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How To Do A Cold Plunge Correctly

TL;DR:
Before entering cold water, practice a 30-second breathing exercise by taking deep breaths. When entering the water, sit on your butt and lean back to create a warm boundary layer around your skin. Submerge your shoulders to avoid discomfort. Focus on breath-work, specifically using the Box Breathing technique (inhale for 4 secs, hold for 4 secs, exhale for 4 secs, hold for 4 secs). Diligent breath-work helps transition to a calm state, reducing the sensation of cold. Gradually increase breath-holding times for more effective results. The goal is not to endure discomfort but to control your body's response to remain calm in cold situations.


Pre-Entry Breathing Exercise: Calming Your Body

Do a breathing exercise for 30 seconds before going in to calm your body.

Take a deep breath with your nose, and slowly exhale through your mouth with thinly pursed lips. This will calm down your central nervous system and lower your heart rate.
 

Deep Breath and Muscle Flex in the Water
When standing in the water, right before going in take a deep breath and flex your muscles as you lower yourself in.

Fist Technique for Cold Sensation Prevention

Make your hands into fists with your fingertips tucked into your palms, and keep your hands resting on your legs. The coldest sensation is felt in your fingers. Doing this will prevent you from the uncomfortable sensation.

Sitting Technique for Effective Cold Plunge

Once in the water make sure you are sitting on your butt and leaning back on the ice bath. You don’t want to be squatting and keeping balance on your feet. Staying still will create a layer of water close to your skin that becomes slightly warmer due to your body heat. This thin layer, known as the boundary layer, offers a temporary insulation effect, slowing down the rate of heat loss from your body to the cold water. If you don’t sit still and move around due to balancing on your feet, the motion in the water will prevent this layer from forming.

Shoulder Submersion Importance

Make sure your shoulders are submerged below the water. If you have your shoulders sticking out, every time you dip a little lower you will feel the uncomfortable sensation of your skin making contact with the cold water over and over again. It is much easier to experience this sensation once at the beginning, rather than throughout the entire duration of the plunge. It is easier to get it over with right away and only feel it once.

 

Focus on Breath-Work for Calmness

The most important part is to focus on doing breath-work. This will stop your body from freaking out and force it to calm down. It is the difference between you shivering and feeling cold or not shivering and feeling neutral. I cannot stress enough how important this is and how much of a difference it makes. It is easier to do a 40 degree cold plunge with breath-work, than it is to do a 60 degree cold plunge without breath-work. 
 

Box Breathing Technique 

An effective breathing technique for this is called Box Breathing

You inhale for 4 seconds

Hold for 4 seconds

Exhale for 4 seconds

Hold for 4 seconds

Repeat
 

Challenges in Box Breathing

Inhaling will be easy, you just want to make sure you do it slowly so that it takes the entire 4 seconds to complete the state. Naturally your body wants to take one big breath, you must slow it down.

 

Holding for 4 seconds after the inhale is also easy. 

Exhaling for 4 seconds is also easy.

Holding for 4 seconds after the exhale is the hardest part. Your body desperately wants to just take a deep breath, but you must wait for the count. 

This is a good thing, you want it to be difficult. 

Focusing your efforts on maintaining the breathing technique will draw your attention away from the cold sensation. Doing this breathing technique properly will get your body to calm down and not shiver quicker and more effectively. 



Transitioning to Calm State through Breathwork

The more diligent you are with your breathwork the faster you will transition to a calm state where you feel neutral instead of cold. At first this may take around a minute but as you get better, it can take as short as 15 seconds to get your body in a calm state where you don’t feel the cold. 
 

Gradual Increase in Breath-Holding Time

Once you get better at holding your breath you can increase the time to 5 or 6 seconds for each stage of the breath-work. The longer you can hold each stage the more effective the results of this technique are. It takes time to build up to higher second counts, so make sure you work your way up there. Start with 4 seconds each and master this first before increasing the time.


Key Takeaway

You are not supposed to endure the uncomfortableness of the cold. You are supposed to control your body to remain calm in a stressful situation and to lower your sensation of the cold to a neutral point. If you make sure to take all the mentioned precautions and use the power of breath work, you will be able to take on cold plunges with ease. 

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