Hot bath or ice bath – which is best for recovery?

Olympian Jo Pavey solves the debate, once and for all

There’s been a lot of talk in the past about the benefits of a hot bath vs the benefits of an ice bath post-run, but which is best for recovery? Our resident Olympian Jo Pavey solves the debate once and for all.

Which is better for recovery, a hot bath or an ice bath?

“Firstly, the physiological effects of hot baths and ice baths differ. A hard run creates micro-tears in the muscles that cause an inflammatory response, leading to pain and swelling.

“Ice baths are thought to limit this reaction by constricting blood vessels, which could, in turn, reduce the onset of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). So they are the best choice directly after a hard run.”

When are hot baths good for runners?

“Hot baths, on the other hand, promote blood flow to the muscles by dilating blood vessels – this is not what you want immediately after exercise. However, in the days that follow, when any acute pain has receded, a hot bath is best to help increase circulation, which aids healing.”

When should you have an ice bath then?

“The inflammatory response in the muscles is part of the adaptation process, enabling improvements in strength. So perhaps reserve ice baths for times when quick recovery is crucial, such as after your last hard session before a race.”

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