When the phrase, “Short term pain, long term gain,” is spoken, often glacial ice baths are the first image which come to mind. Not the sort of ice baths that those on the Titanic endured of course, but the sort which the likes of Lance Armstrong and Michael Flatley would soak in, night after night, after a day of intense performance. I, myself only discovered the benefits of Ice Baths as I got older and found I could no longer walk after a week of strenuous and extensive dancing. The first time I experienced an Ice Bath I found it was exactly the chilling experience one would expect when sitting in a bin of near frozen water! The next morning however, I awoke with what can only be described as a feeling of total relief, as if someone had given me a fresh pair of legs.
The benefits of Ice baths and their benefits as a post-exercise recovery method are still being debated in the health and fitness industry, however, having used them myself over the last 4 years I can definitely say they have proved to be extremely effective in doing what they are supposed to do.
So, what is it that Ice baths actually do for a dancer? Well, as we go through a long dance session and begin to stress our legs, they begin to get tired and heavy due to a build up of lactic acid which causes a lead like heavy feeling in the legs. This usually occurs either at the end of a dance, or towards the end of a long class. By getting into an ice bath as soon as possible after a dance session, the cold begins to constrict the blood flow throughout the legs – much the same as what occurs when a muscle is iced immediately after an injury. With the blood flow constricted, the blood vessels begin to draw the lactic acid and other chemical byproducts out of the legs, reducing inflammation and toxins. It is this inflammation and these toxins which cause the pain the next day. Once the dancer takes themselves out of the Ice bath, the blood begins to flow back into the legs, replacing the old toxin filled blood with the new fresh blood. New blood, means new legs! Well, new enough anyway!
Don’t get too put off by the word blood, that just has to be said with the technical explanation of what an Ice bath will actually do to the legs. All that really needs to be said is why not give it a go yourself and see if it works.
Here are the steps to follow:
Step 1: Finish dancing and cool down. Stretch significantly while still warm.
Step 2: Fill a bath or waist high tub with 2-3 bags of ice and cold water.
Step 3: Get a sweater, a towel and your iPod. Trust me, you will need these!
Step 4: Get into the water. Try to go in without, but if you have to, wear tights.
Step 5: Sit in the water for up to 10 minutes. Then get out and dry off.