We know paddlers do some extreme things to hone in their performance and allow them to train at their best. Every so often we reach out to paddlers such as one of our Team Ambassadors Jordan to pick their brain as to what THEY do? Well, Jordan had something we were interested in learning more about. Both in how it affects him, and what it took to set it up in his home. So with no further adieu...
Yes please! My name is Jordan and I am an ice bather. I would first like to start by saying I am not a doctor and don’t pretend to know all of the scientific data that is out there on ice baths. Also, as with any body of water (especially very very cold water) there is a risk of injury or even death so take appropriate precautions. I do them simply for my own benefit and enjoyment.
A little background. I am an 34 year old athlete who has competed in various competitions over the past few decades including running several marathons, the Ironman triathlon, and now find myself an avid Stand Up Paddler. I have been taking ice baths for over a decade as a means of recovery after a hard workout or competition. This typically involved buying bags of ice or freezing Tupperware containers and dumping them into my bathtub and soaking for about 4-7 minutes depending on the temperature. The temperature would range from about 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. I loved the feeling of an ice bath on my sore muscles and the mental sharpness and mood boost that would follow.
I did this one or twice a month for about a decade until last year. I listened to a podcast by Tim Ferris who interviewed an “expert” in the world of cold, Wim Hof. I also started hearing of legendary waterman Laird Hamilton using ice baths during his XPT workshops as a means for recovery. These two gave me some inspiration for looking deeper in the practice. After doing some of my own research I started experimenting with dropping the temperature even colder down to about 40-42 degrees. I would only stay in for 2-3 minutes and felt it significantly tougher but also more enjoyable after.
Several problems arise with taking multiple ice baths: time, money, and water usage. Ice baths use a lot of water as does any bath. I hated all the water waste for something I was in for only a few minutes. Ice is expense to buy if you spend a few bucks per bag per bath. Using Tupperware is time consuming and difficult to bring the water temp low enough to get the benefit I am looking for. So, I made a change.
After seeing what others have done, I opted with the chest freezer option. I purchased a Whirlpool 15 cubic foot chest freezer from Lowes on a Labor Day sale and used a 10% off coupon I bought on Ebay for $2.00 bringing the price down to about $360 (included free next day delivery). I sealed the seams with 3M Marine adhesive 5200 (probably not necessary but added peace of mind) and a wifi socket outlet so that the freezer turns on between 2:00-5:00 am keeping the water temp right at about 32-35 degrees. (I’ll update if this needs tweaking which I’m sure it will). Note* – always unplug the freezer when in use. Also, I bought a GFCI portable surge protector for added safety.
Now, I have an ice bath ready for my use 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It is something I honestly look forward to. I am still in the infant stages with these low temps. I have been doing about 90 seconds at a time and will usually do about 3 rounds of that. I will sometimes jump into the hot tub in between rounds but I always finish on the ice bath so my body will naturally bring itself back up to warmer temperatures (sometimes a jacket and wool socks are needed). I added a half cup of hydrogen peroxide to help keep the water clean but will be changing the water every few weeks. My freezer has a drain/hose adapter at the bottom so I can drain out to my plants. Good luck out there to those trying. Be safe, focus on the breath, and embrace the cold. I’ll leave you with a quick list of my reasons why.
- Faster recovery - After hard training or races, I feel better the next day every time.
- Better mood - Many studies have shown cold therapy to be helpful to those who suffer from depression by increasing beta-endorphins and norepinephrine in the brain. Not to mention the adrenaline.
- Mental clarity/hyper focus - the cold forces you to slow your brain down and focus entirely on your breath and being present and aware.
- Small victory - adds to your lists of things that you CAN do. If I can sit in 32 degree water I can….get my kids dressed for school! It is invigorating and empowering.
- Better sleep - My sleep seems to be even better and deeper if I jump in at night.
Team Writer Jordan McKee - I live in San Diego and am a high school teacher. I am also a waterman competing in various Stand Up Paddle competitions on the west coast and in Hawaii and am a team rider for Kings Paddle Sports. I've incorporated ice into my training for about 12 years.