December 07, 2016

Nik-Land: Why you should jump in an ice bath. T-t-t-today, junior!

This question came in via Facebook:

Johanna S. asks "I wanna know about that dang ice bath. What in god's name?! Tell me why I should do it!"

JoJo my friend, there are 2 answers to the ice bath question.  

There's the long and science-y set of reasons you should jump in an ice bath, well covered by various internet luminaries such as Mark Sisson, Tim Ferris, Ben Greenfield, and my personal favorite when I want to read what the truly weird are doing, Jack Kruse.

To shorten all that down to a chunk digestible for the average interneteer, ice baths are supposed to (debated by scientists) do wonderful things for you, including:

  • increase vasodilation, flushing out your muscles after a workout.
  • improves circulation (I'm pretty sure this is true, it certainly feels like it.)
  • help reduce soreness after a workout (I can attest to this.)
  • increase testosterone production in men (Or you could juice. Which is NOT Paleo.)
  • relieves depression (at least temporarily. You can't think of anything when you're freezing.)
  • improves your skin tone & makes your hair shinier (yawn.)
  • boosts your immune system (though I'm generally so damn healthy I can't tell.)
  • ticking the ubiquitous "one weird tip for getting rid of belly fat" box.

Then there's the reason I do it.  

I do it because it's hard, and I want to know on at least a weekly basis if I can still do hard things.

Look, I'm an ectomorphic white, upper-middle class male living in Southern California running an online cookie company.  The Universe has conspired to give me pretty much every advantage imaginable.  

Were I to choose it (and the choice is devastatingly easy), I would never have to do anything physically hard for the rest of my life. 

I'm not OK with that.  I (along with damn near everyone reading this) was given a pretty amazing body, and I want not only to gaze at it in true SoCal self-approval when I see a mirror, but to actually use the thing!  

No, I'm not an international model or Vanity Fair cover material, but I've been able to take this vessel and push it pretty dang hard, whether on long runs in the mountains or glorious trips 'cross the wine-dark sea, and it's made me realize the incredible potential for waste inherent in an easy life.

That's why I jump in an ice bath. 

I'm not OK with waste, at least not profligate waste.

Nik in the ice bath aka large cooler from Costco

I once heard Dan Coyle, author of The Talent Code, talk about commonalities between seed-beds of talent.  It wasn't that each place, whether it was a tennis court that produced many of the best players in the world or a music hall that cranked out legendary singers, was beautifully groomed or immaculately kept in top condition.

The thing they all held in common was that they were slightly run-down.  He believes (and I agree with him) that the run-down look contributes to the athletes and performers feeling as if they haven't quite made it yet and need to work extra hard to make the grade.

They're put in a place daily where they're reminded that they need to use all of their available talent to get where they want to go, and that where they ARE isn't that place.  

For me, that ice bath is one of many places where I realize that, without serious and unpleasant stimulus, I slip daily into being weaker and less able than I was the day before.

With it, I'm able in some small way to remember just how much opportunity I've been given, and what I'm capable of.

Ok, so HOW do you do it?  

If you're lucky enough to live in Finland, just head out to your nearest lake between September and May, chop a hole in it, and slowly slide in.  Don't go under the ice, dummy.

For those of us living in sunnier climes (shout out to San Diego!) we've found that a re-purposed mega-cooler (the kind you buy at CostCo) works just fine.  We use 50-100 lbs of ice, depending on how hot it is and how long we want to wait for the water to really chill up, fill the rest up from the hose, then slide in.

I usually have it cold enough that after 2 minutes I'm starting to shake, so I get out.  Stay in at least 30 seconds, then work your way up.  

Have your significant other watch you, that way there's plenty of laughter.  If you can convince 'em to swap out you'll have a better life.  I promise.  

Ok, that's the ice bath story.  Thanks for being curious!

Want articles like this delivered to your inbox?

Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

We usually send out emails once or twice a week.  We aim to be useful, so you'll hear about water fasts, hard workouts, our favorite recipes, and why we (well, Nik) runs up a mountain with a mouthful of water on a regular basis.

Looking for more reading recommendations?  Here ya go!

Nik Hawks


Nik Hawks helps run the show at Paleo Treats. Fascinated by humans in all their strange glory, Nik is harnessed in and pulling hard in pursuit of excellence with the rest of the PT Crew. Enjoy!

Too much reading...
How about dessert?

Too Much Reading...How About Dessert?


Jojo Stein
Jojo Stein

December 12, 2016

LOVE this. Thanks for the kick-ass, thoughtful response – and thanks for the links too. I’m about to embark on my own ice bath and will keep you posted on my own frigid immersions!


December 09, 2016

Awesome response

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.