Ice baths are hazing. And they may not be doing what you mean them to.
- They are a stressful experience designed by your superiors (coaches, your higher self) to make you tougher
- Coaches often require them solely because they were forced to do them in their student years
- For groups, they are intended as a bonding experience
- They can be dangerous!
And the science is out on whether ice baths improve your recovery. One recent study showed that those who took a room-temperature bath recovered faster than those who suffered in an ice bath. So why suffer?
The takeaway: you can skip it!
And if you are looking to ice baths to toughen you up, you’ll do better with a sport-specific workout that mimics the performance (race, game) you are training for. Your training itself should make you tough!
This article by Chris Ballard in Sports Illustrated is a great look at the science and practice of ice bathing in 2024. If you have Apple News, you can read it here; otherwise, look on the newsstand, as I haven’t found it available elsewhere online.
I love this thread by coach Steve Magness:
The second edition of The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery walks you through the new science of cold and hot therapy. Takeaway: a warm bath is nicer and will likely do more for you!
The book is out March 5.
Preorder it now and you’ll get it on publication day!