Wellness | Ice Ice Baby - The benefits of an ice-bath
My first experience with an ice bath was in Phuket, Thailand when I worked at a health and detox retreat. Initially, I refused. I couldn’t wrap my mind around why anyone would want to submerge their body into freezing cold water, I could imagine the benefits but those giant floating ice blocks terrified me. My first approach went like this, I walked up to the ice bath, dipped in to my waist, climbed out and said, “no freakin’ way.” Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I played volleyball in high school and have memories of our dimly lit sports medicine room where two large threatening baths sat filled with small ice cubes. Back then I did anything I could to get out of having to dip into those metal tubs, even for a second. So I can imagine you’re wondering how my hate for ice baths has turned into a passion? Well, I opened my mind to it, took the time to understand it and grew to love it. It takes time to condition your body to withstand seriously cold temperatures but in the process, you’ll see, your mind and body increasingly become more resilient.
Ice baths are an amazing way to optimize your health by increasing energy and speeding up muscle recovery. The process activates your parasympathetic nervous system which sends blood to your brain and core, systematically reducing inflammation. Repeating this (not always so enjoyable) condition helps build endurance and improves emotional resilience. As your body temperature lowers, uric acid (which increases with stress) drops and glutathione (one of the most powerful antioxidants) increases, naturally reducing your stress level. The thinking is that exercising causes tiny tears in muscle fibers, and an ice bath stimulates muscle activity which repairs damage while also strengthening. The theory is that extreme cold constricts blood vessels, which increases circulation and flushes lactic acid - the reason why we get so sore.
Is it possible to ice bath too much?
I have heard different opinions about this, and I believe that it is definitely circumstantial. One thing we know is that plunging into cold water suppresses inflammation, that being said, it can also hinder muscle growth and delay muscle recovery. In plain terms, if you are simply trying to build a lot of muscle and “bulk up” maybe the ice bath isn’t the best recovery method for you. If you are an athlete, and practice consistent conditioning, this is an amazing way to reduce muscle soreness and increase short term functionality.
Start slow. When I first began taking ice baths, I could only stay in for 30 seconds, a minute max. Over the course of a month, I increased my time to 2-3 minutes. After 6 months I was able to stay in the ice bath for 10 minutes, and anything longer than that was piece of cake. A very cold piece of cake.
Focus on your breath. There are many types of breathwork that make this process much easier. If you haven’t heard of Wim Hof, go and give him a google. He’s developed a style of breathwork that has aided him in training his body to do the unimaginable. Better known as “The Iceman,” Wim Hof is able to withstand extreme cold and partake in activities such as climbing Mount Everest with only shorts on.
The Wim Hof method of breathwork is based on three pillars: cold therapy, breathing and commitment. If you practice this everyday, it is said to: increase energy, regulate your sleep cycle, heighten focus, improve athletic performance, reduce stress, increase cold tolerance, speed up recovery and strengthen your immune system. It’s truly amazing what we can do when we connect our body and mind with our inner power.
Ice water can be good for your complexion, too. It helps improve blood circulation giving you a natural glow, and constricts capillaries which relieves redness. To maintain core temperature, your body closes all pours which improves overall skin texture and appearance. If you can’t commit the whole body, there are amazing benefits to dousing just your face in ice cold water. Celebrities are calling this the “Polar Plunge,” and swear by this, repeating it every morning.
Much love & light!
CCT Partnership & Wellness Curator