Interested in shaking up your wellness routine? Say hello to the world of cold water therapy (CWT).Yes, you read that correctly, cold water, but hear us out on this one. The practice has been around for a couple of millennia – so it isn’t anything new. However, search for cold water therapy has been on the rise since 2018. Two years on, the practice soared in popularity during the pandemic thanks partly to the freedom it gave in lockdown, and more importantly as a result of the addictive buzz it induced and a way to manage stress. Since then, cold water therapy has become a daily ritual for some of us Framers’, a true act of self-care, and with that in mind we thought it was about time we gave a rundown on all things CWT and how you, yes YOU, can give it a go.
So, what is cold water therapy?
Cold water therapy, which is also referred to as cold hydrotherapy, is when you expose yourself to cold temperatures for therapeutic benefits.
Like we said, the practice has been around for many millennia with those in Ancient China and Roman times enjoying a cool dip back in the day. In fact, Hippocrates is the oldest recorded fan of a cold plunge, documenting his experiences in Ancient Greece way back in 370 BC.
And if you’re wondering how cold is, well, cold? Experts suggest you go for anything that’s 15°C and below, which shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for us folk in the British Isles who have endured summer dips in pretty chilly waters around the coast.
And we can’t discuss CWT without mentioning Dutch motivational guru and extreme athlete, Wim Hof. His cold water immersion method and breathing techniques have amassed millions of devoted followers worldwide, including Zac Efron and Lady Gaga. And when most people think of CWT nowadays, they’re probably thinking of The Iceman.
OK but what are the benefits of it?
Although a dip in a freezing body of water might not sound tempting, we swear the mental and physical health benefits are enough to warm you up to the idea. From improved sleep, to life longevity to sharpened focus, the list of pros is pretty mega tbh.
Interestingly, experts have revealed that immersing yourself in cold water stimulates endorphins to improve mood, combat stress, and anxiety. In fact, research undertaken by Swim England found that 43% of those who partake in cold water swimming were happier, while 26% felt more motivated to complete daily tasks and 15% said life felt more manageable after their plunge.
You see CWT is taking mindfulness to a whole new level. After all, nothing gets you more in the present than dunking yourself in cold water.
Elsewhere, a study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine showed that CWT can improve circulation, the immune system and even regulate blood pressure. Plus, it delivers a delicious boost of energy.
Aside from all that good stuff, research in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that CWT can boost your metabolism. The study in question revealed that cold-water immersion at 14°C increased metabolism by a whopping 350%.
Finally a post class win, CWT is fantastic for post-workout recovery by reducing muscle ache, inflammation and can prevent delayed onset muscle soreness. Is there anything it doesn’t benefit?
Alright, so how can I get my cold water therapy fix?
If you want to test the benefits of cold water therapy for yourself, you can try it out in several different ways – two of which you can do in the comfort of your own home. So literally no excuses then!
For newbies, a short cold shower is a great way to test out the waters before committing fully. We suggest starting with warm water and, after a few minutes, gradually drop the temperature to cold. However, if you’re feeling bold, skip the warmup and go straight to a cold shower – which we’d recommend after working up a sweat in your favourite Frame class.
One Framer who has a penchant for a cold shower is our Head of Content and Community Jayne Robinson who was inspired to get into the practice after attending a Wim Hof style event in February 2020.
A self-professed frenemy of the cold, Jayne was looking for a way to live a happier life and manage her anxiety when she finally fully took the plunge in the second Lockdown and committed to cold showers each morning.
Speaking of her transformation to cold water warrior, she said: “I started at about 30 seconds and have since worked up to 3 minutes. It took a few months to get ‘used’ to them and I now crave them when I’ve missed a morning – which I NEVER thought would be the case.”
“Mentally, it’s a really empowering feeling to get this done first thing, sets the tone for the day of being brave, you can do hard things and things definitely feel less intimidating after a cold shower in the morning.”
“It’s also a real mood booster and very much a reset – gets the blood pumping through the body and you can’t help but feel energised. My skin also feels a lot softer, not sure the science behind this but it works.”
But if you’d like to up the CWT ante, you can always try immersing yourself in an ice bath at home. Simply add ice to a bath of water until the temperature is between (10°C and 15°C), and then stay submerged for up to 10 minutes (if you’re hard enough).
If you’re one of our On-Demand Framers who lives beside the sea or a London-based Framer near a pond or a cheeky non-heated lido, then Frame co-founder Pip Black couldn’t recommend cold water swimming enough.
Pip moved to a smallholding in Somerset in 2019 and was blessed with a natural swimming pool left by the previous owner, which she had enjoyed the odd summer dip in.
But when another lockdown hit in January 2021, she started swimming in the pond religiously to manage her mental health as she balanced the stresses of trying to save the business, look after two small children and manage the upkeep of a home with more space.
With the water at a cool 2°C, Pip said she initially just stood on the steps to see how long she could breathe through it. Until one day, equipped with her neoprene boots and gloves she started swimming. And guess what? She hasn’t looked back.
Pip shared: “Since then I haven’t stopped. I no longer need the boots and gloves and even on the coldest days could manage 6-8 lengths just through managing my breathing.”
The biggest difference she’s seen? Her mood. She continued: “The endorphin rush when you get out is incredible. It can honestly completely change your mood and therefore your day. I feel energised, happy, ‘high on life’”.
“I automatically feel happy, uplifted, like I can achieve anything… The great thing is that whilst you’re in the water you literally can’t think of ANYTHING else except your breathing and surviving! It’s not often that you focus that intently on breathing properly in our day to day lives.”
Now equipped with the info, the know-how and the what’s what, ask yourself what’s holding you back from giving it a try? What do you have to lose? As Frozen’s Elsa once said, ‘the cold never bothered me anyway’ – and we swear it won’t bother you either once you get into it.
*Disclaimer if you suffer with respiratory issues or any pre-existing health problems please consult with your doctor before trying out any of these methods.*