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The Benefits of Cold Exposure Therapy: Why Put Yourself in a Chilling Ice Bath?

Cold exposure therapy can be traced back to the dawn of time. Recently, there has been an ever-growing trend of dipping into icy cold water. You may be cringing even thinking about that, but maybe there is a method to all this madness. How can we use these crazy practices to improve our health and become better athletes in the water?

I am interested in the routine of hot and cold contrast therapy. Athletes practice this by spending a few minutes in an ice bath and then in a hot tub, alternating between the two. Sitting in the cold constricts your muscles and veins. Sitting in the hot tub expands the muscles and veins, releasing all lactic acid build-up and reducing inflammation.

This practice is performed after cardio workouts. To enhance recovery, to ensure the athlete will perform to their optimum at the next session. 

Here are some of the benefits of cold exposure therapy:

  • Reduced inflammation 
  • Muscle pain relief
  • Improved circulation 
  • Boost in energy 

There is science around ice baths and theories as to whether they work. Here is a short testimony about my experience with ice baths:

I started doing an ice bath once a week in the afternoon. After a swimming training session, my friends and I ice bath for about 10min and then sit in a hot tub to warm up. We do this in a week of training because our bodies feel beat up and need relief. Our routine is simple, and the feeling of getting into warm water after the cold is fantastic. After this routine, my legs feel weird and sore, but the following morning, I wake up for swimming practice and feel an increase in recovery. Because of this, we made it a routine to be back in the cold every Wednesday. 

It worked for us, but it is all about someone’s preference. An added effect that I only noticed after sitting in the cold for a few weeks on end was the mental aspects. It became easier to do this practice and will myself to get into the cold. There was a feeling of accomplishment afterwards that made me feel good about what I was doing. When it is done as a group it can be a fun ritual with everyone getting into icy cold water. Lots of laughter is had. 

Now I can’t persuade anyone to get into the cold water, but I can encourage you to try something new and challenge yourself to embrace an uncomfortable environment. There may not be any physical benefits to this age-old practice. Yet, it will change your outlook on hard things. Some people get into the cold first thing in the morning. By doing this they are trying to start their day with something challenging, and then anything that comes at them afterwards can’t be worse than getting into the freezing water. Life is sometimes about doing hard things and being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I use ice baths regularly, and I think everyone should try them. The rewards may not be immediate, but after a long time of consistent effort, it could be life-changing for your mental and physical health.