How long to ice bath for

[00:00:00] It’s a pretty common practice if you’re a runner doing the ice baths. But there’s a right way to do it and there’s a wrong way to do it. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

[00:00:19] If you haven’t been with me here on the channel before, I’m Jesse Funk. This is a show I call Runner’s High where we talk about everything running, including ice baths like we’re going to talk about today. So if you enjoy running, you want more running videos. Hit that subscribe button over there in the bottom right hand corner to stick around me and see new episodes every Tuesday and Thursday.

[00:00:38] So when we’re talking about ice baths, I think the first thing we need to ask ourselves is do we even need to do ice baths when we’re spending time on certain practices, when we’re spending time on training or recovery? In this case, I think it’s important to ask ourselves, is this practice effective for what we’re trying to do? Now, I’m not necessarily a research authority on ice baths.

I can tell you my history with it is that we did it a lot in college. It was like a post-workout team bonding exercise almost where we’d fit as many people into the ice baths as we possibly can. If you’ve ever seen an ice bath in a training facility, at least one like ours, it’s kind of like a small horse trough, I guess is a very Midwestern thing to say.

[00:01:27] And you can fit four, maybe five people in there if you’re trying hard legs only predominantly. But on the other show that I’ve done on this here on this channel, the Smart Athlete Podcast, it comes out on Fridays. I talked to somebody who has spent time looking into these things, all of these practices that we do, including ice baths. And that is Christie Aschwanden, the author of Good to Go. And she goes through and kind of debunks the myths surrounding a lot of recovery tools, including ice baths.

[00:02:00] And what she says in the ice bath section is basically ice baths have some effect, but the long-term positive benefits are potentially dubious. The short-term benefits are probably good, meaning if you need to turn around and perform quickly, typically they can be helpful because it reduces inflammation. But if you’re looking for a long-term benefit of better adaptation over time, you may be better helped by actually not doing the ice baths and letting your body take care of the inflammation itself.

[00:02:35] All of that being said, and something that Christie addresses in her book, and if you pick that up wherever you can, I don’t get paid to say that. But she was very nice to come on my show. One of the things that she addresses in the book basically is that even though we know sometimes there may not be evidence to support things, sometimes it just feels nice.

[00:02:56] So whether you are looking for that short-term recovery or you like it as a mental therapeutic practice, let’s get on with how exactly long should you be in that ice bath for? And the answer is basically it depends, but largely in that you need to set the temperature correct first. It is absolutely critical that you set it somewhere between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s 10 to 15 degrees Celsius for my European friends.

[00:03:27] So roughly 55 is what we always talked about in college. There were times when somebody would accidentally put too much ice in the ice bath. They would get way down into like the thirties, and that can be dangerous. So let’s assume that you’ve done this properly and we’re somewhere around that 55 Fahrenheit, which I’m going to guess is roughly 12 and a half degrees Celsius, given both of our ranges. Once you’ve done that, you’re kind of maximum allotted time is 15 minutes.

[00:03:57] So 10 to 15 minutes is a rule of thumb, but 15 is usually the the long end of that. There are some possible negative side effects if you spend more time than that in the ice bath. And that predominant concern, again, assuming you got the temperature correct, is going to be lowering your core body temperature and eventually hypothermia of some sort. We don’t want to reduce our core body temperature for somewhat obvious reasons. Our body likes a particular temperature range for proper functioning.

[00:04:30] So if you remain in cold water for too long, you can get hypothermia. This is something that as a child, I was always very afraid of. For some reason we had to talk about frozen lakes and not walking away because I guess there’s a lake next to the elementary school I went to and sometimes kids would fall in and either drown or become hypothermic. So it was this huge concern in my brain at the time. It’s really drilled into my head. Maybe you didn’t have a childhood where you were concerned with frozen lakes and being hypothermic, but it is a bad situation.

[00:05:02] So that’s why that 15-minute time frame comes in. If you stay in 16 minutes, are you going to have hypothermia? Probably not. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking more is better is not necessarily better. So that’s why you use that 15 minute time frame.

[00:05:20] The other potential issue with staying in ice bath too long is going to be tissue damage. Now, this is more of a concern. If you didn’t listen to me at the beginning of this video or the middle of this video when I said this is your temperature range and you thought that Jesse, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I’m going to make it colder. His colder is better. It’s not. I promise you it’s not. So if you didn’t do that or if you know somebody who did not listen to that temperature range, it makes it colder.

[00:05:50] The potential of tissue damage is absolutely real. It is more familiarly known as frostbite. And what’s happening when you get frostbite, because you lower the temperature so much, there’s the potential for damage to tissue because what happens is the cells and the cell fluid in and around your cells or skin and other tissue becomes frozen and damaged, then cause cell rupture and then that cell is now dead. This is obviously, again, a situation where if you’ve lowered the temperature too much and then stayed in too long, is going to be much more of an issue than if you’re in that correct temperature range.

[00:06:35] Again, even if you stayed in 16 minutes in you’re at 55 Fahrenheit 12 and a half degree Celsius. Frostbite is probably not a concern. I’m sure I’ve stayed in a minute too long, but it’s something to be aware of, to know that there are proper parameters for doing an ice bath if you’re going to do it, and that you need to pay attention to those parameters so that you’re actually giving yourself some benefit and not causing more potential harm.

[00:07:03] So that’s kind of the long and short of it, 55 Fahrenheit, 15-minute max. If you stick to those, you’re golden. So do you have any questions for me about running? Stick them down in the comments below. I’d love to do a video just for you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.