Intense exercise actually causes microtrauma, or tiny tears in muscle fibers. This muscle damage not only stimulates muscle cell activity and helps repair the damage and strengthen the muscles ( muscle hypertrophy), but it is also linked with delayed onset muscle pain and soreness (DOMS) , which occurs between 24 and 72 hours after exercise.
By taking an ice bath after a long walk or run, it’s believed that you slow down this metabolic process, which in turn, reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. It helps release lactic acid and soothes aching muscles.
Then, with rewarming, the increased blood flow speeds circulation, and in turn, improves the healing process. Although there is no current protocol regarding the ideal time and temperature for cold immersion routines, most athletes or trainers who use them recommend a water temperature between 12 to 15 degrees Celsius and immersion times of 5 to 10 and sometimes up to 20 minutes.
Ice baths are not for the feint hearted. It helps to be a gluten for punishment like I am. If you do try this, make sure you ease in to the water gradually. After the initial shock it actually feels good!