Enter The Ice Bath
Im sure you've seen pro athletes, be they CrossFit games competitors or top-tier UFC fighters plunge themselves into a big bath full of ice before as they begin to grimace while enduring 10 to 15 minutes in an extremely uncomfortable place both mentally and physically.
As I've learned over the years subjecting your body and mind to this kind of stressful external stimuli almost always has immense positive benefits.
The ice bath is no different.
Endure submerging the majority of your body in the ice bath for up to 15 minutes and reap the ice bath benefits below...
Ice Bath Benefits
It's The Best Exercise To Forge Mental Toughness
When exercises and techniques are referred to to increase mental toughness and make your mind unbreaking activities like running are often mentioned along with cold and contrast showers (another couple of great recovery techniques) if cold and contrast showers are an americano the ice bath is a double espresso. This is a next level tool to callus your mind - it doesn't get any tougher than this.
I've personally found since incorporating both ice baths and cold shower into my routine every other day I no longer put off the things I know I have to do but don't want to. I know, like the ice bath it's going to suck for 10 - 15 minutes but then I'll reap the rewards afterwards... delaying only increases stress.
It's Essentially Cryotherapy Without The Cost
Cryotherapy is all the rage at the moment, but when you break it down you're paying between $50 and $100 per session to get the same benefits and experience as an ice bath, albeit you're only in there for a minute or two.
An ice bath really costs next to nothing, you can make your own ice or pick some up for a couple of dollars at the supermarket or gas station and once you've bought yourself a cheap portable bath tab you're all set, no ongoing costs like Cryotherapy (I know a few guys paying upwards of $500 a month for regularly cryotherapy!).
Boosted T Levels
With an increase in testosterone levels, cold water therapy can turn you from a weak little boy into a man. In 1993 a study was conducted by the Thrombosis Research Institution of England which identified a correlation between individuals who regularly engage in cold water therapy and higher testosterone levels.
Don't expect this rise in testosterone may not equate to instant increases in lean muscle mass.
The Department of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine performed a study that suggests regular cold water therapy assissts in battling depression. The “blue spot” of the brain is said to be stimulated by cold water therapy. This is due to noradrenaline, a chemical in the brain that has been linked to the mitigation of depression.
Aurimas Juodka also states that the vagus nerve is linked with the parasympathetic nervous system, and training it can help you face stressful situations more adequately, and you guessed it - the ice bath is able to assist in training the vagus nerve.
Insane Levels of Energy
After stepping out of the tub you’ll feel like you’ve just ingested a double-shot espresso. Regardless of how lethargic you’re feeling in the morning, the moment that ice hits your skin your heart and breathing while dramatically increase. As your body attempts to adapt to the situation at hand you’re left feeling completely energized.
This makes the ice bath a fantastic tool for those looking to lower their caffeine levels or overcome caffeine addiction, ditch your morning coffee and opt for an ice bath, hell... ditch your afternoon coffee while you're at it too and jump in a cold shower for 3 - 5 minutes instead.
Your adrenal glands will thank you!
Cold water therapy promotes improved blood circulation throughout the body.
The ice water exposure causes your blood to be redirected via your essential organs – thus causing your body to circulate your blood through the body in a more efficient manner.
The ice bath will cause what is known as ‘vasoconstriction’ which is the tightening of our arteries and veins, causing an increase in blood flow at a higher pressure.
Once you've exited your ice bath and your veins are no longer constricted (vasodialation) nutrients will be pushed through your blood vessels as your body essentially begins to operate like a pump - widening blood vessels and distributing nutrients throughout.
Boosted Immune System Function
Studies conducted in Prague on young athletes suggests that cold water therapy is responsible for an increase in white blood cells (monocytes and lymphocytes). Individuals with a greater number of lymphocytes are less likely to encounter viruses, colds and flus as these particular white blood cells are responsible for fighting off bacteria and bad toxins.
My Tips For Getting Started With Ice Baths At Home
Start By Finishing The Last Minute Of Your Showers Cold
I really do not recommend you go from only having hot showers to jumping straight into an ice bath.
Although an ice bath is only really dangerous if you stay in too long (over 20 minutes) or if you have your ice water at a ridiculously low temperature (it should be between 50 and 59 degrees, no exceptions).
Begin by slowly turning down the water temperature towards the end of your showers to begin to get acustomed to the temperature and how your body begins to react - focus on deep, controlled breathing as you'll need it when you jump in the tub.
Dont Stress If Your Ice Bath Isn't Immediately Post Workout
The ice bath benefits I've listed above aren't exclusive to jumping in your ice bath directly after a workout - you can have you ice bath on your rest day, first thing in the morning (I wouldn't recommend having it too soon before your workout however) or even in the evening.
Whenever we see or hear pro athletes taking ice baths it's immedately post training/game day... I have not seen any research whatsoever to prove that jumping in directly after your workout is the most benefcial - just get in your ice bath whenever your schedule permits.