I've heard it from both ends. Runner's World articles quote the benefits of ice baths from doctors that run ultramarathons and swear by them, while a blog on Complete Running shows that scientific studies have not proven any benefits from them.
The theory of the ice bath is that the cold constricts all the blood vessels to the muscles, decreasing swelling and tissue break down after a hard work out. Then when you get out of the bath and your muscles start warming up, increased blood flow to the muscles aide in recovery. Those that suffer through the ice bath actually feel they recover quicker, or are not as sore on the days following a hard work out.
As for me, I say "Yay!" Last year, as I was training for the PF Chang's marathon in January, my Ironman neighbor told me I should try standing in my swimming pool. Mind you, my pool is not heated and it was late December, so probably at 55 F. After my 20 miler last year, I tried it. Sure enough, I was not as sore the days following as I was after the 18 mile run I did a couple weeks earlier. I did this again after the marathon and I didn't even have to walk downstairs backwards the next day! The cold was unbearable for my toes, so I got smart and wore my neoprene booties.
Here's my ice bath ritual now. I fill up my tub with cold water and throw in a 2 Liter pitcher of ice. I set up a portable heater in the room, shut the door, put on the neoprene booties and wrap a towel around my shoulders (for warmth, hahah!).
Today, after the first 2 liters of ice melted, I called to my husband to get me another pitcher of ice. He threw them in, but then left the door open, letting all my warm air out of the room. I yelled out "Hey! Why'd you leave the door open?"
He answered, "So, I can hear you if you need me."
"Well, can you close it? It's kind of chilly!"
He yelled back "Of course it's chilly! You ARE sitting in a tub of ICE!!!"
Check out my Nike+ running stats for 2008! I saved 41 Gallons of gas! At the height of the gas prices this year, that's almost $160 for the 674.43 miles I ran in 2008. That would mean a lot if I actually ran somewhere to do stuff instead of running in big 5 mile circles most of the time.
After 8 days without running... 5 days without a fever... 0 days without a headache... I decided to ease back into running.
You see, for the past two weeks, I've been sick. I got sick the weekend before Thanksgiving and only found myself getting better the day of Thanksgiving. After getting the turkey and fixin's going that day, I decided to go for a short 4 mile run. I followed this up two days later with 7.5.
Unfortunately, by not listening to common sense and all the running tips I've read, I did not wait until I was "fully" recovered to restart my training. Because of that, the next day Sunday, I was sick again.
So here I am, 2 weeks later. Training called for 84 miles these past two weeks including two long runs of 17 and 18 miles. As of today, I've run a total of 17.5. Needless to say, I'm way behind.
I'll have to see how training goes the next few weeks and see if I can just pick up as if nothing ever happened. I might have to re-evaluate after a couple of weeks to see if I should just do the half marathon.