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Avoid Triathlon Training Injuries With An Ice Bath

One of the secret weapons of many professional marathon runners, Ironman triathletes and ultra-marathoners is the post-run ice bath. All of these endurance athletes put their bodies through tremendous stress durning training. The ice bath is one weapon you too can use to fight soft tissue inflammation that could lead to slow recovery and overuse injuries. In the process you can prevent injury, train harder and get faster!

Remember that the goal of any workout is to get sore, but not damaged. Most marathon runners and triathletes have either suffered an overuse injury or know someone who has. An overuse injury may be the best way to derail your fitness and destroy your chances of success in your goal race.

Many novice runners think that when they run, their muscles get stronger. However, experienced athletes know that the muscles actually get stronger when you recover after a run.

When you run hard enough get improve your muscular fitness, you actually create tiny little tears to the muscle fibers in your legs. In the 12-48 hours after this injury, your body responds by repairing the damage and strengthening the muscle tissue. It is this recovery from the soft tissue injury that makes you stronger.

The key to getting as strong and fast as possible is to train right at your body's limit, while allowing the necessary recovery to rebuild the normal tissue injury that occurs during your workouts. If you train too hard and get tiny little tears in the tendinous attachment to the bone, you get tendonitis. This is precisely what transpires when an overtraining injury begins.

The most common overuse injuries in runners are shin splints, stress fractures and tendinitis. Muscle strains can also occur in runners that do speed work and intervals. The reality is that there is a very fine line between how hard you can train without injuring a muscle, tendon or ligament.

One way to increase the gap between training at your limit and training beyond your limit (to the point that could produce an overtraining injury) is to speed your recovery. This is where an ice bath comes in. A post-run ice bath can help you prevent overuse injuries and recover faster.

Let's say you do a long run. All of that pounding really stresses your muscles (good) and your tendons (bad). The muscles recover quickly because they have a much better blood supply than the tendons. Immersing your inflamed muscles, tendons and ligaments in fifty to sixty degree water will help block any excessive inflammation that has the potential to lead to tendinitis or severe muscle soreness.

A 10 minute soak in an ice bath decreases the internal muscle temperature and can prevent the excessive accumulation of inflammatory chemicals that can be counterproductive to the recovery process. The result is less soreness and faster rebuilding of the muscle tissue that makes you stronger.

I am not going to tell you that sitting in an ice bath is as pleasant as soaking in a hot tub. In fact, it can be downright miserable. But, the way to think about it is this: when you run on a cold rainy day, you gain mental toughness and a belief in yourself that you are doing the workouts that your competition may not be willing to do. When I get in an ice bath after a 20 mile run or 90 mile ride, I tell myself it is the price of getting faster than the competition.

The best way to do an ice bath is to fill the bathtub just enough to cover your thighs when you sit in the tub. Add several trays of ice cubes as you fill the bathtub. You should try to get the water somewhere in the fifty to sixty degree range. When you sit down in the ice bath, keep you legs outstretched and completely under the surface. Be prepared to have your breath taken away for the first few seconds.

Ten to fifteen minutes in an ice bath is plenty of time to constrict the blood vessels in the muscles, reduce inflammation, flush out the metabolic waste products and prevent excessive soreness. Wait at least 30 minutes before you have a hot shower. Repeating this routine after interval training, long runs and hard bike rides can help you capitalize on your hard efforts and give you a leg up on the competition.

About the Author:

Dr. Christopher Segler is a runner, triathlete and foot doctor in San Francisco. He makes house calls in the Bay Area for running injuries like ankle sprains, stress fractures and Achilles tendinitis. To learn more about running injuries visit www.anklecenter.com

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