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DIY 50°F Cold Tub Therapy At Home Reduces Inflammation & Tunes Self-Awareness

The cold tub is in the garage

Thanks to BenGreenfieldFitness.com for this idea. I’ve been practicing Wim Hof Method by fully submerging myself in super-cold water. I put a 20-cubic-foot freezer in the garage about the middle of May and try to get a cold soak in every day as part of my chronic pain management practice. Even on days when I didn’t have a chance to soak in the cold tub, I still start my day with cold showers – which I’ve been doing for many years already. This DIY cold tub therapy at home is the next order-of-magnitude of on-demand chill-factor!

Starting submerged for only two minutes in 57°F water, I worked my way up to 07:45 (mm:ss) in 52°F water after eight weeks.  The results I’m having are remarkable. The goal is ten minutes submerged at 50°F every day, and I’m pushing both the total time submerged and temperature a bit closer every week.

Cold exposure provides a cardiovascular workout, promotes rapid body-wide anti-inflammation effects, and brings your consciousness vs body-mind system into stark reality. Either you’re going to feel like it’s burning and want to jump out, or you can embrace the cold and feel how it wakes you up. If you so choose, you can over-ride your instinct to run by bringing your self-awareness directly into your entire body to consciously calm it down. The burning goes away and is replaced with a form of bliss for the body if you can coerce yourself to become one with the cold.

Use the cold to retrain your brain and ease your pain

This incidentally also shocks away all your worries and thoughts about your pain, because you are forced to become aware else be defeated by the fight-or-flight animal-mind response. The cold shocks the pain away and provides you with a new sensation that begins to retrain your brain with what it feels like to have no pain. Or perhaps to have a different kind of pain. This is part of the appeal because we want to feel and we want to have a connection with our body, and we want to be in control more often in our lives.

The willingness to subject ourselves to extreme cold is part of a conscious effort to change addictive behaviors and another powerful tool in our chronic pain toolbox. We need an aggressive way to break our self-defeating bad habits, and this is one way to just drop right into an all-out internal self-improvement confrontation which tempers both body and mind in the process. IN fact, it’s recommended you ease yourself into the cold by starting with higher temperatures. Finding what works for you is the beauty of having a DIY freezer cold tub at home.

Cold and pain cannot co-exist

When combined with extreme breathing and the extreme mindset it requires to do this, submerging in super-cold water is the fastest way to learn how to override the body’s autonomous systems. This method takes full advantage of our brain’s plasticity to retrain us how it feels to have no pain while forcing us to confront the nature of ourselves in a very personal manner.

There’s nothing like cold to make you feel alive! Plus, cold works as an anesthetic.

Wim Hof Method is the most-extreme method listed in The Ultimate Healing Guide; it combines extreme cold, extreme breathing, and an extreme mindset to recalibrate your nervous system.

It doesn’t need to be winter to enjoy the cold

Cryotherapy, cold water immersion, cryo-sauna, an ice bath, and even cold thermogenesis  are other mostly-fancy words which refer to various forms of Cold Therapy, or Therapeutic Cold. It doesn’t need to be winter outside to find yourself some Cold Therapy if you live close to a big city. There are several ways therapy spas are bringing the therapeutic cold indoors.

We’re not talking chemotherapy here, as the auto-correct suggested. It’s cryotherapy, a relatively new word. One popular method of Cryotherapy is popping up inside physical therapy centers in the form of “Cryo-Saunas.” This involves submerging oneself in a standing tub of liquid-nitrogen cooled air, up to your neck at more than -240°F for about three minutes.

I paid $50 for two (2) three-minute cryo-chamber experiences as introductory sessions. Indeed, it felt like I was freezing myself for just about three minutes, and I could feel the effects for hours. I later read people can burn up to 800 calories from the 3-minute cold exposure they would otherwise not have burned.

Another technique of the application of Therapeutic Cold is the walk-in freezer concept. Why pay for these fancy “cryo-chambers” and liquid-nitrogen licenses when you can just spend $12,000 on a walk-in freezer big enough to put five people in at a time and open a cryotherapy business. DIY options here will appeal to more of the “handyman” or “handywoman” who might be interested in converting any room into a freezer with any standard window air conditioner. ColdBot Walk-In Cooler Controller

Easing yourself into embracing the cold

I graduated from those short bursts of cold during morning showers and the cryo-chamber sessions. With a chance to walk around in shorts up in northern Minnesota the first week of January 2018, I did 15-minute exposures to windy weather that was -18°F below zero without the wind chill.

Cold and pain can not co-exist within my nervous system!

Of course, my family thought I was crazy. After doing this type of cold exposure, the realization I didn’t need to pay for cryotherapy during winter months became quite obvious. So I started laying in the snow for 10 minutes at a time to numb my back whenever there was snow on the ground back in Colorado. Of course, as I mentioned, I’ve been doing cold showers for years before it ever became a subject of discussion on the internet.

What a deal – DIY freezer cold tub at home

I prefer the cold tub in my garage because I can do it anytime I need to reduce pain and inflammation, don’t need to drive anywhere, and I control the temperature

The freezer unit pays for itself after the equivalent of just eight $75 visits to the nearest therapy facility with a Cryo-Chamber.  After about eight weeks of ownership of the cold tub, I’ve experienced 47 self-inflicted cold-therapy sessions. Even at a discount of $50 per 3-minute session, 47 visits to a CryoChamber would cost $2350… and the Frigidaire only cost $600 on a no-interest-for-6-months purchase.

