What To Expect From an Ice Bath Experience

The ice bath or cold water immersion therapy is so popular these days, but what can you expect to gain from it, and how do you do it right?
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What To Expect From an Ice Bath Experience


So many people talk about the benefits of cold water immersion, whether it’s through an ice bath or a cold shower, but what can a newcomer expect from this? We’re going to show you what it is in relation to cold therapy, how cold therapy can benefit you, and how to do cold water immersion right.

What Is Ice Water Immersion?

Known as cold water immersion or cryotherapy, submerging your body in cold water at a temperature between 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit is something many people undertake for numerous benefits. 

Putting part or all of your body in water can have a number of benefits as a cooling technique for professional athletes to help their muscles recover after an intense training session. But ice cold water can also benefit people by boosting their health in other ways.

What Is Cold Water Therapy Good For?

If you are considering having cold water therapy or just taking a dip in an ice bath, cold water can be good in a number of ways, including: 

  • Boosting the immune system. 

  • Improving energy levels. 

  • Aiding with muscle soreness (to help the muscles recover faster and reduce swelling). 

  • Aid deep sleep. 

  • Reduce inflammation. 

  • Improve mood. 

  • Burns calories by improving metabolic function. 

Grayscale Photo of Man in Water

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Are Ice Baths Good for You?

Because of the numerous benefits associated with cold water and ice baths, many people think that the ice bath experience is an amazing cure-all. So many people love it because cold water immersion therapy gives them amazing health benefits, which is why many extol the virtues of cold showers.

However, it’s important to remember that there are certain people that would not benefit from submerging their body in cold water and enduring extremely cold temperatures. For example, people who have a history of high blood pressure or a heart condition. 

This is partly due to the cold shock people experience when they get into the water. If not acclimatised properly, the cold water can potentially cause a heart attack.

How Long Do You Spend in an Ice Bath?

If you are looking to go in cold water, whether it’s cold water swimming or an ice bath, it’s important to stay in there as long as you can, but not to the point where it compromises your abilities to stay afloat. 

If you are in an ice bath, it’s important to spend shorter periods in colder water work up and acclimatise your body to the recommended 15-minutes so you won’t push your body beyond its limits. 

It’s also important to remember that if you spend too much time in cold water, it can have adverse consequences because the decrease in core body temperature and constriction of blood vessels will slow down your blood flow. 

Additionally, there is the risk of hypothermia if you submerge your body in cold water for too long. Also, anybody with type 1 or type 2 diabetes needs to be careful as these conditions can mean a reduced ability to maintain body temperature when there are extreme changes in the water temperature.

When exposing yourself to ice baths, you need to be ready to bring your whole body temperature back up as soon as possible, for example, by having a warm beverage ready.

Water Droplets on Blue Surface

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What Does Cold Water Swimming Feel Like?

For those who have not conditioned their body to cold water or an ice bath, the first thing that happens when you get into the cold water is the “cold shock” response. 

The cold shock response usually comprises three distinct sensations:

  • The initial gasp. 

  • Rapid breathing. 

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure. 

Therefore, it’s important to dull this cold shock response in any way possible. 

Many people try to dull it by wearing a wetsuit but as it feels cold, the person would still experience the cold shock. For many people, it’s about building tolerance to the cold.

Is the Cold Water Shock Good for You?

The cold water shock causes the blood vessels in the skin to close. This increases the resistance of blood flow and increases the heart rate, making it work harder. 

This is why the cold water shock can cause a lot of adverse reactions, even in those who are young and healthy. For lots of people, the sensation of panic will set in. 

However, healthy individuals without a history of blood pressure or heart condition can expect the initial shock to pass. It can take approximately one minute or longer, depending on the temperature of the water. 

During this time, it’s vital to concentrate on controlling your breathing and avoiding panic.

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Should You Do Breath Work in Cold Water?

A lot of people are keen proponents of breath work. For example, the Wim Hof method is incredibly popular because it prepares the mind and body for the act of submerging themselves in cold water. However, doing breath work in cold water depends on the breath work in question. 

During that initial cold shock, it’s important to gain control of your breath because of that gasp response, which means that you are going to shallow breathe or hyperventilate. 

Focusing on slow and controlled breath is more important because this can help you to overcome the sense of panic. It’s not a good idea to do breathing practices similar to the Wim Hof method or Tummo because the vigorous nature of breathing means you could pass out in the water. 

Breath work in cold water is about centring yourself, which needs to be done through slow and controlled breaths. Because the heart slows down when you breathe out, you should focus on exhaling slowly through the mouth and inhaling slowly through the nose.

Final Thoughts on the Ice Bath Experience

If this is something you are ready to try, you need to look at a few key areas: 

  • Your overall health and fitness. 

  • Your previous experience of cold exposure. 

  • If you have anxiety and stress in your life. 

Many people have successfully forged a relationship with cold water. It has made people feel healthier and it has “woken” them up in a number of ways. 

So, if you want to do it successfully, the best approach is to be slow and controlled. Cold water is a big shock to the system, which is why you need to build up a tolerance. But if you do it right, cold water can have a positive effect on your entire body, your recovery abilities, and could be an amazing addition to your health practices.

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Ryan Abbott

Founder of Urban Ice Tribe

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Helping men & women release anxieties & limiting beliefs to experience a life of freedom using powerful breathwork, cold water therapy, movement & sound healing.

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