How To Take An Ice Bath (The Complete Guide)

In 2024, the practice of ice baths has become very popular around the world. Many people have challenged themselves to take them regularly.

And I love it!

However, whether you are planning to get the full set with the water chiller, or simply plan on doing it in your bathtub, there are some do’s and don’t.

That’s because doing it wrong can hurt the benefits, and going through a challenging ice bath just to ruin your benefits at the end…now that sucks.

So, let’s see how to take an ice bath the right way so it won’t happen to you.

Key Takeaways

  • Fill your tub with cold, clean water
  • Drop some ice (or activate your water chiller). The water should be uncomfortable yet tolerable (or 50-60°F, or 10-15°C)
  • Immerse until your neck
  • Breathe and remain calm…redirect your mind from the cold to your breathing
  • Sit upright…do not cross your legs or arms
  • Don’t jump in a shower immediately, or don’t wrap yourself in towels…let your body reheat naturally
  • Ice baths have many benefits (recovery, fat loss, etc.) but drawbacks (might hurt your gains..)
  • A guide on how to build a perfect home ice bath 👇

Step-By-Step Guide On How To Take An Ice Bath

how to take an ice bath

We do recommend getting ice bath-specific gear if you are serious about taking cold plunges. That way you won’t have to change the water every time, and your ice bath is always cold and ready for use.

These include your tub, a water chiller, and all the accessories that come with it such as an insulated cover, etc.

But all ice baths work the same, and doing it in your regular, home tub is fine.

1. Fill Your Tub With Cold Water

The first step is pretty straightforward…fill the tub with cold water, as cold as your body can handle. If you’re unsure use this rule:

Your body has to feel uncomfortable, but not intolerable. See How Long Should You Stay In An Ice Bath for more details.

Fill your tub with clean water, enough so you can immerse yourself up to your neck.

2. Drop Some Ice In There

It wouldn’t be an ice bath without some ice now, would it? Add ice for extra cold. Remember, the colder you can safely go, the better. 

You can use a thermometer to determine a specific temperature. The general guideline is 50-60°F, or 10-15°C.

Concerning temperature, I have explained in this article that temperature isn’t as relevant as your own body’s feelings and comfort level.

body reaction to ice baths

That’s because ice bath benefits come from your reaction to the cold (which is adrenaline, shivers, and hormones), and that reaction is set off by different temperatures depending on the person.

The best way to understand this is by looking at what Dr. Huberman said in his article regarding ice baths:

The key is to aim for a temperature that evokes the thought, “This is really cold (!), and I want to get out, BUT I can safely stay in.” For some people, that temperature might be 60°F, whereas for others, 45°F.

-Dr Andrew huberman

Therefore, add as much ice as you can handle, or set up your water chiller for a temperature you can handle, whatever that may be…plain and simple 🙂

3. Immerse Yourself Up Until Your Neck

Step into your ice bath right up until your neck. This is to get the most benefits since your whole body is shocked with cold.

Do not forget about your hands…I know they might hurt a little bit more, but it’s important to include them in the ice bath.

Do not forget to set up your timer. You should aim for 1 to 5 minutes, depending on your level. Read How Long Should You Stay In An Ice Bath for a more complete and personalized answer.

4. Breathe…and remain calm (as much as possible, anyway)

When you enter the ice bath, believe me, your body wants to get out. Your inner Harvey Specter will come out trying to convince yourself to get out of there.

That’s normal. It’s called the “cold shock” response.

breathing technique for ice bath

Just breathe, willingly and consciously. Take long and deep breaths. The idea is to keep your mind away from your thoughts and redirect them into your breaths.

By the time your body is adjusted to the cold, you will be fine. Until then, focus on your breathing.

I strongly suggest people who are into wellness research about Wim Hof, a Dutch speaker who literally created his own breathing technique. You will be amazed about how much breath control is important, not only in stressful situations but also in daily life.

5.  Be Mindful Of Your Positioning 

When in an ice bath, try to unfold yourself as much as you can.

The best position is sitting (or standing, depending on your tub), with arms and legs NOT CROSSED.

correct sitting positions in an ice bath

The idea is to make yourself as big as possible. Huddling and crossing your arms and legs makes it easier to handle. You’re not trying to punish yourself, but you do need to feel the cold to get the benefits.

That is both during and immediately after the ice bath.

6. When Finished, Let Your Body Reheat Naturally (Without Towel)

Now this is an underrated step. It has been proven that taking a hot shower or immediately wrapping towels around you can suppress some of the benefits of an ice bath.

When finished, let your body reheat itself naturally. Stand still, with arms and legs unfolded, and let your body do the work. You might shiver and hate my guts, but that’s okay.

It’s for your own good. 

