Last summer during my marathon training, I spent 10-15 minutes after almost all of my long runs sitting in an ice cold bath. This year, there have been no ice baths. Instead I have been having a wonderfully tasty glass of chocolate milk after every long run. Even on the short runs when I am feeling fatigued, I will mix up a quick glass.
The ice baths always involved taking the time to run the coldest water in the tub followed by throwing as much ice or ice packs in to make it nice and chilly. Then I would scramble while the water was running to heat up some hot water for a cup of tea to help keep my insides warm an the ice water bearable. This was always a 10-15 minute process before hopping in the water. After stepping out of the ice bath, my legs would be all tight and tense yet somehow relieved and recovered. Recovery was better than my first year of running and training for half marathons. Since I was training for a marathon, I wanted to up my recovery time and take control of some of the soreness. It was easier to take ice baths to ice my legs than just certain parts such as knees, feet or ankles. This seemed to work really well as I was pounding more miles than I ever had before. This was only my second year of running. The days following my long runs, I would be sore, but I always noticed an improvement versus when I did not have an ice bath.
Chocolate milk only takes a minute to prepare. In fact, while training for the Country Music Marathon in Nashville, I would go out on my long runs while Brent was at home and come home to a nice tall glass of chocolate milk just waiting for me. Brent was great about helping me out after my long runs. I had taken a more intense training program on. Since it was the middle of the winter, ice baths were not sounding very friendly. I stuck with the chocolate milk which seemed to be doing the trick. The days following my long runs, I actually noticed a difference when I drank chocolate milk versus not drinking it. It virtually seemed to have the same effect as the ice baths.
My muscles seemed to be doing great without the ice baths. There were times when I felt pretty sore after a run. I was running a 20 miler every other weekend and then a 16 miler in between. I felt better than I did while training for the Portland Marathon. I am not saying this is because of the chocolate milk, it is mostly due to the fact that my body was getting use to putting in the long miles. 16 milers did not seem as hard as they had the year before.
All in all, I feel like I am recovering just as well if not better after my runs without the ice baths. It is also nice to not have to hang out in the cold water for 15 minutes. I do miss the funny pictures that Brent and I would take of each other. It was always a sight to see.