It’s not as difficult as you think to set up either!
Taking a cold shower or bath prior to 2010 usually meant your family or flatmate had used all of the hot water. But today many people all over the world are discovering an unexpected secret way to optimise your fitness recovery and reduce mental stress at home. Baths filled with ice, or freezing cold showers.
Heading off to your local fuel station and picking up half a dozen bags of ice cubes to throw into a paddling pool type bath may seem like a bit of an unusual task, but it’s really as easy as that to try your first ice bath at home. While you can use your bathtub or an actual paddling pool, there are actually special baths you can buy that are made to contain the temperature and you (and a friend if they’re game) as you reap the physical and mental benefits of the activity.
If you’re new to this ‘cool’ concept, bathing in ice has a bunch of awesome benefits for your body and mind.
- Speeds up your metabolism, assisting in weight management
- Reduces inflammation and swelling of muscle, helping your body to recover better after working out
- Reduces general inflammation, which can relive all sorts of kinds of pain
- Improves quality of sleep, helping you to rest deeply through the night
- Helps you to cultivate better focus, so you can increase mental resilience
- Improve your immune response, meaning you don’t get common illnesses as often and recover faster
- Increase general energy levels, so you can push the boundaries of your performance even further
Using ice baths for fitness recovery is a common place technique in the professional sports world - many athletes such as tennis star Andy Murray take one after every match to soothe their muscles and calm their mind.
Super fit celebrities including Lady Gaga, Mel C and Zac Efron are also big fans. Zac also enjoys a sauna after working out and before taking an ice bath (and check out this video to learn more about how to get that set up at home).
Ice bathing (known as a technique of ‘Cold Therapy’) has recently been made even more popular with everyday people by an extreme Dutchman called ‘The Ice Man’ Wim Hof. He has developed The Wim Hof Method that combines breath-work and ice baths to improve physical and mental resilience and performance. Something he knows a bit about considering he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, ran a half marathon above the Arctic Circle on his bare feet, and stood in a container while covered with ice cubes for more than 112 minutes. If you’re not familiar with the guy and his method, you can listen to his interview with Joe Rogan here.
Who can do it and is it safe?
If you have at least general good health, an ice bath is safe for you and something you will benefit from doing regularly. If you have any medical issues, such as heart problems or injuries, it is best you consult a medical specialist before trying an ice bath at home.
And in terms of setting one up, you don’t have to be a professional sportsperson or ripped celebrity to be able to set up an ice bath at home. It’s actually very simple and affordable.
Why take a sauna and an ice bath in one session?
Alternating hot and cold therapy has been shown to be a double-whammy way to boost your recovery, and physical and mental resistance. Exposure of the body to safe but stressful conditions such as an ice bath and sauna super-power up the benefits, which include:
- Rejuvenating your muscles by increasing the circulation and removing lactic acid and moving in vital nutrients.
- Assisting with healing cells stressed from exercise and free radicals by activating the release of hot and cold shock proteins, rebuilding your muscles.
- Regulates your vital functions including breathing and heartbeat by stimulating the nervous system
- Increases your mental focus and health through the practice of overriding the Sympathetic Nervous System (which is what flicks you into fight or flight mode, perhaps inducing panic) by activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System (which calms you down).