Remember cooling vests? How about ice baths after workouts?
by on Monday, March 23, 2015  (4 comments)

It looks like this is going to be a chilly post...

Do you remember cooling vests? I seem to recall them first coming to prominence around the time of the Athens Olympics in 2004. With the hot marathons, the American marathon teams used them with good results. Were the results pure coincidence or was there a connection? Likely, some of both.

I still see them being used at times in pre-competition settings, especially when it's going to be warm during the competition. The theory makes sense. Lower your core temperature and you'll perform better.

While the vests work, maybe they would be even better off using cooling pants.

Findings indicate that torso and thigh precooling during a warm-up reduces thermoregulatory strain. However, thigh opposed to torso precooling provides greater performance improvements.

Remember ice baths after workouts?

Some time ago, I wrote a post that, along with other topics, at least referenced the idea that ice baths may not be as good as we once thought.

Well, now we have more evidence.

Local muscle endurance increased in both groups, but the increase in the cooled group tended to be lower compared to the noncooled group. Regular post-exercise cold application to muscles might attenuate muscular and vascular adaptations to resistance training.

Based on what I have seen, if I even did have convenient access to ice baths, I'd be seriously thinking twice about using them after my workouts. I'm surely not going to be going out to seek out ways to get an ice bath in.

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I have done cold water baths (only adding cold) after hard long runs but never anything shorter than 14 miles. It seems, for me at least, to prevent any muscle soreness that day or the day after as well.

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They help reduce soreness. At what cost, though? The reduction in soreness might be directly correlated to the loss in training effect. You lose the stimulus to build up stronger.

I'm not saying we should never consider ice baths but I do think we should consider how we use them and not become too reliant on them. Maybe, if we need the ice bath to function, a better solution would be to back off the training a bit.

By the way, like my timing for this post? A nice cold post on a chilly, snowy spring day. I couldn't have planned it better. ;)

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I might sit for a snow bank after a long run for a few minutes but I have found that as the years go by that long runs do not make me as sore as they used to. I find that a quick nap and then walking around the rest of the day seems to bring about a better recovery for me.

I used to take ice baths after speed workout until I read something about simular to this. You don't want to interrupt the bodies natural healing process.

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Charlene, I think you hit it on the head there. The long runs don't make you as sore as they used to probably because you are more capable of handling them now. The best recovery is a nap, if possible, and active recovery.

The real key is that ice does interrupt the body's natural healing processes and those healing processes are critical to training adaptations. Interrupt with those processes and you'll be interrupting with your body's process of building back stronger, which is what the training is all about.

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