The Benefits of Ice Baths for Triathlon Training & Recovery


Question: “Is it true that taking an Ice Bath after a long training session will help to increase recovery and reduce injury?”

                                                                              Article by Ruth Mills

Science has yet to conclusively prove whether ice baths really help the body to recover faster following intense exercise.  However despite lack of evidence it’s a common practice among many elite athletes. They report that it helps to combat those sore limbs and allows them to be fresher for their next training session.

Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a phenomenon where muscular soreness is experience only several hours (12-72hours) following the exertion. This means that following a training session it may be one or even up to three days before we notice our muscles ache. The purpose of ice baths is to offset the effects of this delayed muscular soreness. The physiological mechanisms thought to be behind the cold immersion is that it may help to reduce the swelling and cellular damage caused by the heavy exercise.

Whatever about the reported benefits for improving recovery, ice baths would not be considered a major factor in reducing injuries. However, if your looking for an extra edge like the elites in terms of recovery then my advice would be to test it out and see if you personally notice a benefit. If you find that despite hard training your legs are fresher than you would have expected otherwise then the ice bath may be worth the discomfort.

Here is how it’s done:

Run a cold bath, add several packs of ice cubes and take the plunge. If you can submerge yourself below the neck, all the better as this may have an added effect on the central nervous system and induce muscle relaxation. However if new to the ice bath experience I would recommend weaning yourself into this process by initially just going waist depth for 2 minutes in and 2 minutes out, repeating several times. As your body becomes more accustomed to the coldness you can gradually increase the time in the water to a maximum of 10 minutes and add more ice. Enjoy!

Ruth Mills is a chartered physiotherapist with Sports Med Ireland

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The information offered by is done in good faith and is not to be interpreted as an instruction. Always use common sense and consult medical and sports professionals before undertaking any new forms of exercise

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