You've heard about the benefits of ice baths for long enough. Your friends won't shut up about how much they love them. In an effort to get it over with, you've decided to take them on head first.
You're not alone. Millions of others are jumping on the cold therapy band wagon, and for good reason; it feels amazing, it transforms your body, and there's zero side effects.
Maybe you've taken a few plunges, perhaps it's been a couple months. The practice isn't complicated, but there are certain criteria you can follow to make your experience safer, more enjoyable, and beneficial for your body and mind.
Here are the top 5 mistakes people make, when cold plunging:
1. Staying in too long
When you first discover ice baths, you feel great. Obviously those feelings of wellness are associated with sitting in the ice, so you begin thinking "the longer I sit in the ice, the better I will feel."
This is a mistake.
Hypothermia is dangerous. Short term effects include drowsiness, nausea, numbness of the extremities, shivering, irritability, and seizures. Long term effects can be as severe as liver damage, kidney failure, or even heart attacks.
For this reason, we highly recommend starting with 2-3 minute sessions. Once your body starts acclimatizing, begin to move more in the ice. If you sit statue-still, the body builds a thermal layer of heat, and movement breaks this layer causing the cold to re-engage with your body.
You should increase the duration slowly. If your body normalizes long ice bath sessions, your body will begin to crave it, and you will eventually reach a point where you’re giving yourself mild-hypothermia - or worse - on the regular.
2. You aren’t doing it enough
Ice baths make for great Insta-moments. You’re somewhere beautiful, immersed in ice, breathing, meditating, and doing something that most people think is completely insane. It makes for a cool photo. Unfortunately, one ice bath doesn’t provide any long term benefits.
Cold therapy is no different than any other type of wellness activity. It requires regular practice in order to really reap the results. What does a regular practice look like? Dr. Susana Soberg, the Danish cold therapy expert whose research is often discussed by Dr. Andrew Huberman on the @hubermanlab podcast, recommends 11 minutes per week, consisting of 3-5 minute plunges.
Most of us suffer from inflammation. If you’re reading this, chances are your body is inflamed. One of the best, most efficient, and natural ways to get rid of inflammation is cold therapy. But this can only happen if you practice regularly.
Unlike so many other woo woo healing modalities, this sh*t works. Ask the thousands of people who’ve come through ReConnect. But consistency is the number one factor that will produce real results.
3. You aren’t breathing beforehand
We’ve hosted thousands of people at ReConnect. We see all levels from newbies to gurus. One of the most common things we hear from newbies is, “man it was much easier with the breathing.”
Inexperienced people rarely know how to prepare their body for the cold. They watch a few Wim Hof videos, gather a few friends and plunge in ice water without really understanding what they’re doing.
It’s great to push yourself and try new things, but next time, add a group breathing exercise. It helps prepare you for the stress of the cold by connecting your body and mind, warming up your core, and helping you breathe better while you’re in the ice. A decent quality breathwork session is also cool AF. It relaxes you on a profound level and gives you a safe, natural high.
4. You’re doing it alone
The cold can be dangerous. People who do this practice for the first time might not realize how quickly their core temperature drops. Depending on a variety of factors, someone could get hypothermic in 20 minutes, others in 8.
Once that happens, you begin to feel light-headed, and shortly after that, you pass out. If there’s no one else there with you, this can obviously be a pretty dangerous hobby to practice alone. When you’re starting off… dip with a friend.
5. You're not moving afterwards
When you step out of the freezing ice water, you feel euphoric - a rush comes over your body because the blood vessels are dilating back to normal size. At this point, you need to keep moving and allow the circulation to do its thing.
Swing your arms, move your hips, pick up your legs…breathe. Breathing and moving for 1-2 minutes after an ice bath is essential for getting your core temperature back up to baseline. Otherwise, you might start shivering and continue feeling cold.