The thing with ‘Science’ is that there are so many differing bits of advice out there.
I read this article which is a fairly convincing argument to dropping the good old R.I.C.E method and instead only icing for a short period after an injury occurs; it also suggests that doing so for a longer period or after strenuous exercise can in fact delay/hinder healing.
I knew that I had heard the opposite mentioned for women so wanted to double check. In Stacy Sim’s book ROAR there’s a paragraph saying that (paraphrased) Women take longer for our core temps to return to normal after exercise, and because of this our body sends our blood to our skin (rather than our muscles) to cool us down. Meaning that our bodies are in a stressed state for longer thus increasing inflammation. So for us girls, it is better for us to cool down by submersing ourselves in cold water or an ice bath after exercise as it’ll send that blood back into our muscles/central circulation and not to our skin to cool us down.
I searched for some studies into ice baths and interestingly some of the ones that came up acknowledged that they were performed (only) upon men.
So moral of the story, it pays to have a read around, find what you believe is to be true, makes sense, and work out what works for you.
Myself? I am a fan of a cool plunge after a long run (I’ve never actually ice bathed) so I’m sticking with a cool plunge and active recovery until a study performed on women tells me otherwise.
Guys, it looks like you may need to avoid the ice baths completely and opt for some cold water baths and active recovery as well.
For anyone interested in some further reading I found this tidy little article which is a good read:
Happy recovering everyone!