Tap water is usually about 55F as it comes out of the spigot. Add three bags of ice to 100 gallons of fresh tap water and after about ten minutes the water settles around 42F. This, I learned in the ten minutes that preceded my first ice bath.
After just a few seconds of sitting in the ice bath up to my chin in 42F water, I fell in and out of love with the cold countless times. The first few seconds felt like minutes. Time dilated, and in the lifetime that seemed to pass in between my heart’s deafening drumbeats, countless and senseless thoughts flooded my mind in a chaotic and cathartic tidal wave of emotions.
Then, suddenly… nothing.
Silence. Except for the sound of my whistling breath funnelling through my pursed lips, and eventually–finally–the bottom of my breathing space. I was back in my body, back in the moment, and back in control–if only for a moment. Like a baby fighting falling asleep; my mind would find rest as easily as it lost it to a resistant convulsion. The peace again. Swinging between chaos and rest, waves of weakness would overcome my best effort to ignore the frigid cold just as waves of warmth would appear from nowhere to wash the cold away. I’ve come to learn that this is to be expected, and I’ve come to love this push and pull the most.
After just a few seconds of sitting in the ice bath up to my chin in 42F water, I fell in and out of love with the cold countless times
Arguably, ice bathing and cold-water immersion can have any number of physiological benefits and I’m happy to be advantaged by every one of them. For me, ice bathing has become about self-control and self-mastery. It’s the head game that brought me here and it’s the head game that keeps me here. A metaphor for life–external stress and conflict ignored and reframed by a mind under duress. It’s taught me to find peace in the chaos, silence in the noise, and a center of gravity from which, after fighting a thousand battles I can quietly return to as the victor of a hundred wars but was fortunate to lose only his mind.
Ice bathing has always been a battle with and within me. And in keeping and fighting this battle within, I claim each victory as my own. Each ice bath is a battle. Each battle, is a victory. And, every victory silenced the tumult and turmoil. If only for a moment.