Updated: Dec 30, 2022
The Stoics speak of the importance of doing something every day that’s hard. Karate masters
of old trained kata under frozen waterfall. Lacking a nearby waterfall and knowing the benefits of an ice bath, I’ve now taken the plunge. Literally. I committed to an ice bath daily for 20 days.
There are many reasons to ice bath. Mine was initially, simply muscle recovery. I like to train hard. This requires optimal recovery.
Why - Reasons to Ice Bath
1. Body - strengthens. Accelerates healing of sore muscles. Flushes lactic acid. - Reduces Inflammation.
- There is some evidence that ice plunge pre-workout boosts testosterone - Note: do not plunge immediately after lifting. This decreases your gains.
2. Mind - Sharpens the mind. Wide awake, super alert post-plunge. No need for coffee.
3. Spirit - Life can be hard. The Stoics espouse doing something difficult every day, so that when life throws you a challenge, you have the confidence to tackle it, knowing you handle challenges every day.
My goal is daily, 3-5 minutes, or as long as I can last. The water temperature is whatever Mother Nature and our kind Canadian winter has in store. On average it's been between 2 C to -3 C.
Initially I committed to first thing in the morning, unless it is a long-run day, in which case I'd plunge post-run. On day 10, I modified the routine to add a short 20 min workout post-plunge after listening to an interview with David Goggins. This change pushed the plunge to post-dog-walk, which the puppy prefers. This also makes getting out of bed far easier in the morning.
Results to date
I've exceeded the 20 days and at this point, I am planning on continuing this practice indefinitely. I LOVE the feeling I have when I first exit the barrel. I am the fucking king of the world! Indomitable spirit! As far as a detailed sense of muscle recovery, which was my initial goal, I feel positive so far, but a more refined test will come through January when I up my running mileage.
Andrew Huberman - Using deliberate cold exposure for health and performance
Joe Rogan & David Goggins on cold plunge benefits before workout.
Case study - Ice Bathing before workouts boosts testosterone
1991 Japanese Study - Effects of Physical Exercise and Cold Stimulation on Serum Testosterone Level in men, Hyogo College of Medicine. "In the martial arts such as JUDO and KARATE, for muscular development, physical training has usually been done in a river in the winter to expose the feet to cold water." With this posit, the researchers went on study if there was benefit to this cold exposure. What they found was yes! Cold water stimulation pre-workout boosted testosterone.
- 55 gallon barrel off Kajiji - $20
- Canadian winter - for temperature setting
- sprinkling of Epsom salt - to lower the freezing point of the tub.
- stopwatch app on phone - I can't use my watch, since it's submerged.
- note: to prevent total freezing, break & stir the ice morning & night. When ice gets too thick around the barrel bore for you to submerge, scoop out a bucket & top-up with hot water. Monitor the bore of the barrel for sharp ice build-up. It's a sign you want to temporarily raise the barrel temperature
- Pipe Heating Cable affixed to the outside of the barrel to reduce ice build-up. Only required when temperatures remain well below 0 C. Cable is insulated on outside with a wrap of puzzle mats
- hammer: to pound outside of barrel, to break up ice when it gets really thick
The Ice Plunge is truly a Love-Hate relationship. It sucks preparing to climb in. Nearly every morning I have to negotiate with myself saying "I only need to do 20 seconds, and that anyone can do 20 seconds." Once I'm in though, I'm always doing 3-5 min now. It feels surprisingly good, even submerged. When I exit, I am king of the world! I love it! It is truly exhilarating. Body feels great. Muscles are strong. Mind is very sharp.