In the winter months on beaches and in lakes all around New Zealand and Australia — where the water is cold enough — a movement is picking up momentum. This is the practice of regular cold exposure through emersion in water. Commonly referred to as an Ice Bath, Cold Plunge, or Cold Swim.
A decade ago, if you saw anyone swimming in these waters in the middle of winter your first reaction would be to dial 911.
Thanks to the like of Wim Hof, Dr Andrew Huberman, and closer to home New Zealander Nigel Beach, the world is recognising the positive impacts regular cold exposure has on general health and human performance.
If you're new to the world of The Ice Bath, here are five quick tips on building your daily cold plunge routine for free.
1. People overcomplicate the words "Ice Bath" or "Cold Plunge"
Lots of people think they need to start with an industrial ice machine or elaborate heat pump apparatus. Sure, these are great, but there's much you can do to get going today.
It's important to remember, according to studies done on the topic, all you need is 11 minutes per week to realize gains from regular cold exposure.
2. Work up to 11 minutes a week
Eleven minutes a week is an attainable goal no matter how you design your progress. For example:
- Begin: 60 seconds / day; + 15 seconds each week: ~ 11 minutes by 3rd week
- Begin: 15 seconds / day; + 15 seconds each week: ~ 11 minutes by 6th week
- Note: many people progress towards several minutes per ice bath, multiple days per week
3. 95% of it is simply building a daily routine
Everyone's tolerance for cold exposure is different. The most important thing to do is just start with something and look to make small and consistent growth each week. In most cases, people simply start with incorporating cold exposure using their shower.
4. Bolt it on to something you already do daily
A really common way to start this daily habit is to 'stack' it with another regular routine. For example, simply turn your hot shower to cold at the end for the desired length of time. This doesn't even take any more time out of your day.
5. Graduate from a cold shower to submersion
It's true professional ice bath and cold plunge products are designed to further elevate the gains compared to a simple cold shower but you don't need to start at the end.