Mar 30, 2024

Bathing in ice after a hard workout, or just as a routine way to refresh and reset your body, can bring about so many rewards. Ice baths have been around for centuries, and the practice has been used for everything from physical healing to replenishing the mind. There’s nothing quite like challenging your body and mind by taking a cold plunge in clean, filtered, pure water to revive your muscles and spirit.

What can you do to get the most out of your ice bath experience? Here’s a guide to follow, full of our best tips for before, during, and after your plunge!

How to Prepare for an Ice Bath

Preparing for an ice bath involves both physical and mental readiness to endure the intense cold. The great news with Plunge is that if you have one of our tubs, the first step in prepping for an ice bath is no longer, “go to the store and buy more bags of ice than you can carry.” We make the cold water for you!

With that being said, here are our recommendations to help you better prepare for an ice bath.

Set Intentions and Goals

The basic elements to getting the most out of your ice bath is to create a schedule, set goals, and stick to them. Are you aiming to reduce muscle soreness after a workout? Improve your energy levels? Manage stress? Having a clear purpose can help you stay focused and endure the cold of an ice bath.

On the other hand, maybe you set a goal to ice bath every day, or maybe you’ll try to take the plunge once a week, or even once a month. To get the most out of your cold plunging, choose a day and time of day and try to stick with it. This helps your body recognize a predictable habit as you work towards reaching your plunging goals. 

Find the Ideal Temperature for Your Ice Bath

Your ice bath temperature should be below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, with experienced bathers getting below 40 degrees. The important part is that you plunge at a temperature that is “uncomfortable”. It can be best to ease into your practice to allow your body to get used to lower temperatures and to build up your tolerance slowly over time. If you’ve never been in an ice bath before, start on the warmer side with your water at about 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

What to Wear in an Ice Bath

When it comes to what to wear in an ice bath, there is no right or wrong answer. To get the maximum amount of cold exposure, many people opt for a minimalist approach and wear a simple bathing suit. Those who are just beginning might opt to wear more, such as rashguards. Regardless, try to choose quick-drying materials like nylon and spandex and avoid cotton, as it absorbs water.

cold therapy for all, designed for you

Best Ways to Ice Bath for a More Effective Plunge

Now you’re ready to plunge in! Here are our top recommendations to help you get the most out of ice baths while you’re in the water.

Focus on Your Breathing

Focus on your breathing in the tub to activate your sympathetic nervous system. Being in contact with cold water is said to activate your vagus nerve, which in turn slows down your breathing and heart rate, helping you switch over from “fight-or-flight” mode to “rest-and-digest.”

As with meditation, inhale through your nose and exhale slowly. See if you can slow down to about 5 or 8 breaths per minute as a goal. Don’t hold your breath! Simply practice inhaling and exhaling slowly.

Keep it Short and Sweet

Listen to your mind and body. Remember, your ice baths will be short and sweet. Unless your doctor has instructed otherwise, it’s typically a good idea to stay in your tub for 2 to 5 minutes, and up to 15 for advanced plungers. Additionally, increasing your tolerance for cold water slowly is important for keeping your body balanced.

You might think it’s more effective to stay longer, but avoid the temptation to bathe for longer than 15 minutes as you could endanger your health. Are you feeling uncomfortable? Does something hurt a bit? If something feels painful, get out.

What To Do After an Ice Bath

Conquering the ice bath was just the beginning! Once you are ready to get out of the tub, follow these ice bath tips.

How to Warm Up After Ice Bathing

After the ice bath, don’t rush to warm up! A gentle rewarming process can be key to preventing discomfort and potential shock. Start by gently patting yourself dry with a towel and then layering on warm, dry clothing. We also recommend engaging in light physical activity, such as brisk walking or dynamic stretching, to increase blood flow and gently raise your body temperature. By gradually warming up, you’re preventing sudden shifts in temperature that could strain muscles or compromise circulation, undoing much of the benefits from your recent plunge.

Keep Your Cold Plunge Up-to-Date on Maintenance

Don’t let the maintenance on your tub be an afterthought! By keeping it clean and sanitized, you also are ensuring your plunge operates effectively for years to come! Regular maintenance tasks include:

  • Cleaning the tub with a skimmer to remove any debris.
  • Replacing filters as needed to maintain water quality.
  • Using appropriate chemicals to sanitize the water and prevent bacterial growth.
  • Finally, invest in a cover for your cold plunge to reduce energy consumption between uses while also keeping out debris. 

For more help maintaining your Plunge tub, visit our help articles here.

Pair Saunas and Reap the Benefits of Contrast Therapy

If you really want to make the most out of your ice baths, try out contrast therapy by pairing your cold water sessions with saunas. These alternating temperatures stimulate the body's natural healing mechanisms, potentially reducing inflammation and easing muscle soreness. Specifically, the sauna's warmth promotes muscle relaxation, improves circulation, and encourages detoxification through sweating.

take the plunge

Gear to Optimize Your Cold Plunge Experience

When it comes to the gear and accessories that can both enhance your ice bath experience and maximize its benefits, here are our top picks.

  • Snorkel: Step up your plunge and go all in with a snorkel! By submerging your face fully, you can better focus on your breathing and optimize the experience for better relaxation and recovery.
  • Neck Pillow: If you don’t want to fully submerge your head, use a silicone neck pillow to alleviate tension and strain. This will allow you to have a more relaxed and enjoyable experience without sacrificing support and comfort.
  • Essential Oils: To elevate your ice bath, try incorporating aromatherapy through essential oils. Scents like lavender or eucalyptus can create a more soothing and aromatherapeutic experience.
  • Basin Mat: Keep your space dry with our exclusive Plunge Basin Mat. With it, you’ll catch splashed water to ensure a slip-free flooring and a more accessible, safer way to enter and exit your ice bath.
  • Bathrobe: Invest in a nice bathrobe and absorbent towels so you can quickly warm up and dry off after your ice bath. This helps to ensure a smoother transition back to normal body temperature.

How to Properly Take an Ice Bath FAQs

When is the Best Time for an Ice Bath?

While there is no single optimal time of day for an ice bath, it does largely depend on your specific goals and activities. If you work out, it's typically beneficial to schedule ice baths after training sessions or marathons. This helps to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation while accelerating recovery. On the other hand, an ice bath first thing in the morning can be a great way to jumpstart your day as the cold water stimulates the body and mind, leaving you feeling energized.

How Many Ice Baths a Week is Recommended?

For most, two to three ice baths each week can offer significant benefits in terms of relaxation and recovery. Some people choose to do more though. However, it's essential to strike a balance and avoid overdoing it, as excessive cold exposure can lead to diminished returns. And like we mentioned earlier, it's essential to avoid overdoing it and to listen to your body's response. 

How Long Should You Be in an Ice Bath?

Aim to spend approximately two to five minutes if you’re a beginner, or 10 to 15 minutes in an ice bath per session if you’re more experienced. This duration allows for adequate exposure to trigger responses without overstressing the body. Gradually increase the duration as your tolerance improves, but as stated earlier listen to your body and be mindful of any signs of discomfort.

Get More Out of Ice Baths with a Cold Plunge!

Ice baths offer a wide range of advantages for your physical body and overall mental wellness. Engaging in an ice bathing practice that works for you can bring a new level of joy and refreshment to your life.

As with any new practice, make sure you run ice bathing by your doctor first if you have any concerns about whether the practice is safe for you. Thousands of people throughout history have enjoyed the benefits of plunging into frigid waters, and chances are, you can too.

To get started, take a look at our cold plunge tubs and see why we have the best options on the market! Or click here to learn about financing options to get your new plunge tub today.