How to Take a Post-Run Ice Bath

Dylan Ellis

For recovery after a long run, tough workout or race, nothing beats an ice bath. Soaking in a tub filled with water and ice will help reduce inflammation of tissues and joints, relieve soreness, and speed up your recovery. Here's how to take an ice bath.

What You Need for a Post-Run Ice Bath

  • Tub: This isn't a cold shower, you will need a tub. A cold pool would be too big to allow you to lower the temperature even more with ice.
  • Cold water: This should be easy to come by, but if you are in an area with water restrictions, filling a tub will use more water than taking a shower.
  • Two 5-pound bags of ice. That's more than your refrigerator probably has in its icemaker, so you'll have to pick them up at the store.

Steps for Taking a Post-Run Ice Bath

1. The best time to do an ice bath is immediately after you finish a long run or race. Waiting too long will probably diminish the effects of the ice bath.

2. Fill your bathtub with cold water, and slowly get in. Let your body adjust to the temperature. (Note: If anyone else is home, you may want to warn them that they may hear some screaming coming from the bathroom. Let them know that you're fine -- just cold!) The temperature should be between 50 - 59 degrees -- any colder than 50 degrees and your experience will be much more unpleasant, without any proven additional benefits.

If you really don't like the cold, it's fine to go in the tub wearing running tights or sweatpants and a sweatshirt or towel (wrapped around your upper body). You'll still get the same benefits. Some runners also like to sip hot chocolate, tea, or coffee as they're soaking.

3. Dump one 5-pound bag of ice (or a few trays of ice) into the tub.

If you can tolerate that, dump another 5-pound bag of ice in the tub. (Again, the warning to family members or roommates is helpful for this part.) If you really can't tolerate the ice, just sit in a tub filled with cold water. The benefits will be very similar. 

4. Stay in the tub for 10 minutes. If you feel numbness, get out sooner.

Contraindications for Taking an Ice Bath

If you have any medical condition that can be worsened by exposure to cold, do not take an ice bath. Talk to your doctor before you give it a try if you have a medical condition.

The jury is still out on whether or not a cold bath will speed your recovery. Some studies find it has benefits in reducing recovery time, while others find no significant difference in reducing muscle soreness or regaining strength or range of motion. Use your own judgement as to whether it feels good for you. It is wise to avoid a hot bath after a hard workout.

Also see:


Glasgow PD, Ferris R, Bleakley CM. Cold water immersion in the management of delayed-onset muscle soreness: is dose important? A randomised controlled trial. Phys Ther Sport. 2014 Nov;15(4):228-33. doi: 10.1016/j.ptsp.2014.01.002. Epub 2014 Jan 29.

Hausswirth C, Louis J, Bieuzen F, Pournot H, Fournier J, Filliard JR, Brisswalter J. Effects of whole-body cryotherapy vs. far-infrared vs. passive modalities on recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage in highly-trained runners. PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e27749. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027749. Epub 2011 Dec 7.

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