AskDrG: Are ice baths good or bad?
In my first instalment of ‘AskDrg’ I am responding to a great question tweeted to me by @loganwelding, a young aspiring hockey player:
“Dear @yourDrG , how long should you stay in an ice bath? Also, how often should you ice bath?”
The first question you need to ask yourself is not how long and how often, it is actually if you should even use an ice bath at all. And that depends on how you are feeling and what your intended outcome is.
There are many pro athletes who take an ice bath after a game or practice, and quite frankly they don’t even know why they are doing it and what the benefits are. Jumping in a cold tub because you heard “pros” do it or because a veteran athlete in the locker room does it, doesn’t necessarily make it right for you. There’s a proper reason why one uses ice and please refer to my March 2011 blog as I discuss the usages for both ice and heat.
To answerLogan’s question here are the highlights taken from that blog:
The reason you use ice is not because it feels good, but rather because it is a proven tool against acute, painful and inflammatory conditions. Simply stated, ice will decrease swelling/inflammation, decrease blood flow, reduce muscle spasms and alleviate bruising and pain…..
When using ice, apply the ice to the area that is the problem. Going in a cold tub or generally applying the ice to a larger area will not have the same affect (remember the goal of using ice is to decrease swelling and blood flow to the affected area, this can not be achieved if ice is applied to a larger more general area).
Therefore, if you have an area of complaint, a new injury, a chronic injury that flares up after activity, or a nagging problem, then you should be applying ice ONLY to that specific area and NOT going in an ice bath. In the case of an athlete, the reality is that he/she is likely battling through aches, pains, bruises, or injuries throughout the season, so an “ice bath” is not the most effective way of managing your body; ice to the specific area is! As such, I don’t often, if ever, recommend my patients use ice baths. However, like most things, there are exceptions to every rule. There are two situations in which I am ok with someone using an ice bath:
1) If your entire body is achy after your game, or if you have MANY chronic achy joints that are irritated following activities. Then going in an ice bath for 10 minutes may be helpful.
2) You actually like the way your body (and mind) responds to the ice bath. If there is a specific problem area, then prior to going in the ice tub, ice that area for 10 minutes, and then submerge your body in the ice bath.
I hope this answers your question. Wishing you continued health and success!
Weight training…before or after cardio?
One of the most frequent questions I get is “Should I do weights before or after cardio”? Although my quick answer and general rule is do weights first and then cardio after, in many cases the answer is not that simple and requires a more in-depth answer. And in the case of the professional athletes I consult with, the answer is definitely not that simple. So, whether you’re exercising casually, a fitness enthusiast, pro athlete, or somewhere in between, here are some questions that will help you to determine the answer:
1) What is your desired outcome and what goals are you trying to achieve?
2) What form of “cardio” and “weights” are you doing.?
(There are many different definitions and subcategories for “cardio” and “weight-training”. If the cardio you are talking about is an actual sport, the answer is very different then if it was simply cardio on an elliptical machine to burn calories, burn fat, and enhance your cardiovascular health.)
I have broken the answer down into two categories with two opposing answers. Establish which category you fall under, and there lies your answer:
1. If your goal is to: get fit, stay fit, get lean, avoid injury, have a good work, burn calories, get stronger, etc. AND if your cardio is the elliptical, walking, jogging (moderate intensity, duration less than 1 hour), running (moderate intensity, duration less than 1 hour), biking (recumbent, stationary, or outside, duration less than an hour) then your answer is:
Do your weights first and then your cardio after!
Two reasons. The first is safety/injury prevention. You are more likely to get injured when your muscles are fatigued and generally you are more likely to have a mishap doing weights then moderate cardio. So, it makes more sense to do the weights when your body is fresh and you are focused! The second reason is results. Weight training yields better results when the body has ample energy stores. However, you can effectively do cardio when your muscles are fatigued.
2. If your goal is: to play a sport (hockey, basketball, football, tennis etc); achieve optimal performance; OR endurance related (generally longer than 1 hour), AND your cardio is therefore running, skating, jumping, etc. your answer is:
Do your cardio (sport) first and then do your weights!
When you weight train, you are contracting your muscles against resistance. The resulting affect: your muscles will be in a shortened and tighter state…not to mention fatigued. When you play sports involving speed, agility, explosive movements, reaction time, etc., your performance and safety is predicated upon lengthening muscles, flexibility, quick response time, and pliability, all of which can NOT occur properly when your muscles are shortened/tighter.
Unfortunately the reality is, that many injuries to athletes (at all levels, including professional) occur because of improper planning and training on the field, ice, or court. If you are an athlete or participate in sports at a competitive level, NEVER do weight training directly before you play your sport; this will help you avoid injuries and perform at the highest level! That being said, weight training is key, but training properly with the right scheduling is VITAL to an athlete’s success, health, and longevity. The right scheduling involves when, what, why, and how…that will be my next postJ
Be Aware! Stay Healthy! Achieve Your Goals!