HOW TO USE COLD EXPOSURE TO LIFT YOUR MINDSET AND PERFORMANCE
Ice baths have become the latest and greatest trend in the fitness and wellness world. Memories and stories of them being used for rugby players, post games, has been painted over with the wellness industry creating a new picture of it not being used just for muscle recovery, but in fact much much more.
Below are a few great ways you can incorporate cold exposure into your training and life, and make use of the brutal yet beautiful techniques
ICE BATHS - THE 4 KEY BENEFITS---
If you have done an ice bath recently, you know that they are tough… really tough. But the more you do them, the easier they become. This is your training and stimulating your vagus nerve, and the ability to tap into your positive mindset, when your body is under voluntary stress. It forces you to become present, unify your willpower and put in the hard work - which at the end results in a release of dopamine and natural dosage of courage. Athletes, entrepreneurs and motivational speakers including Tony Robbins, Lewis Howes and George St-Pierres, speak of the impact ice bathing has on their mindset. By doing this practice, you will then consciously and subconsciously take this mindset into your day ahead, as well as how you approach other forms of stress in your life.
2. BUILD BROWN FAT + INCREASE YOUR METABOLISM
Ice baths aren’t just amazing for your mind but also for your body composition. Hugh Jackman was famous for saying on the Tim Ferriss Podcast, he used rowing machines & ice baths to get in shape for the Wolverine movies. This is because ice baths activate the brown adipose fat, the good type of fat. Brown adipose fat, which is primarily located around the neck and collar bones, is metabolically active and can burn white fat (found around the stomach), thereby helping you lose weight.
Shivering is a key part of this process, as it realises irisin. So if weight loss is your main goal, not suppressing the shivering during and post ice bath and cold exposures is key. Dr Andwer Huberman from the Huberman Lab goes into more detail of this process & the science behind this.
3. IMPROVE IMMUNE SYSTEM, CELL LONGEVITY & INFLAMMATION
If longevity and overall wellness is your main goal, cold exposure and ice baths are great to add into your program. It’s long been proven that cold therapy has some serious benefits for your immune system by increasing production of infection and disease-fighting immune cells. A Dutch study , researchers tested whether people could voluntarily influence their own immune response by practicing meditation, deep breathing, and cold water immersion techniques. The results were positive.
More specifically, exposure to the cold has also been shown to bring on agranulocytosis and leukocytosis, because the cold stimulates the body to release norepinephrine.
For all you fasters who love getting the body into autophagy, ice bath are also a quick and fast way to do this. Autophagy is the process by which the human body cleans itself of any metabolic rubbish that blocks your cells and this, in turn, makes those cells healthier and live for longer.
Inflammation and swelling can also be reduced by cold exposure and ice baths as it causes your blood vessels to constrict then expand - flushing the system and oxidising the muscles.
4. FOR INCREASED STRENGTH & SPORTS PERFORMANCE
Neuroscientist Dr Andrew Huberman, has recently come out with new research that demonstrates the impact of cold exposure for strength and recovery. Rather than full cold water immersion, his findings suggest exposing your hands, feet and head to cold surfaces. He describes why and how proper cooling of these areas with specific protocols can allow people to perform 200-600% more volume and repetitions of resistance exercises at the same weight loads, or to run, cycle or swim significantly further.
FOR HOW LONG AND HOW?
How long to ice bath for - 2 mins is the minimum amount of time to reap the full benefits listed above. Multiple repetitions paired with natural warming (breathing, sauna or warm shower) is great for contrast therapy.
Don’t have access to an ice bath ? Cold showers and ocean plunges can be a great start. Depending on how cold the water is - swimming for longer durations without a wetsuit can create some of the benefits mentioned above.