How to Start Cold Therapy at Home (6 Easy Ways for Beginners)

You’re scrolling on Tiktok, and a video pops up of a shredded guy or pilates-loving girl who SWEAR that cold showers gave them their “dream body.” A few minutes later, you open up Instagram, and the millionaire tells you that cold plunges are the key to his success.

This must be the solution to all your problems! Not quite.

Let me explain.

Although it may not give you all these flashy results influencers are promising, it actually does have some cool benefits and can be a great addition to your routine.

“Ok, but Sophi. I don’t have 15k to drop on a fancy ice barrel and honestly don’t want to freeze my butt off. On top of that, I don’t even know where to begin.” 

How to start cold therapy at home

No worries! That’s why I’m here.

Throughout my trial and error I have compiled a list on how to start cold therapy at home and i’m going to share them with you!

From different methods you can use, helpful tips, and everything else you need to take the plunge confidently!

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What is Cold Therapy?

First, lets define what we mean by cold therapy.

Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, is a treatment that involves using cold temperatures on the body to provide a ton of health benefits.

You can achieve them through different methods (which i’m going to cover) such as cold showers, cold water immersion, ice baths, or cold packs.

How To Start Cold Therapy a Home:

After a ton of research and personal trial and error I compiled a list of the best DIY methods to start cold therapy at home!

Let’s dive in, shall we?

1. Cold/ Contrast Showers:

Cold Shower Benefits Pros/Cons List

When it comes to taking cold showers, it’s all about finding that sweet spot for you between hot and cold.  That said, it’s worth mentioning that cold therapy involves more than simply standing in a cold shower. 

The combination of hot and cold temperatures (aka contrast hydrotherapy) is probably one of the best ways to begin.

So, here’s how you can start contrast showers at home:

1.Start with warm water: Begin your shower with warm water to get your body used to the temperature (3 Minutes).

2. Lower water temperature: Slowly turn down the water temperature from warm to cooler water. 

3. Embrace the contrast between hot and cold: Feel the invigorating sensation as the cold water gently mixes with the previous warmth.

4. Increase duration over time: Start with one minute under the cold water, and gradually extend the time as you adapt.

5. Repeat the process a minimum of three times.

6. Finally, finish off with cold water.

Of all forms of cold water therapy, this is one of the best ways to start cold therapy. Straightforward and accessible to a beginner.

2. Ice Baths:

Next we’ve got ice baths!

This is another easy and convenient (minus having to purchase ice) way to practice cold therapy at home. You can literally just walk into your bathroom!

This is how you can do it:

1. Prepare the ice bath: Fill it with water, ensuring there’s enough to fully immerse your body. Add the right amount of ice cubes to ensure you reach the recommended 12–15°C.

2. Ensure safety: Check the tub’s stability, ensuring it won’t move or tip over during your ice bath. Additionally, maintain a safe water depth, and keep a timer nearby

3. Finally, immerse your body: Immerse yourself in the ice bath gradually, allowing your body to adapt to the cold water. Slowly lower your body until completely submerged up to your neck, embracing the sensation of cold water immersion.

4. Stay for a Recommended Duration: Begin with a shorter duration, such as 2-5 minutes, and gradually increase the time over subsequent ice bath sessions. Listen to your body and adjust the period according to your comfort level.e

3. Ice Barrels:

Ice Barrel Pros/Cons List

This is my second favorite form of cold therapy. My favorite is definitely cold plunges with cold plunge tubs. No ice required, temperature control, sanitation system, but obviously a heftier price tag.

Ice Barrels follow a similar process to Ice baths, but can be even more optimized.

It requires the initial up-front investment of purchasing a dedicated ice barrel.

From being able to control the temperature of the water, most being portable, Ice barrels are also tailored to make it a good experience all around (well…as good as it can be). 

This is how you can use ice barrels at home:

1. Set up the ice barrel: Purchase or create an ice barrel that allows for comfortable immersion. Follow the instructions for your specific barrel.

2. Prioritize safety and stability: Ensure the ice barrel is securely positioned and stable. Take the necessary precautions to prevent any accidents or spills during your ice barrel experience.

3. Finally, immerse yourself gradually: Ease your way into the ice barrel, allowing your body to get used to the cold.

4. Start with a tailored duration: Begin your ice barrel therapy with a duration that suits your comfort level, typically around 2-5 minutes. Increase the time gradually in subsequent sessions, challenging yourself and embracing the transformative effects.

4. Cryotherapy:

Cryotherapy Pros/Cons List

Ok, I have mixed emotions about this one.

I understand it can be super beneficial, especially isolation cryotherapy.

