Epsom Salt Bath Or Ice Bath?

Last year I finally tried taking post-long run ice baths after hearing so much about them on Twitter, and reading some of the science behind the torture practice. (You can check out these articles from Runner’s World and Running Times). I was amazed at how fresh my legs felt after taking an ice bath, and how little delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) I experienced even after a long, hard, hilly run.

But then summer turned to fall and fall turned to winter, and the thought of immersing myself in icy water became less and less appealing. Other running friends on Twitter swore by warm Epsom salt baths, so I gave them a try. They definitely are much more enjoyable, but do they work as well?

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Epsom Salt Bath–Pros

  • Can keep Epsom salts on hand and ready to use after any run
  • Bath itself is enjoyable and relaxing
  • No need for a hot shower afterwards

Epsom Salt Bath–Con

  • Does not seem to be as effective at preventing DOMS

Ice Bath–Pros

  • Seems to be very effective at preventing DOMS

Ice Bath–Cons

  • Need to remember to buy ice on the way home from my run
  • Bath itself is uncomfortable–but bearable with a grande Starbucks and Twitter/Facebook distractions
  • Need to thaw out with a hot shower afterwards (some studies say that the cold/hot contrast is part of the recovery process)

Starbucks & Ice Bath

I have read articles saying that ice baths don’t really work, but they definitely seem to make a difference for me. I wish Epsom salt baths worked as well because they are much more pleasant, but they don’t seem to do the trick.

Have you ever tried an Epsom salt bath or ice bath? 

Does one or the other work better for you?

Check out my how-to post if you want to give an ice bath a try!

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7 Responses to Epsom Salt Bath Or Ice Bath?

  1. Miz says:

    ICE BATH.
    PACKS.
    wait 🙂
    we are talking after tattoos yes? 🙂
    Ive done one race. I didnt icebath. I regret. I regret.

  2. nhrunner says:

    I don't think they studies said ice baths didn't reduce DOMS, but said (like ibuprofen) they delay your own healing response and so you don't benefit as much from the exercise since the natural healing response was hindered. (the work hard – then repair process)
    I don't know.. I sat in freezing Lake Michigan once (in northern Michigan…Memorial Day!) after a half and it didn't help. It might have been too cold. I've tried them at home. but have opted out! Too cold and messy. I haven't tried epsom salts.I used to use ice packs all the time.. I like that idea better!

  3. Laura says:

    I've never tried either… I'm the one weird-o that doesn't like baths. BUT I had heard that a mustard back is really good. Have you heard of that?

  4. christineyu69776410 says:

    ohmygosh I just got really cold thinking about ice baths! I haven't tried either. I'm not sure if I will 🙂

  5. Carrie says:

    I've done ice baths and I do think it helps. Although I don't sit in the bath for very long, so maybe it's just a placebo thing. That would be awesome if the epsom worked, it does sound so much more pleasant.

  6. Tina says:

    I've noticed the same things. Ice baths always helped me more than epsom but man they are so much harder to do!

  7. Pingback: How To Run Back To Back Races - Got2Run4Me

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