My Cold Plunge Experience
why cold plunge?
I’ve been a fan of Wim Hof for some time now. His relationship with the cold, connection to breath and especially his backstory fascinates me- (tragedy can compel some people to impressively overcome). The science to back up cold therapy also fascinates me. So for a time, I practiced his breathwork and attempted to take cold showers as he prescribes.
It took carving out some time, but I incorporated the breathing when I meditated in the mornings. I was already a believer in the power of breath because it helped immensely when I was in a season of anxiety. The cold showers turned out to be a much harder challenge. (Russell Brand agrees with me.) The barrage of tiny ice pellets was definitely not fun, and as a result this was an easy habit to drop from my morning routine.
So when my husband told me he was adding a Fire & Ice room to Clark Salon and Spa complete with a cold plunge tub and infrared sauna, I was excited, but also dreading the cold water that I knew I would inevitably re-try for the benefits. Remembering the cold showers that were hard enough to endure, I couldn’t imagine being fully immersed in a 49 degree tub of water. In my mind this seemed an immensely harder task.
the cold plunge
On New Years Eve 2022, the whole family went to experience the new Fire & Ice Room that we had been watching him create and put together for months. The ambiance was perfect. Ocean blue stained concrete floors, wrapped walls with images of a man entering icy waters, a woman laying back in a cold plunge tub and led lights circling the ceiling all informing you that this was going to be an experience like no other. The infrared sauna sat in one corner with the stand in shower in another. Tips and Protocols were also displayed in large easy to read paragraphs on the walls. ( I would eventually find these words helpful to read to get my mind off of the icy water.)
Although contrast therapy was available to me with the sauna, I only wanted to try the cold plunge by itself this first time. My husband and daughter went first like champs. When it was my turn, I stood by the tub watching the large aqua colored digital clock tick down the seconds. The anticipation was definitely increasing my anxiety. I returned to my breathing to calm my nerves. Deep breath in, fully out. My family encouraged me and watching my daughter go before me definitely helped ignite my competitive side.
I watched the seconds ticking up 54, 55, 56… and stepped over into the water. I had already decided I was going fully in without pause because I knew it would be harder to stop or even go slow. I swung my other leg in, held onto the sides of the tub and sat down. Without hesitation, I laid back and dunked my head in before I could chicken out. “This is crazy”, was my only thought underwater. The shock was instant when I emerged to take a breath. I did it. And it. Was. COLD.
Fight or flight
I tried to focus on my breathing. Fully in, fully out. I gripped the sides of the tub and started the read the wall of “cold plunge tips”. My legs felt frozen and I did not want to move them. My people cheered me on as the seconds ticked by. I couldn’t help but think “this is fight or flight”, everything in my brain now was telling me to abort and get out of that water. But I’ve learned a lot about the power of the mind over the years, and I knew I wasn’t going to let the fear win. I struggled at first to calm my breath and at about one minute in, I was surprised to realize it actually felt easier. My feet hurt, but I knew I wasn’t in actual danger. (although I admit I had a few images of the Titanic flash in my head!)
My goal was 3 minutes. I surrendered to the cold. And I a little embarrassed to say, I actually cried. Maybe it was a release of emotion, or tension, or a letting go of the not-so-great year of 2022, but the tears came, and I let them. When the clock hit 3:00 I stood up out of the water with an amazing sense of accomplishment. I felt energized and ready to take on the day and even the brand-new year of 2023 which would be here tomorrow. My experience was nothing like the cold showers. To me, that was harder than putting my whole body in the water. I clearly understood the benefits of full immersion and I knew this was going to be a part of my whole health routine. The mind and body benefits outweighed the momentary discomfort and I was already looking forward to the entering the cold happiness next time.
does cold plunge live up to the hype?
I’ve done cold plunge now a few times, and the anticipation still brings with it some anxiety, but it is always worth it when I step out of the tub to tackle my day. I’ve already proven to myself (at least that morning) that I can overcome and rise to the occasion when stress inevitably appears. I haven’t cried since that first time (thankfully). Some sessions are harder than others to win the battle in my mind, but every time has been worth it to increase my mood and heal my body. My favorite way to experience cold plunge now is with contrast therapy utilizing the infrared sauna for 15- 20 minutes before a 3 minute minimum cold plunge. I’ve worked up to 4 minutes and hope to do more! Baby steps.
Now that I’ve experienced it for myself, I totally get the hype that Wim Hof, celebrities such as Joe Rogan and even scientists like Andrew Huberman have touted about the benefits of cold therapy. I’ve felt the rush of adrenaline, the stabilizing of my mood and some of the healing properties on my tight muscles. I would encourage anyone to get out of their warm comfort zone and freeze out their fears. Challenge yourself in a cold plunge. If I can do it, you can!