By Bonnie Goosepimple
I've done many things in my life that may seem crazy to some people, to include jumping off the side of a mountain, scuba diving alongside a shark, eating the food I've cooked, running into buildings in which angry men were brandishing fire arms, but the one that tops them all took place last weekend.
As an endurance athlete I experience the usual aches and pains associated with beating our bodies into dust, adding water for hydration and then trying to reshape them into something formidable for long distances of swimming, biking and running. After receiving a number of battle wounds my coach suggested I take an ice bath. With real ice.
After Grandma's Marathon last year I tried to step into a cold tub of water only to find myself immediately hopping out and announcing sternly to said cold water, "No thanks, I choose life!" I've tried to force myself to embrace this crazy idea on a few other occasions only to discover that I am not a polar bear, people have a sick sense of humor and ice is not meant to touch the human body unless it's in direct association with consuming iced tea.
Finally, last Sunday night, after a couple of long training days, I relinquished to try again.
This time I went to the freezer and extracted two large plastic bins of ice and dumped them into the tub so that the surface of the cold water was half covered. The ice cubes were forming some sort of twisted bond of collaborated frozen death, beckoning me to come and immerse myself into it. I knew right then and there I would slowly become a human popsicle.
I stepped in and immediately grabbed a towel, only this time I did not quickly use the towel to wrap myself up as I leaped out; this time I used it to muffle the shattering scream that rocketed out of my mouth and echoed throughout the bathroom. I continued to scream as I slowly lowered my once warm body down in into the seemingly sub zero temperatures, somehow simultaneously breaking a sweat. I was sure neighbors would be peering through their windows to verify there was indeed a heinous murder taking place and they should dial 911 immediately.
I sat there with a pained expression on my face, hoping to God it wouldn't freeze there just like my mother always warned me. I tried to relax. I found breathing was helpful. I had brought iced tea up with me and tried to calmly sip it. I noted the hair on my legs literally had ice forming on it. After about fifteen minutes of a solid, unblinking death stare I got out. Most of my aches and pains were feeling much better and I waited to see if it was merely for the fact that they were frozen solid and numb but after an hour I still felt great.
Apparently this form of self torture is called Cryotherapy ("cold therapy") and what it does is constrict blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, which reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once the skin is no longer in contact with the frozen water of death, the underlying tissues warm up, causing a return of faster blood flow, which helps return the byproducts of cellular breakdown to the lymph system for efficient recycling by the body. The ice baths suppress inflammation as well as help flush out harmful metabolic debris from the muscles. The water temperature should range from 50-53 degrees. Having survived this experience I can attest to the benefits or at least to the fact that warming up afterward never felt so good.
Next time you grind out a long training session, treat yourself to an ice bath afterward and don't forget to bring a towel for screaming into. Trust me, it helps.
ED. NOTE: We've learned recently that frequent MTN contributor Bonnie Siegel is currently dealing with some potentially serious health issues. She describes her condition on her Facebook page. READ
Get well soon, Bon. We love your stuff.