Running Tuesdays: Hype or Hope or Hypothermia (Recovering after a run)

by Lorraine Kennimouth Williams

I remember my first long run; it was approximately 10 years ago when I ran 11 miles without stopping! I was jubilant and I was DEAD; absolutely worn out, the rest of the day was a fog! I remember wondering how people were capable of running such high mileage and then getting on with the rest of their day. I would hear conversations like, “I am going to Ikea after this to pick up a bed for the baby,” or, “I can’t go to breakfast because I have to attend my son’s little league game,” or, “After this we’re off to Disney,” and so on – and all I could think was, “After this I am going home to die on the couch”! I just couldn’t imagine it! Each week when I would run 10+ miles on a Sunday morning I would literally be spent! 

After doing a little research I was introduced to post workout drinks. These were supposed to replenish the nutrients your body loses on such long runs; they are touted as having the perfect 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. So I tried them – I tried all of them! And …. although I received favorable feedback from others who tried these concoctions, it was hundreds of dollars later when I decided they didn’t work for me.  

Let me attempt to explain how I felt after one of these gargantuan runs. I didn’t feel achy or stiff. It wasn’t even about tired limbs; it was plain and simple fatigue that would permeate my entire being and reduce me to a blob of nothingness that could do nothing more than flop on a couch.

One day I read an article that stated ice baths were the key to rid the body of “fatigue blues” – I went for it – No holds barred! My preferred method was as follows…. Fill the tub with tepid (almost cold) water, enough water to cover legs and hips – almost waist high. Have 30-1bs bag of ice within arms reach of the bath tub. Carefully climb into water – fully clothed (don’t change out of running gear to include socks). Once body is fully immersed, slowly empty the ice into the water – Brrr! The trick is to try and remain perfectly still and not hold your breath. Now …. Stay like that for 20 minutes! After the alarm goes off, JUMP out of tub, rip off freezing wet clothes as fast as viably possible, dry off and wrap yourself in warm towels. Once you are swaddled in towels, jump into bed until your body slowly regains feeling and then take a nice hot shower – Voila! 

Okay, this is torture – but it WORKS! It really, really works! I found myself doing this after every long run – the benefits were worth the 20 minutes of torture. Let me explain what it did for me. After going through the aforementioned regimen, I would honestly feel as if I hadn’t run at all; I would feel as fresh as if getting out of bed after a 9-hour restful night. It was magic! I became one of those individuals who too could shop in Ikea, go to baseball games or go off to save the world. I started to recommend these torture sessions to all of my running buds; I had found the “fountain of youth” for runners, but alas, no one else was as brave – they wouldn’t even consider it!  

Fast forward: several marathons and half-marathons later and ice baths are a thing of the past. The reason … your body eventually gets used to the pounding of the pavement, and it magically appears to strengthen and endure all by itself – naturally. Where I used to spend my energy after a race running to fill the tub with ice, I now use that energy to find the first available beer and a nice meal to celebrate.  

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