How To Last Longer In The Cold Plunge?
Sharing the tips I learned along the way to 14 minutes in the 41 degree cold plunge
One of my first challenges in the Year Of The Opposite was the 40 degree cold plunge. Now, I'm addicted to it, not solely for the muscle recovery and numerous health benefits (which I'll cover in another post), but because of what it does for my brain, mood, and attitude.
Over the past year I have been increasing my tolerance up to a current maximum of 14 minutes in 40-42 degree water. But my regular routine is 5-7 minutes at the Michigan Athletic Club. I love it!
Here are some of the tips that I learned along the way that helped me get to 14 minutes.
Tips for lasting longer in the cold plunge:
It’s a battle with your mind. Think of it as meditation.
Your mind will be telling you to get out. That’s natural. You need to remind yourself that you are capable of staying in a lot longer than you think. Your body will try to trick you into thinking that you are in physical danger. You’re not. You need to control your mind, not the other way around. So how do we do that?
Slow down your breathing to decrease your heart rate.
Slowing down your breathing is a good way to calm your mind which in turn slows down your heart rate. If you focus on taking long and very deep breaths, you will slow your heart rate. Think of this as your meditation. Try to clear your mind and exclusively focus on your breathing. To do this, I would count my breaths. When I was able to slow my breaths to about 10 breaths per minute, my performance got better.
Embrace the Roger Bannister Effect: Be confident & know you can achieve it.
Running a mile in under 4 minutes was thought to be impossible for humans until Roger Bannister did it in 1954. After Bannister accomplished this previously unthinkable task, a bunch of runners were able to do it almost immediately.
This is now called the Roger Bannister Effect. We humans put psychological barriers in our way. If our mind convinces us that something is impossible, our body won’t allow us to do it. But once we know it’s possible, we can do it and others can too.
To last longer in the cold plunge, you need to be convinced that you can do it, because you can! If your brain is sabotaging you by telling you “I can’t do this” “I’ll be lucky if I last 10 seconds!” - You’ll be right! But, if your brain is telling you, “Travis did this for 14 minutes so I’m sure I can do it for 15!” - You will surprise yourself! And since you’re doing this safely with a spotter, why not try to see just how long you can go?
Go a Little Deeper
When you’re feeling like you want to get out or can’t take it any longer, go under the water another inch or two. This will expose new skin to the cold and it will immediately focus your mind on that new area. It will momentarily make you forget about the other areas of your body. This trick is very powerful for me. It works like magic.
Protect Your Sensitive Bits
One or two areas on your body might be overly sensitive. For some people it’s their fingers, others toes, for some it’s their private parts. You’ll figure it out after your first few sessions. For me it’s my toes and privates. To protect my toes I keep my feet close together and curl my toes. I also keep my legs close together to protect my privates. This small act prevents my toes from going numb and allows me to double my total time.
1 Minute 30 Seconds Is Magic
I’m not sure why, but the 1 minute and 30 second mark seems to be magic for me. My brain gets clearer, my mood improves, I have no evidence to support this, but I even think my eyesight improves. (I will test this later) For me, if I can stay in for 1:30 seconds, I can usually make it to 5 minutes or more. Hitting the 1:30 mark makes a huge difference for me.
I am confident that by using these tips, you can dramatically increase your time in the cold plunge. I’ve tested these same strategies with over a dozen people and they have all increased their times past the 3 minute mark.
Be careful, start slow, have a spotter - but remember - you are in control, not your mind. What one person can do, another can too. If I can do 14 minutes. I’m certain you can do much more!
I want to hear from you! If you try any of these tips, please let me know. If you have any of your own tips, please share them. You can reply to this email, comment below, message me on Twitter or give me a call. I can’t wait to hear from you.
Disclaimers: I’m not a doctor. Consult your doctor to make sure this is right for you. Don’t push yourself too hard and always be safe. It’s a good idea to have a spotter.