Bathing in ice after a hard workout, or just as a routine way to refresh and reset your body, can bring about so many rewards. Ice baths have been around for centuries and the practice has been used for everything from physical healing, to replenishing, and mental refurbishment. There’s nothing quite like challenging your body and mind by taking a cold plunge in clean, filtered, pure water to revive your muscles and spirit.
What can you do to get the most out of your ice bath experience? Here’s a guide to follow, full of our best tips.
Benefits of Ice Baths
Ice baths provide benefits that span a wide spectrum. No one likes getting sick and research has shown that bathing in cold water regularly can help support your immune system. This is one major reason, aside from workout recovery, to engage in ice bathing. Having a cold water regime was shown to reduce the amount people who were absent from work due to sickness by 29% in one particular study from 2016.
Ice bathing has also been used to reduce chronic pain and improve the functioning of many parts of your body while lowering inflammation. The benefits of cold water immersion go so far as to potentially boost your metabolism and they may even help you get a better night’s sleep.
What about improving your mental health? Many people turn to swimming in cold water to improve their mood and bathing in ice water is no different. Being in contact with cold water is said to activate your vagus nerve, which in turn slows down your breathing and heart rate, helping you switch over from “fight-or-flight” mode to “rest-and-digest”. In this way, cold water immersion can potentially help improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In a nutshell, ice baths can help you improve your energy, and boost your physical and mental resilience while providing you with a moment to rest and relax with nothing but you… and your tub.
The Basics of Ice Baths
Ice baths lower your body temperature for a short time and can provide you with the greatest reward by being taken regularly. Your ice bath temperature should be below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, with experienced bathers getting down to about 40 degrees. It can be best to ease into your practice to allow your body to get used to lower temperatures and to build up your tolerance slowly over time.
Focus on your breathing in your tub in order to activate your sympathetic nervous system. As with meditation, inhale through your nose and exhale slowly. See if you can slow down to about 5 or 8 breaths per minute as a goal. Don’t hold your breath! Simply practice inhaling and exhaling slowly.
And remember, your ice baths will be short and sweet. Unless your doctor has instructed otherwise, typically it’s a good idea to stay in your tub for anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes. You can always start with smaller amounts of time, of course. Even 10 seconds counts! Work your way up.
Avoid the temptation to bathe for longer than five minutes as you could endanger your health. If something feels painful, get out.
How to get started with ice baths
The great news with Cold Plunge is that, if you have one of our tubs, the first step on the list to get started is no longer “go to the store and buy more bags of ice than you can carry”. We make the cold water for you!
The basic element to getting started with ice bathing in a Cold Plunge is to create a schedule and stick to it. Maybe you plan on bathing every day, or maybe you’ll try to take the plunge once a week, or even once a month. For the optimal benefits, choose a day and time of day and try to stick with it. This helps your body recognize a predictable habit.
Ice bath protocols
If you’ve never been in an ice bath before, start out on the warmer with your water at about 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Focus on your breathing, quiet the noise in your mind, set a timer, and enjoy your water. Listen to your body and mind. Are you feeling uncomfortable? Does something hurt a bit? Get out and rest. Increasing your tolerance for cold water slowly is important for keeping your body balanced.
Ready to start your journey with cold plunging? Check out our protocols guide here.
Guided Ice Bath Videos
If you have your own bathing practice already, why not stick to it. Those who are new to ice bathing might want a guided session to follow, however. If this is you, check out our instructional, informative, and enlightening ice plunge videos that take you through a pre-plunge warm up routine, a five minute plunge, and post plunge activities. Learn what you like and what works best for your body.
Optimize your ice bath experience
Get the most out of your time and equipment! Click here to learn more about when you should ice bath and how it can help in your workout recovery, as well as your foot health, and overall wellness. Get the details right on creating your ice bath routine by following our list of tips.
Are you an athlete? Follow our advice specifically related to muscle recovery using cold temperatures.
Ice baths bring a full range of advantages for both your physical body and overall mental wellness. Engaging in an ice bathing practice that works for you can bring a new level of joy and refreshment to your life.
As with any new practice, make sure you run ice bathing by your doctor first if you have any concerns with regards to whether the practice is safe for you. Thousands of people throughout history have enjoyed the benefits of cuddling up next to cold water and chances are, you can too. It is possible to go too far with an ice bath, however, and so it’s important to follow the suggested instructions in order to reap your rewards and nothing more. Never bathe for over 20 minutes, and listen to your body.
For a comprehensive list of ice bathing protocols including ones that Cold Plunge founders Mike and Ryan adhere to daily, subscribe to Cold Plunge and download our informative PDF.