At the end of a 12 hour work day I got the idea to get in an ice bath of water. I had read somewhere about the many benefits of cold water for the body. So I “took the plunge” and started filling up my standard sized bath tub with about 10 pounds of ice or more, making the water about a chilly 45 degrees. While 45 degrees may not sound so cold for an outside temperature, in icy water it was ridiculously cold. That night I decided to get in the water quickly and boy did I ever. Chest down leaving only my head out of the water. I was in! At this point I knew to just close my eyes and focus on my breath. Long deep breaths is the route I went so I was able to tolerate the almost freezing water for 10 minutes. When I got out of the water my entire body was beet red and honestly my body was a little hard to move, you know, because I was almost frozen solid from the 10 minute soak in an ice bath. As I got out my body, which was starting to thaw out as I was drying off, started tingling all over and honestly it felt euphoric.
So you’re probably asking yourself right about now. Why would I ever take ice baths? Simply put, to lose fat and to do something I normally wouldn’t want to do because at times I can get into a weak mindset. Weak may be an overgeneralization, but many people only do things they enjoy or things that come easy to them, myself included.
Reasons to Take the Icy Plunge
When it comes to cold therapy, most of us know the more obvious benefits.
Cold therapy, like ice baths, cryotherapy, and cold showers are known to reduce inflammation and help promote healing to muscles, joints and increase our metabolic demand, picking the stored calories, or fat cells, especially brown adipose tissue which has just one purpose – to keep us warm.
This benefit makes the practice worth it on it’s own, but there are some less obvious benefits that you may not know about.
- It helps with raising testosterone levels in men. Exposure to extreme cold on men’s testicles has show to raise testosterone levels in those men.
- It helps alleviate depression in a fairly short amount of time. It does this by activating the sympathetic nervous system, sending blood to the brain and core, and reducing systemic inflammation, which is strongly linked to depression.
- It turns you into a badass. Hippocrates says that cold water therapy, “allays physical and mental weakness.” If you’ve ever taken an ice cold shower or bath, you know exactly how this works. It takes some serious focus to stay in the cold water. This will build your will power, kind of like building a muscle, which will carry over to other important areas of your life.
- It improves emotional resilience. If you can build the habit of getting into a meditative state while laying in ice cold water on a daily basis, this cool attitude will spill over to the rest of your life. You’ll be more calm, collected and well thought.
- It reduces stress.
- It’s better than a cup of coffee. Want to be alert, sharp and have the focus of a laser? Then turn off the hot water.
The Lessons I Learned by Taking Ice Baths
•Lesson 1: Completing a task that I didn’t want to do empowered me to take on more tasks that I don’t want to do. It definitely helps me make strong mental decisions to accomplish a task and deal with what is present.
•Lesson 2: We all have more inside of us than we think. If you think you couldn’t get in an ice bath of near freezing water, you are wrong. If I can do it, anybody can, which leads to lesson #3.
•Lesson 3: By overcoming the “fear” of cold water it enabled me to feel much less fear of other things. Maybe for you it is the fear of spiders, cats or heights. By facing your fears with focus and determination it will empower you in other areas of your life, just like it has mine. Think of the fearless nature of children, that’s what it has seemed to give me more of.
To train cold exposure, try taking cold showers first to implement the technique before diving into an ice bath. Each day you are going to have to ask yourself, do I really want to take a cold shower? So far for me the answer is yes. Before I turn that shower on cold or fill the bath water with ice, I have to mentally prepare and think about the 3 lessons above each and every day. This is the long term benefit, a truly great experience!