But for a more casual user, the inconvenience of having to leave my home or paying $50-$70 per session is not worth it. For example, I can get my own ice barrel. It would be a high initial upfront cost, but for unlimited use.

If recommended by a healthcare provider, I would definitely research the best local clinics near you or go to a professional for proper treatment and procedures. 

I would not consider it one of the best ways to start cold therapy. (At least from the six options.)

5. Open-Water Swimming:

Outside Col Therapy Pros/Cons List

Outside cold-water immersion isn’t the best or most accessible option for everyone, but it’s definitely a fun method!

Keep in mind that temperatures may not be low enough year-round to cool the water down to appropriate temperatures!

How to use open-water swimming as a cold therapy tactic:

1. Find the perfect spot: Start by scouting out natural bodies of water that are ideal for swimming, like lakes, rivers, or the ocean. These environments offer a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of open water. (Keep in mind it had to be the right temperature)

2. Safety first: Before diving in, make sure you prioritize safety. Take note of the water temperature, check for any strong currents or potential risks, and be aware of any safety considerations specific to your chosen location.

3. Just do it: Start with shorter swims to let your body gradually acclimate to the cold water. As you build tolerance, you can extend the duration of your swims and fully revel in the invigorating experience.

4. Refine your techniques: To make the most of your open water swims, focus on improving your swimming techniques and strokes. Practicing proper form will enhance your efficiency and improve your swim’s enjoyment and effectiveness.

Overall, swimming in cold water can kill two birds with one stone; get that exercise in, and get the benefits of cold water exposure.

6. Cold Compression:

Cold Compression Pros/ Cons List

We’ve all had that moment.

Skateboarding, riding your bike, or simply walking, and BOOM, you twist, break, or sprain something.

Then the doctor would wrap ice on it for immediate relief; that is cold compression. 

This is more of an isolated-treatment type of therapy.

Still, I think it is worth including, as some people don’t realize that this is a form of cold therapy.

Here is how to use cold compression at home:

1. To begin, gather the necessary supplies: Before starting cold compression therapy, gather the following supplies: Ice packs or gel packs, Compression wrap or bandage, a Clean towel, and Timer or clock.

2. Then, prepare the cold compress: Fill a sealable plastic bag with ice cubes or grab a gel pack from the freezer. If using ice cubes, wrap them in a clean towel to prevent direct contact with the skin, as this can cause ice burns.

3. Elevate the affected area: If possible, elevate the injured or swollen area above your heart level. This helps reduce blood flow and swelling, creating a conducive environment for cold compression therapy.

4. Finally, apply the cold compress: Place the cold compress on the affected area, ensuring that it covers the entire injured or swollen area. Consider using a larger cold pack or multiple smaller ones for larger areas, such as a knee or shoulder. (15-20 min)

5. Then, remove the cold compress: After the designated time has passed, carefully remove the cold compress from the affected area. Allow the skin to warm up naturally for a few minutes before proceeding to the next step.

6. Rest and repeat

What are The Benefits of Cold Therapy?

Cold therapy provides numerous benefits. It has potential to reduce muscle soreness (DOMS) and inflammation, relieve pain, improve circulation, boost metabolism, promote healing, and even enhance mood and alertness, increase mental clarity, and the list goes on!

Who Should Try Cold Water Therapy? 

Cold water therapy has profound benefits; you should consider it if you fall into one of these categories:

  • Athletes or individuals engaged in physical activities
  • Individuals with chronic pain conditions
  • Those in good overall health and without specific contraindications

Be cautious or avoid it altogether if this is you:

  • If you have conditions like Raynaud’s disease (Increases cold sensitivity), frostbite, respiratory problems, cardiovascular problems, or hypothyroidism, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider before cold water therapy.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Individuals with respiratory conditions (such as asthma) or heightened sensitivity to cold

Consider speaking to a healthcare professional before you try this at home.

7 Tips for Beginners: 

1. Control Your Breath

If you know anything about cold therapy, you have probably heard of Wim Hoff. He is great in terms of teaching you tips and techniques regarding your breath work. Feel free to reference the video below:

2. Start with Showers

I would highly recommend starting with the Hot-and-Cold shower method if you are a beginner. It is what I started with!

Simple, effective, and convenient.

3. Keep your Upper Body Out

Think of when you  first get into a cold pool. You always start getting that uncomfortable and squirming sensation when you arrive at your belly button.

Same concept

For your first few sessions, I would recommend  keeping your heart and lungs out of the water.

It is super beneficial to decrease the shock on your body.

4. Jam Out

Ideally, yes. We want to be like Wim Hoff, serene, happy, focused, and calm while submerging ourselves into freezing cold water. 

But… let’s be realistic. Although that is the goal, we may need some distraction at first.

