I started to look into ice baths just after I finished My “Oxygen advantage instructor” course. I searched for new things to learn and found out that Lair Hamilton was using ice baths in his XPT program to boost muscles recovery. That was a piece of Interesting information that stayed buried on the internet. I mean, It did not get materialized into my freediving training… Yet.
From cold shower to a freezing ice bath
Instead, I started to take cold showers every morning. And felt very good about it. I am not sure about the real physiological gains. I cannot certify that it boosted my circulation or my immune system. But for sure, it helped me wake up and had an interesting side effect on my psyche. Your mind can be your strength or your weakness and, going for an icy shower in winter at 5.00 am is a great way to train the little monkey living in your head to “shut the f…k up”. Every day I was starting my day with a victory. It has elevated my spirit and helped me to push the boundaries of my comfort zone further.
The body’s extraordinary capacity to adapt to stressful situations made these cold showers not cold enough anymore. So when Ray, a fellow freediving instructor (freedive nomad specialized in custom freediving course), asked me if I was interested in soaking myself in ice, and did not think twice and jumped right into it.
Ice baths and cryotherapy are increasingly popular among athletes. They use cold water therapy after exercise as a method to speed up recovery and improve performance. As a professional freediver who spends a lot of time in the ocean, swimming against the current, and diving deep, the idea of helping my legs recover faster was highly appealing.
So here we are, on the side of a road in Xiaoliuqiu, a beautiful tiny island southwest of Taiwan, taking a plunge in an orange plastic box filled with water and ice cubes freshly delivered To Ray’s doorstep.
If you are a freediver, you are an athlete.
And you should train, eat, sleep and recover like one.
Whether you want to gain muscle, run fast, get stronger, or dive deep, you have to do two things to progress constantly.
You need to stimulate your body through training, forcing it to adapt, and you must recover from that training. It is the only way for you to endure a more challenging workload and keep improving. Of course, to speed up the process and avoid overtraining, you would need to recover faster, allowing you to train more.
Resting is a crucial part of the training. Thinking otherwise will send you straight into a concrete wall where injuries, plateau, and failures are unfortunately pinned.
There are countless ways for you to fire up the process of recovery: Eating healthy, sleeping, taking supplements, massage, yoga, gentle swim, or going for a walk in nature. On top of that, you can add Ice bath.
How cold should the water be for ice bath?
If you want to give it a try and see for yourself, here is how:
- Find a container. I use a big plastic box (200l), but a child-sized pool or a large bin will do the job.
- Fill it with water and ice. I do not follow any ratio. I want to have my whole body submerged up to my shoulders.
- Use my dive computer to check the temperature. I aim for 13 degrees Celcius. I do not go under 10 or above 15 degrees Celsius.
- I stay In 10 to 15 minutes. Do not forget to use a timer.
- During the bath, breathe slowly and deeply with your nose. This way of breathing will maximize the oxygenation of the body by letting more time for the gas exchange to take place in the lungs—no shallow and fast mouth breathing.
- When the time is up, do not rush out. Take it slow. Your muscles may be a little numb due to the cold exposure. Dry yourself, drink a hot tea and enjoy your achievement.
The Benefits of ice baths
As for the cold shower, I cannot guarantee the physiological benefits of an ice bath. The studies I found were contradictory and, the long-term benefits of reducing acute inflammation post-exercise are still raising discussion among the scientific community. It is a fancy way to say they have no clue. So instead of shooting a pseudo universal truth to you, I will tell you what I feel these 10 to 15 minutes baths in 13-degree water are doing for me.
- First, it is fun. Yes, yes, it is. These reunions of the “ Xiaoliuqiu Ice club” are a terrific way to meet friends and share a moment. If you think it has nothing to do with recovery, I would say you are very wrong. Sharing a moment with friends is a great way to release psychological tensions.
- I can feel it become easier each time to go in. The Body and mind adapt to the cold, which helps me a lot when I dive into cold water.
- I am less sensitive to heat. Strangely, the exposure to the cold seems to regulate my body temperature. I feel I sweat less during the Taiwanese hot and humid summer.
- I feel the muscle tensions easing during the bath. Does that mean it helps the muscles to recover? I cannot swear it. But it feels good.
- I sleep great after.
- One to Two times a week seems good for me. I found that some of the studies concede that ice baths might be helpful for a quick recovery but not if you want muscles to get stronger in the long term. Like everything, it seems logical not to overdo it.
Ice baths are now part of our master program
Cold exposure is now part of our 10 days intensive freediving master program at VD Freediving.