I don’t know about you, but I do not want to go through an ice bath just to ruin the benefits immediately after…

For reference, you can wait up to 2-3 minutes after the ice bath until you can jump into a shower or wrap a towel. Again, this time is personal.

About The Timing?

Don’t know whether you should take your cold plunge in the morning, afternoon, or evening?

Read This:

What Does An Ice Bath Do? Benefits, Drawbacks, and More…

Now that you know exactly how to take the most efficient ice bath out there, let’s see why is it important, and why sometimes it can hurt you..

Benefits

Here are the benefits of cold therapy:

  • Fat Burning
  • Stronger Metabolism
  • Muscle and Joint Recovery
  • Reduced Inflammation
  • Better Mood, Focus, and Mental Health (Dopamine, Epinephrine, etc.)
  • Increase Your Sleep Quality
  • Confidence Builder

The explanations of how these benefits work can be found here: Benefits of Ice Baths

Drawbacks

Some drawbacks of taking ice baths:

Ice baths right after workouts can kill your gains

While post-workout ice water immersion is great for athletes looking to recover faster (just like post-workout saunas), it might hurt people who are trying to build muscles.

Here’s the explanation, taken from the NCBI

screenshot of ncbi
From NCBI

Ice bath just before sleeping has a chance of hurting your sleep

This is a simple explanation. When our body is cold, our body heats up to cope with the stress. 

A body that heats itself up has the same response as a body that is waking up, as per Dr. Huberman.

screenshot of andrew  huberman's website
From HubermanLab

Some Rare, But Possible Dangers…

  1. Hyperventilating during a cold shock response can be dangerous to those with heart issues.
  2. If the water is too cold for you, you might suffer from hypothermia.
  3. In some extreme cases, cardiac arrest might occur.

If you’re unsure, then my best tip regarding this is to always consult with your doctor first.

How To Create The Perfect Ice Bath At Home

Now, if you’re serious about ice baths, then I strongly suggest getting a specific ice bathtub and all the accessories that come with it.

Not only do you save money in the long run, but you also save a lot of headaches…

Here’s a list of things to get for your perfect at-home cold therapy:

table on how to build ice bath at home

Some Extra Tips 

As an ice bath expert myself (self-proclaimed, but I have been taking them for a while now), I have some tips for a beginner or a fellow wellness guru:

  • Try to take an ice bath every morning. It will do wonders and prepare you for the day, even if you had a bad night’s sleep.
  • If you have been doing it for a while and start to get comfortable, then start moving in the ice bath.
  • First timer? Can’t overcome the barrier of stepping in? Put on some encouraging music to help you during the process.
  • Do not make a big deal out of the barrier of stepping in, however. Simply acknowledge that you’re scared, and step in. 99.9% of the time it won’t kill you, and you’ll realize it’s not that bad.
  • If you decide to practice contrast therapy (repeated ice baths + saunas), always end on cold.

Conclusion

As I am writing this, I realize I have given you a complete guide. This is everything you need to know, and this post will be updated every time something new emerges.

Taking an ice bath is fairly simple, but not easy. I think it is a big step in your life, simply because you are dedicating yourself to a better you, both physically and mentally.

When done right and regularly, an ice bath can change you for the better. One of my favorite benefits of ice baths is how easily you handle stressful situations.

After all, you are handling extreme cold…nothing can touch you after that…

FAQs

What is an ice bath?

An ice bath involves immersing your body in cold water, typically after intense physical activity. It is also known as taking an ice bath or cold water therapy.

What are the benefits of taking ice baths?

Using cold water can help reduce inflammation, decrease muscle soreness, improve recovery, and lower body temperature after exercise. Athletes often use ice baths to speed up recovery and enhance performance.

How long should you ice bath for?

It is recommended to stay in the ice bath for about 10-15 minutes to experience the full benefits of cold immersion. Be cautious not to exceed this time to avoid potential injury.

What is the right water temperature for an ice bath?

The ideal water temperature for an ice bath is cold, but not freezing. Most experts suggest adding some ice to the water to achieve a temperature that is around 10-15 degrees Celsius.

How often should I take ice baths?

To maximize the recovery benefits, it is recommended to incorporate ice baths into your routine after intense training, typically a few times a week.

Can ice baths help with sore muscles?

Yes, soaking in an ice bath can help alleviate muscle soreness by reducing inflammation and improving blood flow to the affected areas.

Is it safe to take ice baths regularly?

As long as you follow proper guidelines and do not stay in the ice bath for too long, taking ice baths regularly can be a safe and effective way to promote recovery and reduce soreness.

How long do you leave ice in the bath?

Leave the ice for the whole time you are immersing in the bath. Sometimes, ice will melt during the process.

Do you put ice or water first in an ice bath?

Add ice after you fill the tub with water. Ice before water has a higher chance of melting.

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