home made reusable ice packs

Sometimes you need an ice-pack.

Maybe your muscles are more sore than normal. Maybe you tweaked your hamstring or twisted your ankle. Maybe you have kids running around the house and want something on hand better than a bag of peas - just in case..

Here's the trick:

Mix 3 parts water with 1 part rubbing alcohol, and leave it in the freezer for when you need it.

The alcohol allows the bag to stay at very cold temperatures without freezing all the way. (or, if your freezer is super-cold and the bag freezes completely, it'll turn to slush pretty quickly at room temperature.) This lets the bag mold perfectly to your body, which makes it more effective than a bag of ice. (more surface area touching your body equals more cold.)

That's it. Simple as pie, and more effective than any other ice pack I've ever used.

Extra Tips

  • Triple-Bag - I poured the mixture into a zip lock bag, and then "triple bagged" it to avoid any potential leakage onto the couch. We bring the bags with us in a cooler to soccer practices and games, and they have yet to spring a leak. (double bonus - they keep our drinks cold in the cooler while they're waiting to be used.)
  • Multiple Sizes - I have a few sandwich bag sized ice packs, and a one-gallon sized monster ice pack. Any size ziplock bag is fair game for an ice-pack bag.
  • Works Great in a Cooler - Now that you have a super cold, leak-free, re-usable ice bag, why not use them in your cooler to keep your food fresh, cold, and dry?
  • Don't place ice packs directly on your skin - I'm not a doctor, but I've read that the extreme cold directly on your skin can do more harm than good. (google more details if you'd like.) Put the ice over your clothing, or place a towel between the ice pack and your skin.

Giving Credit - my wife picked this trick up from the internet about a year ago; I can't find the original source. (but I know I wasn't creative enough to think of this!)

Hopefully you won't need these anytime soon. But it doesn't hurt to have a couple good ice packs on hand for when you do...

- Chris Butterworth


coming back from injury - attitudes and expectations

The second half of 2014 wasn't my best year. I fractured my ankle in June, and then pulled my groin in November. And I don't have a specific injury to site, but my knee has been tweaky and just hasn't felt right.

Add in the extra time commitments from coaching soccer and the holidays, and I had gotten off track (to say the least) on working out. I've even gained some weight from the lack of activity.

So, I get to the end of the holidays feeling a lot better, and wanting to get back into the swing of things, but still a little concerned about my knee. What's a good game plan for getting back into working out when you're not 100%? I decided to find out.

Aerobic Activity - I went for a jog with some interval runs mixed in - not full-out sprints, but a good running pace - and I felt ok. I went about 2 miles; not an endurance feat by any means, but enough to know whether my body would feel pain from the repetitive motion. Nope - so far so good.

Sports / Games / Competition - Next I played a VERY slow game of soccer. I did not push myself to the breaking point, selling out my body to save a goal or anything like that. I played mostly at jogging speed, with a few bursts of exertion to make a forward run or to get back on defense. No injury setbacks to report - check.

Weight Lifting - Finally I did a kettlebell workout, but I used my wife's 15 lb bell. It felt funny to use something so light, but it felt great to be able to get through the motions and put some stress on my body. I did swings, cleans, snatches, figure 8s, around the worlds, presses, and lawnmower pulls, and when I did them quickly and without rest I was able to get a great sweat going. Any pain? Nope - just some muscle soreness the next day, which was to be expected. Ok to continue.

It can feel a little scary working out again after injury, wondering if your body will hold up. It also takes a bit of a mental reset - you have to give yourself the ok to not max yourself out or hit a PR. In fact, if you're not ready for it, it can feel discouraging to run so slowly or to lift such light weights. But it also feels great to get back to exercising. Time will tell whether I ever get back to my previous levels or not. If so, great! If not, great - I'll set new PRs and new expectations.

I'm sure age plays a role as well. When I was in my teens and 20s I would have demanded a full recovery to previous levels from myself. Today, in my 40s, I'm happy to settle for fitness.

I'm looking forward to seeing where I can go from here - hopefully continued improvement without any setbacks. Cross your fingers for me..

- Chris Butterworth


working through a nagging injury

This sucks. 12 days ago I pulled my groin while playing soccer. (What someone my age was doing playing full speed competitive soccer with a bunch of 30-year olds is an entirely different question - one that still needs to be asked, by the way.) I even warmed up and stretched out really well before playing. But this groin thing - this is becoming a sobering experience.

image credit: microsoft clipart

My Story

I've had my fair share of sports-related injuries. Let's see - I blew out my left knee senior year in high school soccer (torn mcl), then I rehabbed it just enough to blow it out again my freshman year of college (torn acl). I broke my wrist skateboarding on a rain-dampened sidewalk, and I tore ligaments in my thumb catching a football at the beach. (Don't ask how that one happened, because I'm still trying to figure it out myself.)

All of those were painful to various degrees, but none of them lingered - I sustained an injury, the injury healed or was repaired, and then I was better. It makes for a boring story, actually. But this one feels different, and I'm getting nervous about where it's headed.

2 nights ago it felt great - no lingering pain, no soreness - so I allowed myself to goof around a little bit at Jason's soccer practice. Not running, or playing, or anything close to full speed - just moving a little more freely. Oops, turns out that wasn't very smart. Yesterday it felt sore again, and today it hurts as much as it did in the days right after I injured it.

Looks like it's time to crawl into a bubble for the next few weeks - no activity for me through the holidays, then I can re-evaluate.

Learn from my story

So let's talk about pain and injuries - when should you "play through" the pain and when should you stop working out?

This is a good time to remind you that I am not a doctor, and I am especially not your doctor. What follows is my own personal opinion after many years of exercising, playing sports, and reading hundreds of articles on various injury topics. Do not take my opinion as licensed medical advice.

Soreness, Pain, and Injury.

When you feel pain, take a minute to listen closely to what your body is telling you. Are you sore from yesterday's lunges? Or did you pull something more seriously?

Does your body "warm up" and feel better as the workout goes on? Or do you find yourself gutting it out through every step?

The sharpness of the pain can also be an indicator. If you get a sharp pain when you move your body a certain way, that's probably more than muscle soreness.

If you take a couple-few days off, does the pain go away?

Some things in your body (muscles, inflamed tendons) will heal themselves given time and rest. Other things (torn ligaments or tendons) may require medical intervention. You might also find a physical therapist &/or a chiropractor who can provide relief and further education about stretches and exercises you might need to be doing to avoid further or repeat injuries.

Bottom Line

We all want to stay fit and healthy, and to get our workouts in. Make sure to warm up before your heavy exertion, and listen to your body regarding pain. Seek out professional advice (doctor, physio therapist) if something doesn't seem right and/or isn't healing on its own.

It's better to take a little bit of time off now and return to full speed, than to be stuck at half speed (or worse) for an extended period of time.

Personally, I'll keep you posted from inside my frustratingly boring bubble. Wish me patience.

- Chris Butterworth