This Woman Wants You to Freeze

Cold Feet
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People have been harnessing the power of ice since 3500 BCE, but cold-plunging has experienced a resurgence lately with affluent wellness enthusiasts who have turned the ancient practice into a trend. It seems impossible to scroll through Instagram or TikTok without hearing someone rave about the life-changing benefits of cold therapy or seeing an influencer climb into one of the premium tubs at Alo Yoga’s New York studio (by the way, you can buy one for yourself if you’re willing to drop $9,000). I’m not afraid to admit that most wellness trends pique my interest, no matter how weird or woo-woo — if Gwyneth Paltrow is selling, I’m usually buying. But I draw the line at submerging myself in ice-cold water for three-to-five minutes (especially in the winter), and I find it hard to believe that the physical and mental-health benefits are actually worth that level of discomfort.

Even more intriguing than the recent social-media hype is the fact that so many high achievers swear by morning cold plunges to increase productivity and promote mental clarity. CEOs, entrepreneurs, and celebrities including Tim Ferriss, Jack Dorsey, Drake, Harry Styles, and Kim Kardashian all take ice baths, so perhaps I should just suck it up and start taking them as well?

In an attempt to better understand the latest wellness phenomena, I spoke to Nike Well Collective coach Lauren Schramm. Not only is she an avid cold-plunger herself, she is also a professional breath-work and ice-bath coach and the founder of Ice Cold Club, a series of cold-exposure workshops in Williamsburg. Despite my skepticism, I was (almost) convinced to take a cold shower after listening to Schramm talk about the results she’s seen from three years of consistent cold plunging.

How did you get into cold-plunging?

I first did a workshop back in 2019, before it was popular and pre-COVID. It was very woo-woo; Alan Watts was playing in the elevator and there were elixirs. It was very my vibe. I did the breath work, and it was amazing. It was raining outside, so I went over to this guy and was like, “We’re not going outside in this, right?” He was like, “Dude, you’re getting in a tub of ice. It doesn’t matter.” I was not a cold advocate at the time. I hated winter, and I always threatened to move to L.A. But I did it.

How did you feel after that first cold-plunge session?

After doing the cold plunge, I got into my car and, on the way home, someone cut me off. Usually, I would’ve tailed them or honked, but I was just like, Huh, they must be in a rush. I’m an Italian from New Jersey. Every other word was a curse word, and going from zero to 1,000 and back in five seconds was normal for me. I was so defensive, and that’s just how I lived my life. I didn’t like that energy, but it’s so easy to adapt here in New York. I just thought I was tough. But after my first workshop, that initial reaction that had always been there, the defensiveness, was gone. That was my first little taste of the benefits of cold therapy.

Did you notice any physical benefits to cold-plunging?

Yes, inflammation goes down significantly. The other thing that’s cool is when you get into an ice bath, your body has to heat itself back up. Your core temperature goes down, your blood rushes to your core, and your extremities go numb. The second you get out, all that blood recirculates throughout your system. Your body temperature drops even more, but you don’t feel it because there are so many endorphins being released; those happy hormones are flowing through your body. If you don’t go into a sauna or take a hot shower right after an ice bath, it can help you lose weight because your body has to burn so many calories to heat itself back up.

Hypothetically, if I were to come to one of your workshops, how long would I have to stay in the ice bath and how cold would it be?

I actually throw everyone in for three minutes. I hear people say to start with 30 seconds, but here’s my thing: With anything less than two minutes, you’re not getting to the good part. If you want to get out and feel all of the incredible feelings I’m talking about, you need at least two minutes.

Cold exposure starts at 60 degrees. So if you have control over the temperature — if you’re in the shower or if you have control over how much ice you put into your water — I recommend starting in the high 50s. It’s not going to shock your body too much. You want to go slow and steady with this and gradually build yourself up to a lower temperature, just like you would with running or other workouts. I’m typically at 45 degrees for my workshops. But I’m outside all year round, so the water can be really, really cold in the winter … like, I have to break the ice on top before stepping into the tub. It’s brutal. And it’s painful.

What is a more accessible way for people to incorporate cold-plunging into their daily lives?

I’ve created this community with Ice Cold Club where you can connect with other people who have similar interests and do something outside of the drinking culture. That being said, we live in New York. No one has space for an ice bath, and you can’t come to workshops all the time. I totally understand that. So in between, or even as many times as you want, cold showers are accessible to most people.

I’m curious about cold showers. What is the best way to take them?

I recommend turning the water to cool, not freezing cold, for your first time. Take your normal hot shower, shampoo and condition your hair, do what you need. Then, when you’re done and ready to get out, step away from the water and turn it to cool. Take a full breath in, then breathe out. On your second breath, inhale and hold the breath. You’re essentially tricking the mind. If you step into something cold or put your hand on a stove, for example, the body’s natural reaction is to take a sharp, deep breath in. That inhale is associated with fight or flight and the sympathetic nervous system. So, instead, exhale as you touch the cold water; step into the shower like you’re blowing out a candle. It distracts you a bit and tells the brain that you feel safe. That initial reaction I kept having and had no control over before I started cold-plunging was my autonomic nervous system. It’s either in neutral — but I don’t know many people in New York who are living there — or it goes into fight or flight. We want to live neutral, and cold-plunging can help us get there. If you control the breath, you can reverse the state of the nervous system. We don’t have control over whether our palms are sweating or our pupils are dilating, but we can slow down or speed up the breath and change the state that we’re in.

This Woman Wants You to Freeze