Consider blasting some of your favorite music , watching some Netflix, or even listening to your favorite podcast.

5. Start slow

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just start at a temperature and time that is challenging but not harmful. You can slowly start progressing with your breathing techniques, Time endurance, and temperature tolerance. 

In other words, better to start small but stay consistent!

6. Write Your “Why” List

Look, just like anything else, it is good to stay connected to your why. Why are you doing cold therapy? 

If it’s because a biohacker you heard on Instagram told you to, or that girl on TikTok said it was going to work magic. You probably won’t stick to it.

Make a list of why YOU want to do it. (Ex, You want to be a better athlete, you want to perform better in your business, relationship, at the gym, etc.)

7. Your Towel

Make sure, I repeat, MAKE SURE you have your towel and spare change of clothes waiting for you as soon as you hop out. You’ll thank me later.

What to Expect Before, During, and After Cold Water Therapy:

Shower icons with text that sys before and after

To those of you who are freaking nervous to start, here is what to expect:

Before:

Before diving into your first ice bath, you might feel a mix of stress and anxiety, wondering how it will feel. It’s normal to be tense, but try your best to relax and breathe normally.

During:

After you start entering the icy water can be quite challenging. Your anxiety may still be running high, and you’ll experience the shock of the cold waters. Focus on steady breathing and smoothly lower yourself into the bath.

As your entire body submerges, you might experience a sudden gasp, taking in a big breath. Concentrate on calming your breath and avoiding hyperventilation. After about a minute, the initial shock will subside, and you’ll begin to feel better. The intense cold will diminish as your body loses sensation, allowing you to adapt.

After:

After, you will obviously feel cold. Depending on your body, you may react differently. Some feel energized, motivated, and more focused. I personally feel a rush through my body and a little shiver as I wrap the towel around myself. It is a great way to get you going!

Ice Baths: My Personal Experience 

I started taking a cold shower every day before I even knew of all the effects it had.

Throughout my 5-year battle with. Anorexia, my treatment team recommended cold showers to help with ruminating thoughts and compulsive  behaviors .

I honestly forgot about this tactic for a long time until I started fighting binge eating.

I told myself that every single time I was going to engage in destructive behavior, I would take a cold shower. I started to break the cycles.

Soon, I found that cold showers made me feel great, so I added them to my routine.

I started with hot and cold water because it was the easiest way to incorporate cold exposure. The effects of cold water immersion were insane! 

My motivation, resilience, and mental toughness increased immensely and couldn’t recommend it enough!

Is it your turn to take the plunge?

The Bottom Line:

You’ve made it! Everything you need to know on how to start cold water therapy at home. It isn’t a secret hack that will give you an 8-pack, and it also won’t make you the most productive human being to ever exist.

But… Definitely is a handy tool to enhance your wellness journey.

To conclude, if you plan on staying consistent and making it a part of your routine, I highly recommend you invest in the tools needed to make it the most optimized and enjoyable experience. Take the plunge!

Disclaimer: I am not a professional. You should consider consulting with a doctor before trying cold therapy. This is not medical advice.

Cold Therapy at Home: FAQ

Are there any safety precautions I should consider when using cold therapy?

It’s important to listen to your body and gradually increase the duration and intensity of cold therapy.

Avoid extreme temperatures or staying in cold water for too long, leading to frostbite or hypothermia. If you have any underlying health conditions, it’s best to talk to a healthcare professional before starting cold therapy.

Assess all the ways to start cold therapy at home and define which one would best suit your needs.

Does cold water therapy really work?

Yes, the benefits of cold water therapy are numerous. There is evidence that cold water can help reduce inflammation, improve muscle recovery, and increase the release of endorphins, which can have a great impact on overall well-being.

However, It’s also essential to think of cold therapy as a supplement to a healthy lifestyle, not as a magic biohacking trick.

Can I practice cold therapy at home without any special equipment?

Absolutely! Cold water therapy requires zero special equipment. Cold showers require only tap water, while cold water immersion can be done in bathtubs or even natural bodies of water, such as lakes or oceans.

How long should I expose myself to cold water?

It really depends on the form of cold therapy  you are using, the temperature, and your experience level. Generally, experts suggest immersing yourself in cold water for around 11 minutes a week, spread across 3 to 4 sessions. As for cold showers, many people opt for them every other day.

About the Author, Sophia Victoria
About the Author, Sophia Victoria

Sophi is a health, wellness, and lifestyle blogger who uses, research, and tests products and theories to help others improve their mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. With her own eating disorder journey, regulating her hormones, and working with 10+ nutritionists, she deeply understands the health and wellness. Sophi is also well-knowledged in self-development and committed to sharing her knowledge, experience, and expertise with her readers.

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