Cycling training is hard work and your body needs help recovering. If you stop and listen to your body, I’m sure you’ll hear your muscles screaming, especially after those extra long ride or intense workouts that leave you feeling shredded afterwards. We’ve discussed recovery nutrition in previous posts and how it helps rebuild shredded muscles. Today, we’ll cover the next best things you can do for body; ice baths.
If you’ve followed your cycling training plan and just knocked out a 2.5 hour ride with your power meter, which included 6 X 1 minute max effort intervals, followed by 2 x 10 minute extended intervals, just above FTP, your body is ready for repair. An ice bath may be just what your muscles need.
Yes, I’ve heard all about the lack of hard clinical evidence supporting ice baths. As with most everything there are passionate people on both sides of the fence. However, world champion marathon runner, Paula Radcliffe, swears by them, as do countless other athletes, ranging from power lifters and gymnasts to professional cyclists. I’m in this camp. After years of long runs and hard rides, nothing seems to help quicker than a good recovery shake and an ice bath.
Despite the controversy, there are lots of theories out there as to how ice baths work and why they’re affective. Some say ice baths help muscles recover faster after intense activity by constricting blood vessels and pulling blood from your legs and along with it, toxins released during the intense effort. Others claim that it reduces swelling and muscle tissue breakdown. Regardless of the fact that there’s no medical claim to support its effectiveness, I’m a believer and have been soaking after hard or long efforts for the past several years.
After your next hard effort (2.5+ hour ride), try it for yourself: Fill your bathtub with cold water up the point where you can cover your entire extended legs and feet. Just before getting in, empty one 7 lb bag of ice cubes into the tub of cold water. Have a stop watch handy so you can time yourself for a 10-15 minute submersion. The studies that have been completed show that longer submersions, past 15 minutes, are counterproductive and rush blood back into the areas. So to get the maximal benefit, keep it under 15 minutes.
After your plunge, please reply with feedback from your experience! I’m running a bit of an experiment to see what people think.