If you run regularly or perform any other form of strenuous exercise, then you are most likely familiar with (and perhaps not too fond of) taking ice baths to aid in the recovery of sore muscles. In my experience, ice or even just cold water baths, have helped me tremendously after a long run or tough race. I normally dip myself up to my waist in very cold water for 10-15 minutes (no need for bags of ice), and as long as I wrap my upper body in a warm towel or sweatshirt, sip a cup of tea and distract myself with a TV show or some music, it’s not too unbearable!

Even better if you have access to a professional ice bath, like this one:

After I ran the NYC marathon, I lucked out and met someone who invited me to his gym’s post-marathon party, which involved food, wine, ice baths and sports massages! What a great combo! A solid 15 minutes in that water really did the trick – and between the glass of wine I enjoyed and the nice chat I had with the other marathoner who was my bath-mate (don’t worry, I kept my compression tights on…), the time flew by.

I still had some trouble walking the next morning, but several days later, I went for an easy run and also did some hiking in upstate NY without too much pain. I can only imagine what shape I would have been in had I not forced myself into that freezing bath!

Another method, which you may have already tried as well, is contrast water therapy – also known as hot/cold immersion therapy. It’s best if you have a detachable shower head, which you can use to focus the hot and cold water on your legs and other sore parts of your body. But, if you’re like me and have a shower in one bathroom and a bathtub in a different one, this exercise may involve you running back and forth between the two rooms.

Whatever your shower/bathtub set-up, I recommend giving this a try to invigorate tired or sore legs before a race (as I did this morning), to speed up recovery from a hard session, and/or to simply wake yourself up in the morning. I guarantee the cold water portion of this therapy will get your blood flowing, literally! The hot water causes your blood vessels to widen, whereas the cold water causes the vessels to constrict, which is believed to reduce inflammation and post-exercise soreness.

I decided to do a bit of hot and cold water therapy this morning, since I’ve been feeling some pain and stiffness in my back, glutes, hips and quads. I got a quick sports massage yesterday, but we focused on my back and glutes and didn’t have enough time to cover my legs. Thus, when I woke up this morning, my legs were screaming for some attention!

I ran a very cold bath, and then alternated between three minutes hot (as hot as I could tolerate) in the shower with three minutes very cold in the bathtub, twice.  Without anything to distract myself, those three minutes in the bathtub weren’t too pleasant, but by the second round it didn’t feel so bad.

If you’re short on time and/or are showering in the gym, then just stay in the shower and alternate the temperature, for however long you desire. Even if you only have time for 30 seconds hot/30 seconds cold, your legs will feel refreshed! Well, at least until the numbness wears off…