.

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