Disclaimer: Bathing in ice water can lead to hypothermia or cold shock. Consult with your doctor before submerging in ice, especially if you take medication or if you have any pre-existing illness or condition.
Cold therapy has many benefits that can assist your fitness. It can be easily incorporated in your regular sports programming. Even if you don’t have a regular fitness routine, it is still of benefit to your overall health and can easily fit into your daily life.
You don’t need access to state of the art fitness facilities to experience cold therapy. Your local recreation center might have an outdoor pool that can be plenty cold, especially during winter. While the shower can be turned to cold, it is harder to get it cold enough and impossible to get a full body immersion compared to a bath. Below is a relatively inexpensive option for the home that can go plenty cold.
As part of recovery at Modern Samurai I use cold therapy. There are so many reasons to incorporate cold therapy as a recovery tool into your regular fitness regimen. It bestows many full body benefits:
- Lower body fat
- Fertility and reproductive fitness
- Improve immune function
- Sense of well being
- Increase hormone levels
- Reverse diabetes
- Strengthen adrenal function
- Deep sleep
- Cut food cravings
- Fix thyroid disorder
- Pain management
- Help with eating disorder
There are many ways to achieve this experience on your own. Ice baths, pools and jacuzzis are good places to start. What to do if you don’t have any of these facilities at home, your gym or a nearby recreation center? Complete submersion into ice often creates a challenge. Follow these steps to set up an ice bath at home, or dispense with the ice bath altogether and go for the option at the end.
1. Get a tub
We want something that is sturdy and large enough to hold yourself and all the water and ice.
Rain water barrel: The type of barrels that are used to capture rain water for use in the garden. These are large but impossible to move by hand when filled with water. For convenience, make sure it has a tap at the bottom to drain the water. For more convenience, get one that folds together, this saves space in storage.
Wheelie bin: The containers that are often used by municipalities as waste containers, notably garden waste. The wheels at the bottom will come in handy when you need to move the bin. The lack of a tap at the bottom will make emptying the bin more of a challenge.
Bathtubs: The classic container for humans when in need of a full body immersion in water. It comes with a drain, which is not to be underestimated.
Livestock tanks: These are designed to provide water or feed to livestock. They also come with a side drain. It could be cheaper to pick up than a bathtub.
Any one that can handle the water (waterproof) and the range of temperature will do.
3. Get ice
There are several options. Keep your goals and budget in mind. Also keep an ecological perspective. Once the ice melts, we’re loosing the water when draining our tub for cleaning or to add new ice. Perhaps you have access to reusable ice packs.
DIY ice packs: You can fill zip lock bags with water and then freeze them to get a makeshift ice ball. The problem is that once they go in the freezer again, they freeze to each other. This can cause rips and leaks. Either they have to be really dry when freezing again or you’ll have to take them out as one big ice cube and let them melt that way. Trying to break up the big ice cube will cause tears, even with thick plastic.
Reusable ice cubes: If you can manage the large volume of cubes you’ll need, look for the reusable ice cubes that are popular in drinks. They come in many colors and some have lights in them.
Store: No hassle with ice machines. It could be more expensive in the long haul compared to investing in an ice machine.
Commercial ice machine: This can get expensive. It comes in many shapes, sizes and output (how much ice is made within 24 hours). If you’re up for it, this is a great way to go to have ice at the ready every day. If you are local in Belgium, I recommend visiting Horeca Service (https://www.horeca-service.be/).
I like to keep it simple while still receiving the benefits, or at least the bulk of them. Let’s face it, we’re not Olympic athletes looking for every edge.
Put the tub in a spot that allows for easy draining. Put in about 30-40 pounds of ice. Fill up with enough water to get you submerged. Wait for the water to cool to 10-12.5°C (50-55°F).
Get in and submerge yourself all the way up to the neck. Sit in the water for 15 minutes. If you’re not used to this, start at higher temperatures and stay in for a shorter time. Check my site to find a protocol that habituates you to cold temperatures.
Get out. When ready to come out of the tub, remember to get out slowly and hold on to a solid support. If you have a friend with you, he can help you get out of the tub.
Let’s face it, the ice can become a hassle in time. Basically we want cold water whenever we need it. With ice we have to produce it, wait for it to melt in the water, and then get rid of the excess water. What if we could keep the water cool constantly? This should use less energy versus cooling down tap water every day in an ice machine. Refreshing and cleaning the tub is the same in all cases, I’m afraid. Here’s an easy solution to the ice problem. Buy a used tub freezer. Make sure it is large enough for you to fit. Set to the right temperature. The freezer either has a display and handles a specific temperature automatically, or it has a dial that goes from low to high. If automatic, great, just set and forget. If with a dial, use a thermometer and fiddle with the dial until the inside stays within range. Also, get a little rubber mat, this way you don’t have to touch the cold walls of the freezer while sitting inside, or something similar that serves this purpose. Remember to still touch the cold water though.