Ultimate Guide to Starting Your Ice Bath Journey

Timothy Munene Timothy Munene
Ultimate Guide to Starting Your Ice Bath Journey

Recently, different cultures have embraced ice bathing after learning about its numerous benefits. Despite its growing popularity, immersing yourself in ice-cold water is not appealing. Still, you can maximize the experience by establishing the best ice bath that suits your space, requirements, and expectations. Above all, knowing how to take an ice bath safely is important. In this guide, we’ll discuss various things you need to know before embarking on your ice bath journey.

Understanding the Emergence and Evolution of Ice Baths

While the history of ice baths is not clear, some references suggest that Greeks were some of the early adopters of cold-water immersion. The famous Hippocrates and a physician named Claudius Galen later discovered the benefits of ice bathing and integrated it into their healthcare practice. They used it to facilitate muscle recovery, manage swelling, and regulate their patients' fevers. 

Other cultures would later adopt the practice, taking a new approach towards it. For example, the Greeks used cold water exposure for medicinal reasons while the Nordic folks adopted it for invigoration and relaxation. On the other hand, the Japanese use ice bathing to cleanse their souls and bodies in a ritual called Misogi. 

Today, more communities understand cold water therapy better and use ice baths more purposefully. Ice bathing is integrated into sports recovery, helping athletes reduce muscle soreness and inflammation while aiding them in achieving their mental and physical potential. 

Understanding the Science Behind Ice Baths

How does the human body react while inside an ice bath? When you immerse yourself in cold water between 10-15℃ for 15 minutes, the temperature triggers various physiological responses: 

·       Discharge of Cold Shock Proteins

The body discharges proteins like YB1, Lin28, and CARHSP1 due to the stress triggered by cold water. Cold shock proteins are defenders that safeguard body cells from shock. They promote cell regeneration and play a crucial role in encouraging wound healing and muscle recovery. 

·       Vasoconstriction or the Narrowing of Blood Vessels

Upon exposure to cold water, the body temperature drops, and blood vessels constrict, directing blood from the extremities to vital organs, including the lungs, brain, and heart. Vasoconstriction ensures that vital organs get sufficient oxygen and optimizes their performance. It also preserves the body heat lost after exposure to cold water. 

How to Set Up Your Ice Bath

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned cold therapist, ice bathing can rejuvenate your mind and body. But to ensure your ice bathing sessions are safe, fun, and comfortable, choose the ideal ice bath tub. Various factors determine the ice bathing tub you choose which include:

The available space: The ice bath container you choose must fit in your room well and leave you enough room for extras like a small closet and a step tool. 

Capacity: If multiple people will be using the ice bath you may want to buy a larger tub.

Portability: Do you travel often and want to practice ice bathing while on the go? A portable ice bath that fits well in your backpack could be ideal. 

Personal style: Everyone has a personal preference. From wooden to metal ice baths there are various ice baths to choose from.

After getting the ideal ice bath, position it in your preferred place. While some people prefer setting their ice baths outdoors, others care about their privacy and would rather set it in their basement, bathroom, or fitness areas.

How to Source for Ice 

Factors to consider when sourcing for ice include:

  • Convenience
  • Cost
  • Preference

Some of the options available based on these factors include:

Purchasing ice: Bags of ice are readily available in convenience stores. What's more, commercial ice comes in different sizes, allowing users to choose what works best for their needs. 

Using an ice maker: Do you frequently take cold plunges? You will require a constant supply of ice. In this case, you may consider buying an ice-making machine, which will ensure you hardly run out of ice. 

Using ice molds: Suppose you prefer large blocks of ice instead of the smaller cubes an ice maker produces. You can get them by purchasing larger ice block containers, filling them with water, and freezing them. 

Never use dry ice in your ice bath because it converts to carbon dioxide, which can replace oxygen, causing suffocation, especially when you’re ice bathing in an enclosed room. 

How to Prepare Your Ice Bath

Start by gathering your towels before preparing the ice bath. This way, you will have them closer to keep you warm after your ice bathing session. Depending on the ice bath tub you’re using, you can either use a chiller, add ice cubes, or use an ice bath kit.

To use a chiller: Run water inside your tub and plug in the chiller to cool the water to your preferred temperature. A chiller maintains the water temperature, helping you reap optimal benefits. 

Adding ice cubes: Fill your barrel or tub with water approximately halfway, then gradually add ice cubes while monitoring the temperature with a thermometer. The temperature should reach 10-15℃.

Using ice bath kits: if your ice bath comes with an inbuilt chiller, you’ll only need to fill it with water and let the chiller cool the water to your preferred temperature. All-in-one ice baths help you to set a cold-water immersion routine with ease. 

Taking an Ice Bath at Home

Having ice baths at home is an excellent way to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and accelerate recovery post-workout. Here are steps to help you understand how to take an ice bath at home. 

You will need:

  • Ice bath tub or barrel
  • Timer
  • Thermometer
  • Ice

Executing the Process

  • Fill the barrel or tub with cold water
  • Gradually add ice to the water
  • Monitor the water temperature using a thermometer until the temperature is between 10-15°C
  • Set your timer for 10-20 minutes. 10 minutes is ideal for beginners. Increase the time gradually as you start getting used to the cold. 
  • Immerse yourself inside the water slowly, ensuring your head remains above the water. 
  • Remain in the water for the duration of your timer. Consider using deep breathing methods to keep you relaxed, helping you condone the pain
  • Once the timer goes off, stand up slowly and leave the ice bath
  • Dry yourself with a towel and wear warm clothing 

How Regularly Should You Take a Bath in a Week?

Many experts recommend two to three ice baths per week to get optimal benefits. However, some professional athletes can even take five ice baths in a week. Of course, the frequency of their ice baths depends on their training programs. 

When is the Ideal Time to take an Ice Bath?

Ask yourself, what health benefits am I targeting? Your answer should help you understand the best time to take an ice bath. Many people prefer taking ice baths immediately after they wake up in the morning. This way, they can enjoy mental health benefits. Further, ice bathing in the morning triggers the production of feel-good hormones, keeping you energized the entire day.

Athletes seeking to reduce muscle soreness and enhance their recovery after a workout should take their ice baths 30 to 60 minutes after exercising, depending on what works best for their schedule.

If you’ve suffered a muscle injury ice baths can help lessen inflammation around the injured area, helping you embark on the healing process.


Ice bathing is one of the best ways of enhancing sleep, focus, muscle soreness, and mood. If you’re thinking about embracing ice baths use this article as a guide to help you ice bath appropriately to optimize your experience while reducing any risks involved. 

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