Les Konley in the DIY freezer cold tub cold therapy freezer ice bath at TheBodyIsMind

Les Konley experiencing 52°F Therapeutic Cold in a DIY Cold Tub. #TheBodyIsMind

Increased cold exposure with psychological games

Two vital factors go into the preparation for the session. First, I make sure I’ve already taken the time to somewhat center myself long before I get into the cold tub. This includes spending time in a hot shower first, followed by some stretching, some mindfulness breathing, and about five minutes of jumping on a trampoline to get my blood moving and oxygenation to increase.

Immediately before submergence, I ramp up by taking 30 rapid, fully-deep breaths, Wim Hof Style. This both increases O2 and CO2 levels in my blood, but is part of the activation of internal systems which are about to be exposed to the cold.

By the time I step into the cold water tub, I’m ready to play a game to distract my attention while I acclimate to the chilled water by counting my breaths.

SETTING THE TIMER

I brought a timer with me with the count-down set for how long I plan to stay submerged. When I first started eight weeks ago, the countdown was only 2:00 minutes and I jumped out after the beeper went off without paying attention to how many breaths I took. The purpose of the timer is to push my session out by 15-30 seconds per week in a controlled experiment of increasing exposure.

When the timer goes off it beeps for exactly 1:00 minute after reaching 0:00 and starts counting up. The beeping stops after 1:00 minute but the timer continues to count.  Thus, when I set the timer for 5:00 minutes, it starts beeping at 5:00 and stops beeping at 6:00 minutes. This extension of 1:00 minute is a way to push myself to do “just one more minute,” thus I always exceed the time I set for myself by at least the minute (until I get to 10 as my maximum).

The psychology of the game allows me to get out when the beeper goes off if I so desire, especially on days when I might have a hard time with the exposure or have recently decreased the water temp. In either case, the beeper is always my goal for a session.

COUNTING MY BREATHS

At some point during the logging and tracking of this cold therapy on myself, keeping track of two factors of my breathing became of paramount importance to the mental game and the therapy itself. Because I wanted to continue to push myself and temper my body and mind, part of improvement-tracking involves taking fewer and fewer breaths-per-minute (bpm). When I started keeping track, I was submerging for only 3:00 minutes with a breathing rate of 14bpm.

Turns out, 3-5 breaths-per-minute is the rate we’re at when we’re sleeping. So getting into this breathing rate zone means I’m literally chillaxing while I’m chillin’.

Every session I now attempt to keep the number of breaths below 30 for the session, regardless of how the time stretched out towards my goal of 10:00 minutes. The result was that within a couple of weeks, I was able to control my breathing rate while submerged and reduce to 3 breaths-per-minute. That means when I crossed the 7: 00-minute mark with 22 breaths, I was breathing pi with an average 3.14 bpm during the session.

At this rate, I would expect to take a maximum of 30 breaths for a 10-minute session. That’s my ultimate target.

HOLDING MY BREATH IN THE FINAL MINUTE

When the beeper goes off, whatever breath I’m counting immediately becomes my last breath of the session, even while I push to remain another full minute. I will inhale and lie there feeling the beating of my heart in my chest. I’ll feel how the cold seems to be burning my hands if I pay attention.

I notice that my neck and legs might still be holding a bit of tension. I focus on the areas of my body which still seem tight, and as I expel this final breath of the session, I imagine letting go of the tension which remains as I relax into the cold and settle to the bottom from loss of buoyancy.

So putting an upper limit on my breaths when I first get in forces me to focus on slowing my breath down. Especially due to the fact when I first get in, I have a tendency to hyperventilate as the shock settles into my system. By the way, this shock is no longer really very shocking for longer than about five breaths, because apparently, we can get used to almost anything.

TAKING THE FINAL BREATH & FULLY LETTING GO

It’s in this final moment, when I’m holding my breath, when it seems I finally come fully into present time within the here and now. My worries and pain having been pushed aside, I can begin my day with a refreshing vigor and a balanced, focused state of mind. I quite literally release myself into the cold and give myself fully over to the intelligence of my body which keeps my heart beating and systems circulating even while I consciously prevent the next breath.

This is where the self+bodymind relationship comes into play. I hold my breath until the beeping stops. Then I hold it for as long as is comfortable after that, sometimes approaching 90 seconds in total. When I sit up and take my next breath, the session is almost over.

ENJOYING THE COLD

Having exceeded the timer for the session, I get that feel-good feeling of accomplishment. While sitting upright in the cold water, I reach up and grab the edge of the freezer and pull any final kinks out of my back and hips with very minor stretching, plus a twist in both directions at the waist. I grab the timer to stop it then grab my towel while stepping out, feeling alive and proud of myself.

It’s in these final moments when I’m there with myself in the cold when it seems most enjoyable to be there. It has become something which I very much look forward to doing, rather than something which seems frighteningly horrid as you might think it is. I mean, come on! Haven’t you ever jumped into a cold lake or stream?

Learn more about
Therapeutic Cold

TheBodyIsMind.com Ultimate Healing Guide has a Cold Therapy article with all the tangible and intangible benefits of the wonderful world of cold exposure therapy. Another article covers the even more extreme Wim Hof Method of Cold Therapy, so be sure to go check those out.

 

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