Whether you’re an experienced athlete or you pride yourself on staying healthy and fit, cold therapy may become an essential part of your recovery process.
Cold therapy can help recover sore muscles, reduce inflammation, and benefit your mental wellness. It can be a “reset” — both mentally and physically and offers a range of benefits.
Before beginning your cold therapy journey, here are some essential things to know.
Prepare mentally and physically for the experience
A cold bath is not just an average experience; it is unique, and for some, challenging to get into at first. Ice baths are a mental and physical experience.
Prepare yourself by setting some goals for your first ice bath. Decide in advance what you want to commit to — whether it’s a quick dip, one minute or longer. It can also be helpful to set an intention for what you want to focus on during your ice bath, such as your breathing or relaxing your muscles.
You should also take the time to consult your general practitioner before you start taking ice baths. Do as much research as you can beforehand. Be aware of the possible risks like frostbite, anaphylactic shock and arrhythmias resulting from cold water exposure.
Don’t push too hard
The goal of using cold water as part of recovery is to improve your personal wellness. It’s not a competition.
Forcing your body to push more extremes than it can physically handle can lead to more damage than good. Take note of how you feel before, during and after the ice bath. How do you feel immediately after? A few hours later? The next day?
Listen to your body and build a personal cold therapy practice that helps you meet your goals.
Go easy on the water temperature at the beginning
When you’re starting, you don’t want the temperature so cold it could lead to shock. If you’re only able to handle a certain amount of cold in your cold bath session, stick to that. If you’re not sure how cold is too cold, begin with caution as you learn your limits and preferences.
Your ice bath temperature should ideally be below 60°F (15.5°C), but it’s perfectly acceptable to start at a warmer temp and work your way down. Many Ice Barrel users report using at least 40 pounds of ice (two large bags) to cool their ice bath. You might start with a smaller amount of ice (or no ice at all) and see how you feel.
As you become accustomed to cold baths, you can slowly begin to experiment with lower temperatures and longer ice baths.
Don’t stay in your ice bath too long
Don’t be tempted to stay for longer than suggested. We recommend staying fully submerged in the ice bath for 2 to 10 minutes, even for those who take regular ice baths.
Exposure to the cold can restore connection and reset the mind and body. But you want to avoid overexposure, which can lead to dangerous situations such as shock and hypothermia.
Have a buddy nearby
If you’re not a veteran in the cold therapy scene, don’t take your first ice bath alone. Even the most experienced individuals have another person present for safety precautions.
Plus, taking ice baths can be a fun and exhilarating experience, best enjoyed with friends. They can cheer you on and help you stay focused. Then you can swap and do the same for them while they take their turn.
Don’t take a warm bath or shower soon after your cold session
Contrast therapy has its benefits, but it’s better to allow your body to raise its temperature naturally and gradually.
Some great ways to warm up after an ice bath are:
- Stretch out in the sun. Resist the urge to huddle or scrunch up after an ice bath to keep warm. Instead, think about getting big to get the maximum benefits from your bath.
- Dry off with a towel and dress in warm layers (like our poncho).
- Have a warm drink (such as coffee, soup or tea) or eat something. Foods that are rich in healthy fats, protein and iron (such as eggs) can help you warm up.
- Light activity, such as walking at a comfortable pace can help accelerate your body’s natural warming process.
Any of these options can be combined with deep breathing, gratitude practices or affirmations to give you an extra boost.
Build a complete recovery routine
Cold therapy offers many benefits, including:
- Reducing depression, anxiety and stress
- Improving blood circulation
- Sleeping better
- Increasing energy and boosting your mood
- Building mental resilience
- Boosting your immune system and white blood cell count
- Reducing muscle fatigue and soreness
While ice baths are an excellent addition to your workout and recovery sessions, try combining them with other methods. A combination of ice baths, massage, and other sore muscle remedies are all good for speedy healing.
Share your ice bath experience with us
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