COLD PLUNGING - Is the new hype on social media real???

With all the hype around cold plunging recently, I wanted to dive in and give you my thoughts as a Personal Trainer and an avid plunger for the last two and a half decades:

Being pushed as a new method of recovery, fat loss, and even muscle gain from some ads, this somewhat inexpensive "newfound" experience is getting a lot of publicity. From stars like Joe Rogan and Dr. Kelly Starett (known as the #1 expert of mobility, movement, and human performance), how can you not wonder what this magic bath can do for you? Well, I’m here as a bridge to tell you what's true and false, and what you need and don’t need as an experienced ice bather.

I was first introduced to the cold plunge during my first year of college football. After each practice we would shed our pads and hop into the ice buckets (farm feed bins at our college) and we were told “5 minutes after practice today will make your legs fresh for tomorrow”. So, we did what we were told. It actually feels really good when your body temperature is up after a tough practice or workout. From there, I would buy bags of ice and fill my bathtub with cold water and ice after hard workouts or take a cold shower to lower my body temperature (these are two options I would recommend for beginners to try first - there's no need to spend money on something that you may use for ten seconds and never again).

Now with a house and a backyard, I decided to splurge on an actual cold tub. I aim for 10-15 minutes of cold exposure per week - usually 3, 5 minute plunges weekly. In the summer with added ice, the tub usually sits around 5-7°C (41-43°F for American readers) and in the winter, I’m usually breaking up ice to get in to 1°C water. Now, for those who haven’t done it before, there's a huge difference between 1-7°C. In Canadian winter months, the temperature in Calgary can get as low as -50°C, which for me made my tub an ice block. After some serious axe work on those days, 3 minutes of plunging was more than enough with an exposed face in that temperature.

For me the main benefits are:

1.   Increased Energy - This comes from a shock to your central nervous system, which lasts for 2-3 hours following the plunge. Experts say the rise in dopamine levels exceed that of a cup of coffee by 209% and lasts for 10X the duration. One doctor has even said that a cold plunge lasts for 2 hours longer than a hit of cocaine and is 2X as effective in making you alert. So, the next time you need a “bump” in energy, go for a quick plunge.

2.   Muscle Recovery - Personally, this is why I started taking the plunge. I do find my muscles are flushed and more ready to work again the following day after my ice baths. This is why I schedule them after hard workout days or after game days. Experts say that an ice bath within 4 hours of a muscle building session can hurt your muscle growth, so for muscle gain, I would recommend waiting at least 4 hours before dipping into the ice. Another doctor had studied the effects of cold plunging before workouts and found that strength and stamina increased by 10% and 14% respectively, with 3 minutes of cold exposure one hour before a training session. I have never taken a plunge prior to training, but I'll have to try it and get back to you all.

3.   Injury Prevention - Getting into the ice bath isn’t going to prevent injuries, but it is going to reduce inflammation and put you in a better spot to train again without overdoing your lower back or causing hamstring tightness. If you're already injured, the ice bath will not fix you.

4.   Mental Toughness - It takes a lot of mental toughness to get in the tub and even more to STAY IN it. If you can do 5 minutes in 1°C water, you can do anything. Mental clarity, focus, and breathing also all come into play.  The mat under my cold tub says “Surrender to the Cold”, which I think is great because you are doing just that. I try to focus on my breathing when I get in and then let my mind drift... Thinking about goals, games, wealth, success and use it as a time to dream big! You can think about anything other than how cold your toes and fingers are and you'll be fine!

One of my secrets to getting warm after a cold plunge is to have a nice hot cup of steeped tea to warm my fingers - other than that I try to naturally bring my body temperature back to normal. I do have a hot tub outside on my back deck as well, but I've found the shock too great to get back in to it after the ice. I do sometimes use it on really cold days first as a warmup. If I had unlimited funds, I would put an infrared sauna back there too as a great in between option post cold plunge - a full hydrotherapy experience.


You can do this for free, so why not give it a try first with a cold shower or adding some ice to your bathtub, or go to a spa. If it’s something that you can tolerate then there are options on Amazon for as low as $100. I knew I wanted something that would hold up to the harsh Canadian winters, that could be moved and cleaned easily, and wasn't an eyesore in the backyard. After a lot of research, I decided to purchase my tub from Coldture, a Canadian company in Ontario. I got the classic tub version that was $1500 CDN. They also offer a chiller and a tub version for $5000 CDN if you were going to keep it indoors all year or lived in a warmer climate. I can say that it has been a great investment and I encourage all my personal training clients to give it a try. It has given me a huge edge mentally and physically, both on the field (baseball & football) and in the gym. Now, with all the research and studies that have gone into the simple act of cold plunging, it has become an essential part of my week. I hope you too can feel the benefits from taking this un-brrrrr-lievable plunge!



Coach Murph


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