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One More Urban Running Myth Bites the Dust

by Carilyn on July 9, 2012

Post-Run Hot Tub

Ahhh...A Nice HOT Post-Run Bath!

Finally, something that isn’t going to cause me more pain in my perpetual effort to be a better runner!

Ice Baths are bad for your running!

Yes, you read that right!  According to Ross Tucker, PhD., and Jonathan Dugas, PhD. (in a great article in Running Times Magazine), inflammation is a necessary part of adaptation, something we all need if we are going to improve in our running.  According to the doctors, the inflammatory process is necessary to clear out cells damaged from running to make way for stronger cells.  In other words, inflammation helps you get stronger if you let it do its job.

Amazing how the body takes care of itself, huh?

I have to admit that I have taken very few ice baths in my running career, because as all of you well know, I am a BIG FAT BABY. And I HATE to be cold.  But the few times I forced myself to do it, it felt like absolute torture!  So, I am dancing the happy jig right now because I don’t have to feel guilty about not plunking myself into a vat of ice after every run. Yippeeecayay, Eskimo Pies – no more frozen naughty bits!

Now, all this jubilation aside, if you are used to taking NSAIDs and/or icing a lot, it will be important to really pay attention to your body.  You may not be as adept at reading pain signals. Learn to distinguish between “normal” training discomfort and the onset of an injury. Knowing your body is one of the most important factors in optimal training.

Now, take off those compression shorts/tights (they’re inflammation minimizers, too) and jiggle like the rest of us!


Happy Running!




{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

olga July 9, 2012 at 9:56 am

I can count how many times I took ice cold bath on one hand – 5. In 12 years. Yup. Screw that. Hot bath, on the other hand, is something I am paying money for when checking in to the hotel after a race:)

Marcia July 9, 2012 at 10:03 am

I get that inflammation is the body’s way of repairing itself but wow really? No ice baths or compression? I imagine we’d have more muscle soreness as a result.

Carilyn July 9, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Yes, it will probably take awhile to adapt to the general feelings of soreness, but sounds like in the long run it will be worth it.

Carilyn July 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Totally agree, Olga!

Char July 9, 2012 at 4:19 pm

All I can say is HALLELUJAH! So now I don’t have to feel guilty that my preferred form of recovery is a nap.

Carilyn July 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Naps are the best – I’m with you on that, Char!

Kate July 9, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I’ve read that before, and all I know is that they’ve worked for me in the past. I’ve only taken a few, but I credit the ice bath I took after my first 20-miler with allowing me to do a 9 hour adventure race the next day with no soreness.

Not that I’d pass on the nap recovery strategy… 🙂

pensive pumpkin July 10, 2012 at 12:27 am

I must admit- I actually enjoy the muscle soreness, so I generally skip the ice and the meds and even (gasp!) the foam roller.

Because I am crazy.

Carilyn July 10, 2012 at 6:42 am

Oh man, I think the foam roller is just a way to make us enjoy running because nothing hurts as much as it does!

Carilyn July 10, 2012 at 6:43 am

I definitely think ice is good if you have to be ready to go the next day or are injured. I just think they want people to stop trying to reduce inflammation in their every day training. Works for me 🙂

SteveQ July 10, 2012 at 8:22 am

So my inflamed airways keeping me from breathing are helping me? Every time I get blood drawn, they comment on how my white blood cell count is very high (not leukemia high, thankfully) as are all the inflammation markers – inflammation might be a good thing, but only if it’s temporary!

Anne July 10, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Wow, what an interesting finding. This reminds me of a coworker who just tore her bicep muscle and rotator cuff. The doctor told her to stop taking anti-inflammatories because she needed the inflammation to help with the healing. (And ice baths are much more tolerable if the Pacific Ocean is your bathtub … I’m just sayin’.)

Juan escobar July 11, 2012 at 6:38 am

Nice to meet you on this morning’s run. My blog is at

Carilyn July 11, 2012 at 6:57 am

Great to meet you, Juan! Good luck at Leadville this weekend! I’m so excited for you!

Carilyn July 11, 2012 at 6:58 am

I’m with ya’, Anne! The Pacific is a very nice “recovery” aid 🙂

Carilyn July 11, 2012 at 6:59 am

Yes, Steve, I don’t think they mean chronic inflammation. I think they are just trying to keep people from constantly trying to use things to stop all inflammation that is a natural part of the training process.

Jeff Dinkin July 11, 2012 at 9:47 am

Very interesting. I think I’ve intuitively known this for a long time. Also, I’ve told people that popping pain pills or anti-inflammatory meds is just masking what the body is trying to do in it’s infinite wisdom.

Good diet, rest and proper sleeping habits will do wonders to rejuvenate the body. No need to go along with all these “adjunctive therapies.”

Carilyn July 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Yes, Jeff, it really is letting the body do what it needs to do. The more we mess with it, the more problems we seem to create.

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