Saturday, 16 March 2013

Chilly for March

I'm marathon training again. It's week six. I didn't do a week six last year, I didn't start until week 8. So a full 16-week marathon training programme is new to me. It's fantastic. Well, it usually is, but I'm a little bit tired today.

I ran 16 miles, the second time in three weeks I've done that distance. The first time, I managed an even split after a super-speedy final mile. Today I managed a negative split the same way - about half a minute faster in the second eight miles than in the first. Yay!

When I got home I went for a cold bath. Cold baths - a form of cryotherapy, which sounds so science fiction and Doctor Who that it makes me love it - is recommended to reduce swelling and stiffness after a tough run, and promote a speedy recovery. As somebody who really hates rest days, anything that can help me recover faster is worth a go.

Today was my third cold bath, the first two after challenging speed sessions. I haven't had the organisational skills for an ice bath - I imagine you'd need a fair old bit of ice to have even a slushy bath and my freezer's too full of old fish fingers and bags of veggies for that. I'm hoping that water from the cold tap does the job nearly as well.

So I sit for ten minutes in a hip-deep bath, still in my running hat and jacket, browsing Facebook and reading Dean Karnazes. My kids look bemused. My husband ignored me (how can you ignore someone wearing a hat and jacket in the bath?!)

These ten minutes of cold take more stamina than the two hours and twenty minutes that promted them. After the first minute my breathing returns to normal (instead of that juddery, catching, shallow breathing that you normally only do when you get into the sea on holiday) and after that, it's not actually too bad. 

Well, not too bad except for my feet. My feet and especially my toes hate the cold. They properly hurt, like somebody's stomped on them with big boots. They hurt worse than any part of my body hurts while I'm running. I haven't found a way to really keep them out of the water while I'm soaking my legs. My feet hate the cold bath.

But the rest of me? Well like any recovery solution, it's hard to tell if it works. Unless you do just one leg, you don't have a control experiment, right? I do know that after the last two ice baths, (which were following speed sessions which push me harder than I've been pushed before) I haven't had DOMS, and I've been able to continue dancing, walking, zumba class - albeit at a lower intensity than if I hadn't run! So I suspect it's beneficial. Although I know in my heart of hearts that learning how to take proper rest days would be better.

I'm battling my old hip flexor demon too (with an icepack while I type!) which is another incentive for the cold bath. So far the icing, pilates and trying to keep my hip in alignment when I run seem to be keeping it together. Long may it continue.

Thinking of a cold bath? Go on, give it a shot. I recommend waiting until you're so tired you'd sit down anywhere - that's when it starts to look inviting!