The Benefits and Importance of Ice-Baths 

Written By: Austin Braddock

College is fast-paced. The basketball team, for example, had a hard practice just a few days before OKWU won the seasonal conference championship on February 15 at Southwestern University. Myles Gladen and Regan Terrill, members of the track and field team, ran a hard workout on Wednesday afternoon, only to run some of their best times of the season on Saturday at the indoor conference meet. Most athletes put in a hard practice every afternoon, only to wake up the next day and do it again. What causes some of the top athletes at OKWU to have such quick recovery turn-arounds? The answer is simple: ice-baths.

From my perspective as an athlete running in cross country and track, an ice-bath is extremely helpful in recovery after practice, insuring optimal performance during competition.  I’ve seen a dramatic improvement in both performance and soreness during practices after an ice-bath. However, an ice bath can be brutal, as athletes must stick bare legs and hips in forty-five-degree water for six–ten minutes.  According to Alyssa Hawk, volleyball player, “it’s tremendously cold.”

The overwhelming coldness is sometimes indescribable. The cold water hitting an athlete’s body brings a numbing sensation afterwards. It’s mentally challenging right before the bath, but in the end its purpose is to maximize sports performance. Freshman soccer player, Bryce Stratton, says, “For the first five minutes, it feels like little needles in your legs, and then your body will go numb.” Regardless of what ice-baths feel like, the reward is priceless as it offers maximum performance during the games, practices, and overall workouts.

What good are ice-baths, and how does it help the athletes perform during their events? Head basketball coach Donnie Bostwick has some insightful information on this very topic: “The key to healing our bodies is blood flow to your muscles. … An ice-bath increases this process. It restricts blood flow, [so that] when you get out of the ice, the blood flow increases to your muscles.” A more practical way to put this idea is that ice-baths help with inflammation after people work out. As bodies break down, they repair themselves and ice aids in that process. After strenuous workouts, ice-baths can help expedite the healing process.  Bostwick comments, “My experience is very positive with ice-baths.”

My personal experience with ice baths is that they are extremely cold and painful, and soon the numbness turns into pain, but after I get out, I usually feel a lot better. Probably the most dramatic performance difference I’ve had with an ice bath was two weeks ago. I ran six hundred meters and only had ten minutes before my next race. Such a short period of rest is almost unheard of for a track meet. Using my prior knowledge about ice-baths, I poured really cold water on my legs and massaged the muscles for a few minutes. I felt ready for my race in just a few minutes. Even though it wasn’t technically an ice bath, it made a huge difference in how my legs felt during the race. I am reminded of this verse from Hebrews: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (12:11, NIV). So, go take those ice-baths. Your body will thank you for it later.