A cold water plunge is immersing yourself in extremely cold water for short durations. Cold plunges are also known as cold water immersion or cold therapy. Various people, such as athletes, participate in cold plunges for health benefits and relaxation needs.
You can spend 30 seconds to 15 minutes or more, depending on the temperature of the water, to achieve the benefits of cold plunges. The information below will cover how to do cold plunges and tips to get you started on your cold journey.
How Do Cold Plunges Work?
Cold plunges work by reducing inflammation, tissue damage, and constricting blood flow. Similar to how you can use a cold pack to reduce swelling, cold plunges can reduce inflammation across the whole body leading to numerous benefits.
How To Do Cold Plunges
One of the best ways of doing cold plunges is to rinse with cold water at the end of your warm shower. This is the best way to start working your way up to colder plunges.
You can start with 15-30 seconds of letting water at the coldest setting rush down your body immediately after a warm shower. Over time, you can increase the cold session’s length, eventually taking only cold showers.
Bathtubs can also be used for cold plunges. Start by filling up the water to the coldest setting, ensuring it is uncomfortable to sit in but not extremely cold. There is no specific temperature to start with, as individuals have different cold tolerances. If the tub is too cold, you can add some warm water, or if it is warm, you can add ice cubes to lower the temperature.
Remember that with cold plunges, the colder the water, the less time you need to spend to gain benefits. Staying in cold water for longer durations has been associated with increased dopamine levels, while shorter sprints are associated with increased epinephrine. Despite the length of the duration or temperature, you will gain benefits from cold plunges.
Once you have decided on a suitable temperature, start by submerging your legs. Then work your way up to your lower abdomen and then shoulders. Once you are comfortable, you can submerge your head for short durations with breath held.
Remember that if you are too cold, you can get out of the water and do subsequent cold plunges later. Just like jogging, you build your stamina and resilience through more frequent cold plunges. as your body adjusts to the temperature, you can make it a little colder.
Do’s And Don’ts When Preparing For A Cold Plunge
Do remember to breathe.
Plunging into the cold water can make you lose your breath. Remember to focus on your breathing through your nose and take long exhales. Controlling your breath trains the nervous system, building resilience, and other benefits.
Try to do plunges earlier in the day.
Cold plunges are associated with a rush of adrenaline and other energy-boosting neurotransmitters linked to awareness. Therefore, to avoid disturbing your sleep routine and cycle, avoid cold plunges near bedtime hours.
Doing your cold plunges in the morning or afternoon hours will provide prolonged energy during the day. If you plan to stay awake for the night, you can also do plunges in the evening or night time depending on your schedule.
Do let our body heat itself back up.
It may be tempting to sit next to a fire or crank up the AC to warm your body after a cold plunge, but you should not. Instead, just let your body reheat itself. Though it may sound hard after plunging your body in ice-cold water, letting your body reheat itself has metabolic benefits.
Do work your way up to colder water.
It may be tempting to start with ice-cold water and gain the maximum benefits of cold plunges, but it may limit progress. First, start with just room temperature water, then work your way up to adding buckets of ice to your water.
Test the water with your hand and judge if it is cold enough to stay inside it for a minute. Add ice cubes to make the water colder or warm water to make it warmer. You can work your way into colder water when you get used to the temperature.
Do carry a towel and maybe a timer.
Carry a towel for drying yourself after the cold plunge allowing your body to reheat naturally. If you feel like you can take another plunge, you should repeat the process. Carrying a timer will enable you to gauge your tolerance and resilience.
You can aim for five-minute sessions and slowly increase the duration of challenging yourself. Additionally, you can compete with your friends to see if you can stay in the water the longest. However, it should be a healthy competition and motivation activity with all precautions taken.
Don’t take alcohol before cold plunges.
Though you may be tempted to take alcohol before or during a cold plunge with friends, alcohol may reduce your benefits. Alcohol naturally lowers your body temperature despite making you feel warm. Consumption increases the risk of developing hypothermia.
Benefits of cold plunges
The benefits of cold plunges are improved immunity, resilience, feel-good hormone production, sleep quality, blood circulation, and mental stamina. Similarly, it reduces inflammation or swelling, upper respiratory tract infections, and mood disorder symptoms.
Cold plunges typically trigger a rise in blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing; however, these are normal. But, individuals with heart conditions, high blood pressure, and high sugar levels are advised to seek medical advice before taking cold plunges.
Cold plunges can offer numerous benefits. Start by training yourself to tolerate the cold and increase the intensity of the cold over time to gain even more benefits. However, taking precautions is a must to avoid developing hypothermia.
Start by taking cold showers before working your way up to icy water or immersion for extended periods. Additionally, challenge yourself to ensure you reap the maximum benefits. You can even involve a partner or friend to give each other motivation.