Tag Archives: ice

Review: Biofreeze Gel

Hurley and sliotar

I’ve mentioned before that regular icing is a great way to address the knots and aches that build up in a swimmer’s body when they are doing regular hard training. For myself these start to occur once I start to regularly go to 25,000 metres a week and over.

I’ve also mentioned the tennis ball and tights method, which I occasionally find invaluable for working on inaccessible knots in my back. Someone me told a lacrosse ball works even better, but lacrosse isn’t played Ireland and an Irish hurling ball (sliotar) with its raised ridges is hardly useful. :-)

As swimmers also know the third and most essential step of massage is essential for ongoing maintenance of muscles and to avoid injury. When I started regular massages some years back, my masseuse, Vinny Power, occasionally applied Biofreeze gel at the end of a massage, usually where a particular difficulty arose in my deltoids or neck and I was still sore.

In Ireland you grew up with Deep Heat wintergreen lotion, applied for every ache and the lingering and overpowering smell of it was a giveaway for field athletes and seemingly beloved of older folks.

But we now know that cold is far better for muscular aches by reducing inflammation and may help reduce lactic acid.

Biofreeze is a mix of volatiles that when applied evaporate quickly and the area gets cold.

It works very well for aching arms after a long swim.

It need to be used with a small amount of care. If used for more than about five or six days continuously you might develop a rash, but the products warns against continued use. It is also useful if you don’t want to be applying direct ice late at night in mid-winter! I find the cold sensation lasts for about twenty minutes from a small amount.

I’ve also found that if applied directly after a pool swim, the residual chlorine on the skin, even after a shower, makes the cold sensation even more intense and possibly very unpleasant for some people. Eddie Irwin, Sandycove swimmer and English Channel and Manhattan soloist, and also a pharmacist, said it shouldn’t be used DURING a swim, because it will cause the muscles to tighten too much.

It’s not cheap in Ireland if you buy from a Pharmacy or Supermarket, where it is an off-the-shelf product and the containers are very small.

However I have found the larger 16oz pump container, about half a litre, for better value in eBay, and the last time I ran out, I bought directly from Vinny since he gets it at trade prices so I recommend pursuing this idea with your physio/masseuse. A 16 oz container will probably last years.


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Magic Cups

“Magic cups”

Yesterday talking about ice being one of the best solutions for swimmer’s shoulder, brings up the question of the best way to apply ice.

My sports masseur, Vinny Power, who is just great, told me of his “magic cups” way.
Fill some disposable polystyrene coffee cups with water and freeze. Because they are ‘styrene, you can easily tear off a strip and apply it, without it getting too cold to hold or the ice falling out.
Apply the ice directly to the area BUT keep moving it all the time, never stopping in one place or you may burn the skin. I give about 5 minutes per shoulder/upper arm, when I’m icing, until the skin is bright red. It always feels great after.
Polystyrene cups are harder to find these days as they are non-biodegradable, but I recently got 2 packs of 40 in a €2 shop in Clonmel for …€2. Enough to do me for a few years.
I’ve used paper cups and they are ok also though the ice tends to fall out. Plastic cups are useless. I always keep one cup full in the staff fridge in the pool, just in case.
Ice is also good for lactic acid reduction on days when you are beat. Ice immediately if you think you have strained or overworked a muscle.

Some people like gel packs/frozen peas but you need to protect the skin from them and I don’t know if they make the area cold enough. Bio-freeze is good for short term use, about 5 days, no more as it’s very hard on the skin. It feels particularly effective right out of the pool, through some weird after-effect of the chlorinated water..

Bio-freeze review.