Monday, June 23, 2014

ICE, ICE BABY

Let's begin with potholes.

Those of you who live in colder climates know what I'm talking about. After a long, cold winter, the first thaw comes along, and craters, some the size of small vehicles, appear everywhere, lurking beneath the road surface, inviting drivers to sacrifice a tire, rim, or an axle.

How about that expensive concrete sidewalk you installed a coupe of years ago? Now it is criss- crossed with spider vein cracks.

And, of course, the nemesis of all runners: ice covered surfaces.

For my first two examples, at least, I  have listed a couple of reasons why, as runners, we should love ice.

You see, road surfaces, as well as cement, contract in cold weather. Some of you may even remember the Seinfeld episode about "shrinkage" to describe cold weather contraction.

Conversely, heat produces expansion, hence potholes and cracked cement.

That expansion on the human body is described as swelling, and it's never a good thing. A twisted ankle, an inflamed joint, a pulled muscle, or any soft tissue injury produces swelling, and that is where our winter enemy called ice, suddenly becomes our friend.

When it comes to ice, never be home without it.

Ice packs of some sort have resided in my refrigerator for years. You can store ice in a baggie, or in a Dixie cup, for easy application. Heck, you may not have to package it at all. Just use a bag of frozen peas.

Ten minutes or so is a good amount of time for an ice application. It is very possible to actually suffer frostbite tissue damage if an ice pack remains in one spot for too long. Give the affected area a break, then apply for another ten minutes.

The objective is, of course to reduce the swelling in the affected area, and get back on the road quickly.

Marathon training is grueling. Often, after a 20-mile training run, getting out of a chair seems like a workout.

Time for ice, baby.

Try an ice bath.

Oh, it's brutal, take-your-breath-away stuff, but it works. The strain of a long distance training run produces sore, inflamed muscles from the waist down. Sitting in a tub of cold water will reduce swelling all the way down to the ankles.

Finally, when runners suffer dangerous heat exhaustion at the end of a race, it is imperative that their body temperature is reduced. Often, health care professionals immerse them in a tub of ice.

The same can be true for you on a sweltering hot summer day. Complete your workout, go directly to the shower, and make it cold. Your body temperature will drop, and you will feel much better.

So, if you're injured or sore, take my advice, and always reach for the ice.