With all of the ALS ice water challenges taking over social media I figure it's a good time to talk about ice baths. I know that ice reduces the swelling in overused and sore muscles, but what else does an ice bath do? I read some articles online and found that the other biggest benefit from an ice bath is that it helps remove the lactic acid build up in our legs. The ice causes your blood vessels to tighten and this helps flush out the lactic acid. When you get out of the ice bath your body temperature warms back up and in flows new oxygenated blood which helps your muscles recover.
I wouldn't recommend ice baths after regular training practices. If you're working that hard on a regular basis you are probably overdoing it and you could use a bit of extra rest between exercise sessions. But in a tournament or a training camp we often don't have sufficient time to fully recover before we are back on court. So in these scenarios is when an ice bath can be helpful. Again, young legs probably don't need to worry about this, but as you get older and better at squash your matches will get longer and it's something to consider when you get to to an Open level. Playing a tough 1 hour+ match and then possibly having to play again that day or the following morning is always tough. At an away tournament an ice bath is easy to do as most hotels have an ice machine.
Besides ice baths there are other ways to speed up your recovery. Some are very simple and not as unpleasant as an ice bath. A big one is having a proper cool down. Just some light active aerobic activity can cut your recovery time in half. I recommend some easy biking or light jogging/walking and some stretching. While doing your stretching have a light snack that includes some carbs and rehydrate. A protein bar and a gatorade can do this nicely. Be sure to have a snack within 30 minutes of the end of your match or training. A combination of rehydration, refuelling, and active cool down can give you a huge edge on your opponent. If you really pushed yourself hard an ice bath may be something to think about.
Playing a really tough squash match is like no other workout. I always thought that 4 or more hard matches in a tournament was just too demanding on the body. We can't always control who we play and how tough are matches are so it's important to focus on what we can control, our cool down routine. And this why I also think this is why I've always preferred an attacking style of squash. Just avoiding mistakes and keeping the ball in play may win you a match or two, but is an awfully tough way to win tournaments. Not to mention your longevity in the sport. It's a lot more fun and effective if you can make your opponent do the majority of the running. And if you can't well then try some of my above mentioned post match strategies to aid in your recovery.