Skip the coffee, jump into an ice bath instead.
If you’re looking to optimize your health, increase your energy (naturally!) and aid recovery, taking an ice bath might be where you should begin.
There’s an ancient Japanese ritual called shugendo, and it’s hardcore.
Shugendo includes a few purifying and soul awakening rituals, and eventually walking under an ice cold waterfall and entering a meditative state.
I’m fascinated with ancient cultures and rituals because most of the time there are some really fascinating nuggets of wisdom nestled in there.
When it comes to cold therapy, most of us know the more obvious benefits.
Cold therapy, like ice baths, cryotherapy, and cold showers are known to reduce inflammation and help promote healing to muscles and joints.
This benefit makes the practice worth it on it’s own, but there are some less obvious but very profound benefits that you may not know about.
- It helps alleviate depression in a fairly short amount of time. It does this by activating the sympathetic nervous system, sending blood to the brain and core, and reducing systemic inflammation, which is strongly linked to depression.
- It turns you into a badass. Hippocrates says that cold water therapy “allays physical and mental weakness.” If you’ve ever taken an ice cold shower or bath, you know exactly how this works. It takes some serious focus to stay in the cold water. This will build your will power (kind of like building a muscle) which will carry over to other important areas of your life, like kicking ass at the gym or at work.
- It improves emotional resilience. If you can build the habit of getting into a meditative state while laying in ice cold water on a daily basis, this cool attitude will spill over to the rest of your life. You’ll be more calm, collected and well thought.
- It reduces stress. Uric acid drops, glutathione increases….this means stress is down overall.
- It’s better than a cup of coffee. Want to be alert, sharp and have the focus of a laser? Then turn off the hot water knob tomorrow morning. A cold shower or bath will leave you feeling energized and hyper focused. Your state dictates how you interact with the world, and icy baths leave you in a very heightened and positive emotional state.
- As we mentioned above, hardcore monks did it thousands of years ago under cold waterfalls during the Japanese winters.
That pie looks pretty good to me, and I wanted a piece of it.
My First Crack at an Ice Bath
I’ve experimented with cold showers in the past. Usually it involved turning off the hot water for a few minutes before promptly turning it back up. Way up. Even so, these showers worked magic when it comes to getting into a positive and energized state of mind.
Today I decided to really dive into cold therapy, and run myself an ice bath. First, I filled the tub with cold water from the tap. Since it’s July, and I’m in Texas, it turns out the cold water doesn’t really get very cold. I put all the ice we had from the ice maker into the tub and it melted pretty quickly.
Off to the gas station, where I grabbed 30 lbs of ice, came home and dumped that in the tub. The ice didn’t melt. Game on.
As I stood beside the tub, I told myself “Nothing to it but to do it” in my best Ronnie Coleman voice. I stepped in the tub, and sat my butt down in the water and ice cubes. The air was immediately sucked from my lungs. Before I could talk myself out of it, I laid myself down in the water.
It looked like I was hyperventilating. It took me at least a couple minutes of short choppy breathing before I regained my composure. The water didn’t feel that cold on my skin. The most uncomfortable part was the fact my body was freaking out.
I doubled down my focus on my breathing, and eventually worked myself into a pattern of long and slow breaths. It started to feel good. I laid in the water, breathing slowly and working myself into a meditative state, the way I do each morning on the couch. While the biting cold water added a challenge that the couch doesn’t, it started to feel…interesting.
I was relaxed but hyper aware. My eyes were closed, but I was seeing patterns that looked like water on a lake (weird, I know). Once I reached this point, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. After about 7 minutes I could tell that the water had stolen a good chunk of my body heat, and the water itself didn’t feel very cold anymore.
Once I got myself dried off, I felt amazing. Clear, awake, focused and energized. It wasn’t like a caffeine induced focus/ energy. It felt clean and clear, probably because it was provided by my own body and not an outside influence.
The short term benefits were worth it. To enjoy the long term benefits which are listed above, it will need to be a regular practice. While I don’t intend on bathing in 30 lbs of ice on a daily basis, I will be making cold showers a part of my morning routine.
Overall, I would rate this experience high, and I would encourage you to try it out. Of course, it’s very shocking, so be sure that you’re healthy and cleared to practice this type of thing by a doctor.
Do you have your own experiences with cold therapy? If so, comment below and tell me about it. I find this fascinating and would love to hear your story.
By Fitmo Coach and Ice Bath Enthusiast, Mitch Heaslip
Mitch is going to get you into the best shape of your life! But what’s his secret? Mitch has developed solid methods that work for both men and women in losing weight and building muscle. With his very flexible approach, Mitch can tailor his methods to anyone. When it comes to building strength, muscle, and losing fat, his approach is second to none!