Recovery Sucks: To ice bath, or not to ice bath?

One of the reasons I like to stick with 5K racing is the recovery is a relative breeze compared to the recovery period necessary after a marathon or even a half marathon. Usually, I am mildly sore for 1-3 days after a 5K race. Depending on how hard I pushed myself, I’ll either cross-train or go for a recovery run the day after. Since I do not like to take strict days off, it’s important to me that my post-race recovery process isn’t anything too painful/dramatic/involved. (I haven’t taken a “rest” rest day in almost two years because I personally feel worse when I’m not working out in some capacity.)

Last year, I jogged two miles the day after Broad Street because I had some emotional stress I needed to iron out. I was sore but I was able to complete those two miles and then cross-train on the elliptical for 30 minutes afterwards.

2014 Broad Street
2014 Broad Street Run

This year, I ran Broad Street 2:30 minutes faster and I hurt so much more. My quads were crying out just hours after the race. The next morning I literally could not sit down without using my arms to assist myself. It was pretty pathetic.

Gingers win the 2015 Broad Street Run!

To distract myself from my pain, I did some more sports bra shopping at Forever 21. Nothing eases the (emotional) sting of sore muscles better than retail therapy.

Hobbling back from the gym in my Broad Street t-shirt

I woke up slightly less sore on Tuesday but I knew I needed another cross-training day. Wednesday, I thought I could handle a run and it was so beautiful out but I took about 5 steps out the door and realized I wouldn’t be able to run comfortably without altering my gate.This is where I draw the line. I’m willing to run on sore muscles but I’m not willing to shuffle on sore muscles.

That face says everything.

Back to the gym I went. At least I was wearing my cute new sports bra so I had some pep in my step. This was the first post-Broad Street workout during which I was able to get my heart rate over 120 BPM.

After plowing through the day’s writing, I fit in a nice core strengthening workout and spent some time with my yoga mat. Dancer’s Pose is great for stretching sore quads and tight hamstrings.

I’ve been consulting running friends and family about the pros and cons of ice baths. I’d personally never felt the need to take one before. I’ve read lots of anecdotal evidence that they work, but the science is fuzzy about just how they work, and some theories suggest that they may do more harm than good, or at least stymie the fitness adaptations your body would otherwise make without cold immersion. My brother, who’s an extremely talented runner and should probably run a race with me soon, swears by them. Some friends suggested I start with a “cold” bath (there is some evidence that cold baths work just as well if not better than ice baths). This seemed like a perfectly reasonable middle ground to me. So last night before bed I filled my bathtub with cold water and dumped a cereal bowl’s worth of ice in for good measure. I stayed submerged below my hips for ten minutes. It was chilly but totally bearable and I really liked how my legs felt afterwards. I think I may have found a new recovery method that works for me.

I woke up feeling well enough to run today, but I’m still pretty tired. Hopefully, I’ll be back to the regular grind this weekend!

Happy Liz!

Questions for the Internets:

Do you take ice baths?

How do you fight the dreaded DOMS?

How long are you sore after a race?



Add yours →

  1. I was actually going to text you about this but I figure you’ll see this anyways and I’ll probably still text you LOL.

    First, I am glad you are starting to recover. It was rough for a lot of people recovery wise. I don’t know why either! I actually prefer to take epsolm salt baths because I find them so much more comfortable. I do think they help recover and I would recommend it.


    • It is SO weird that everyone seems to be hurting way more than usual after this race. I think we all must have been really determined to prove ourselves after such a terrible winter. I keep meaning to pick up epsom salt! That’s next on my list of baths to try.


  2. Jessica @ VEGGIE RUNNING MOMMA May 7, 2015 — 11:13 pm

    no rest day in 2 years.!? you’re crazy girl.!! lol. some days I just want to rest. lol
    but ice baths.. nooo. gosh I just can’t do it. I am the biggest baby and I literally shake like a dog in an ice bath.
    Hope you recover quickly.!


  3. I don’t do ice baths. I don’t like anything remotely cold! I do epsom salt baths sometimes, and a few times in the summer, I have gotten into the pool (For fun, I don’t swim) after a run and that kinda helped a little but it could just be relaxation from the pool ;). I hope you feel better soon and get over the soreness, even if it means taking a strict day off (I don’t like taking them either… even if I do yoga or walk, I do something!).


  4. Sweet Post, It appears you went Zero to One Thousand Really Quick!


  5. The only time I’ve had legit DOMS were after races I didn’t train for, but I embraced the soreness and rested. I don’t do ice baths, but I say give it a try and see how you like it!


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