weekly blog--one for the ages
Times have changed. When John Kelly ran his final Boston Marathon at age 84 in 1992, he was one of only 180 runners age 60 or older, which represented just 1.9 percent of the 9,629 official entrants. This coming Monday about 38,000 runners will participate, of which 2,702 will be over the age of 60 or nearly 9 percent of the total.
Enter the ice bath or quick cold shower to reduce muscle soreness after a race. A 2009 study analyzing 17 trials involved over 360 people who either rested or immersed themselves in cold water after resistance training, cycling, or running found that 24-minute cold water baths with a water temperature of 50 to 59 degrees F or colder were effective in relieving sore muscles for up to four days after the event.
Regular cold exposure may also cut sick days. Researchers in the Netherlands asked 3,000 volunteers to spend a month completing their morning showers with up to 90 seconds of cold water or to stick to their normal routine. The cold-shower group took almost a third fewer days off sick. Another exciting discovery is that cold exposure can trigger huge improvements in the way type 2 diabetics process insulin, effectively reversing some of their symptoms.
Jumping into an ice bath is certainly not the most relaxing way to start the day, but A-list celebrities and elite athletes are convinced of the health benefits of a regular freezing plunge. In addition to preventing muscle soreness, it can reduce inflammation, speed recovery, burn fat, boost the immune system, and even increase how long you live.
Paula Radcliffe, the marathon world record-holder. When she won her 10,000m race in 2002, she revealed that she has an ice bath after every contest: “It’s absolute agony and I dread it, but it allows my body to recover so much more quickly.”
Mo Farah, Britain’s most successful distance runner. He often takes an ice bath after a race. “The 10,000m is first and I’ll run that, get in my ice bath, recover and if all is well get ready for the 5,000m,” he says. The water from the ice bath Farah took after his 2012 Olympic 5,000m win was auctioned on eBay. The starting bid was $1,000.
For some, an ice bath is not cold enough. Instead, they opt for cryotherapy, which involves standing in what is essentially a fridge freezer for humans for up to three minutes. Liquid nitrogen is used to drop the temperature in the chamber to below minus 100C. The pop star Justin Timberlake, his actress wife, Jessica Biel, and the NBA champion LeBron James are all fans of the treatment.