Your Mini Guide To Cold Water Therapy

cold water therapy
Yes, I know. Cold water plunges and showers from afar look pretty intense and whacky. To make a conscious choice and put your body in freezing water in the name of physical and mental health doesn't seem logical. Yet, there is an interesting draw to it (or maybe not) and amazing health benefits. Hear me out.
After 9 years of experimenting with cold water in Lake Superior, brisk mountain rivers, and intentional cold showers, I wanted to answer commonly asked questions to share about the practice.
What is cold water therapy?
Cold water therapy is a practice of using water around 59 F to treat health conditions or stimulate health benefits, according to It can be practiced as a cold shower or bath, an ice bath, an outdoor swim in a lake or river, or cold water immersion therapy sessions.
What is the theory behind it?
Most of modern day inventions and self-care practices are designed to make your life easier, more enjoyable and as a result you feel comfortable. But you aren't stimulating our bodies instinctual systems. Think of temperature controlled air in your house, appliances, oversized beds, even clothes. By default, you want to maintain a state of comfort to not experience stress or discomfort.
The resistance builds and the more you stay in this state of comfort the more you don't want to lose it. The reason I believe most people are so repelled by the thought of plunging into cold water.
It's time you awoke the wild within! The moment you walk outside into a brisk winter day, take a cold shower, wear a lighter jacket, or breathe fully upon waking, your body becomes alive! The resistance to not do these things are strong only because we have it so good in our cozy houses and work places but as soon as you cross over, a rush of benefits comes flooding in.
What are the benefits?
I have noticed a big difference in myself since practice cold water therapy. My physical body tingles on the surface of my skin and my internal temperature evens out (less cold hands and feet later in the day). I feel capable, vibrant, resilient, and incredibly aware of my body with a stronger pumping heart. My mind goes from scared and anxious to focused and alert. I literally become happier - in a matter of minutes. I feel cleared of any stagnant energy and my spirit becomes lighter. It has become my trusty reset button that has never let me down.
Cold water therapy has also been scientifically proven to boost the immune system, relieve sore muscles, help with symptoms of depression, and help weight loss. I personally love being connected to the element of water in nature to feel present and connected to something bigger than myself.
Is it safe?
Consider taking it slow as cold water therapy effects your blood pressure, circulation, and heart rate. Ease into colder temperatures at longer durations of time in steps. If you've never jumped in a cold river, consider a 30 second cold shower and build your tolerance.
Bring someone with you if you're outside. I usually have a "support crew" hold my towel, keep time, and chat with to keep the moral up. Eventually, those are the people the join in!
How do I start?
  • Take a regular warm shower and end with 30 seconds of cold water. In a week, add another 30 seconds
  • Go straight to a cold shower
  • Sit in an ice bath
  • Take a plunge in a natural body of water
  • Breathe!
  • Read more about cold water immersion
Commit to 2x a week and increase your plunges over time. I'm an opportunistic cold water gal. I seek out natural bodies of water so the excitement stays high and it's not something I'm forcing myself to do. As with most things, shift your mindset first to, "I'm going to try this!' "I've never tried before but now I'm curious." First think, then say out loud, then do in action.
A few other tips to make your cold water therapy experience an awesome experience:
  • Keep breathing! Big inhales, big exhales - you got it
  • Bring warm, dry clothes to change into afterwards
  • Sip on a warm drink
  • Bring a buddy
  • Wear sandals or water booties to protect your feet
  • You don't have to dunk your head or hands
  • Resist the temptation take a hot shower right after, you can heat up too quickly and pass out, plus you become colder after
  • Your body is capable of amazing things, let it show your doubting mind
  • Make it fun! Wear a funny hat, play music, and keep a smile on your face