Take the Plunge Into Cold Therapy

Maybe you know what it feels like to submerge your body into ice-cold water. The involuntary gasp. The initial shock. Your breath becomes labored and short, in sync with your now-racing heart. Your adrenaline pumps into overdrive as if you were at the first drop of a roller coaster you didn’t really want to ride, when you’re just in a barrel of water in your backyard on a regular Tuesday morning—all in the name of wellness.

If you aren’t familiar with the feeling, you’ve likely seen others doing it on your social media feeds or heard Joe Rogan talk about it. The question, though, is cold therapy just hot right now or is it worth the hype?

At a high level, scientific studies have shown cold therapy to increase energy, decrease chronic inflammation, reduce muscle soreness, improve sleep quality and strengthen immune function. When you first submerge yourself into cold water, your body goes into fight or flight mode. Adrenaline jumps by 530% and dopamine (a “feel good” chemical) surges by 250%. Your veins constrict, pumping blood away from your extremities and to your organs.

Then the magic happens.

Through the process of slowing and regulating your breath, you calm yourself back into your parasympathetic state—your “rest and digest” mode.

That’s where Joshua Church, co-founder of Edge Theory Labs, sees the most benefit. “Cold therapy builds a sense of resilience. What happens to the body and the mind once you get in allows you to start to practice the ability to respond to stress by learning to calm yourself down,” he says. “It widens your capacity for stress and builds the confidence that you can do hard things.”

Church played high-school football, and by the age of 19 he had four major surgeries and a body that functioned in chronic pain. After years of suffering, doctors recommended he take Ibuprofen and pick up a non-active sport.

He felt betrayed by his body before he got deep into alternative treatments. In 2019, he decided to go to Iceland for the Wim Hof Method Retreat, where he learned the power of cold-water immersion to regulate the nervous system.

His pain started to dissipate, and he built the capacity to do things he was told he never could—multiple triathlons, mountaineering summits and even a full Ironman. But that wasn’t the only thing that made him start Edge Theory Labs.

“Everyone gets that cold therapy helps you kick out inflammation,” Church says. “But what fascinated me was what it can teach you about the way you engage with fear and the deeper parts of your subconscious and stress.”

In other words, it’s about “how to take the ice out of the tub.”

Partially because of his desire to share what has changed his life—and partially because he was tired of buying ice—Church called up his cousin to help him build a DIY tub that they eventually made better and better until it was ready to go to market in April 2022.

WHERE CAN I TRY COLD THERAPY IN FAIRFIELD COUNTY?

  • XENHOUSE, Stamford (Cold plunge)
  • HUSH, Greenwich (Cold plunge)
  • RESTORE, Westport (Cryotherapy)
  • PERFORMANCE OPTIMAL HEALTH,Darien (Cryotherapy)

HOW TO PRACTICE COLD THERAPY

How long should I stay in? Start at two minutes, but you really only need two to three minutes per day.

What temperature should it be? Start at 57 degrees (higher if you need to) and work your way down if you’d like.

What time of day? That totally depends on you. Some people love to start their day with doing something hard, while others use cold therapy at night to unplug from the day. Most commonly, people do it post-workout to flush out soreness—which works especially well for long runs or endurance workouts.

Before or after my work out? If you’re focused on muscle growth, it’s best to wait a few hours after your workout before cold plunging (or just pop in for 30 to 60 seconds). Otherwise, do it before, which will lower your muscle temperature and help you have better output.

Does cold therapy help with weight loss? Yes, in two ways—shivering and non-shivering thermogenesis. In other words, we burn calories when we’re cold and shiver, which our body does to warm itself back up. But non-shivering thermogenesis activates and builds brown adipose tissue (brown, healthy fat), which burns white fat (unhealthy, unwanted fat).

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