Starting any new habit or practice has challenges and assumptions, and cold plunging is no different. Sometimes, even when we're no longer "beginners", we've developed unhelpful or incorrect methods that we've carried into our practice simply because we've never been guided otherwise.
After making our own mistakes and talking with hundreds of other cold plungers, we put together the top 5 cold plunging mistakes most people make, and how to avoid them.
Cold Plunging Mistake #1: Starting Too Cold
Unless you’re a cold exposure veteran, don’t start at 39 degrees. We recommend starting somewhere from 50-60 degrees and dropping it a degree every week as long as you can stay in for at least 2 minutes. If you can’t stay in for 2 minutes, raise the temp back up. Studies show incredible anti-inflammatory benefits all the way up to 60 degrees.
Cold Plunging Mistake #2: Going Too Long
Don’t try to set personal records or challenge yourself on time. After 5 minutes, the benefits will become diminished and could even be harmful if you’re in too long. The goal of cold plunging is hermetic stress, which is like a good workout where you bounce back stronger than you were before. After 5 minutes, you can incur a too much stress that can enter the realm of doing more harm than good.
Cold Plunging Mistake #3: Lacking Consistency
Studies show that results from cold exposure compound with consistency. If you want to challenge yourself, you should try to see how many days in a row you can plunge. Plunging 2x per week for 5 minutes each isn’t as effective as plunging 5x a week for 2 minutes. Try creating a cold plunge routine
you stick to. No matter how busy you are, you have 2 minutes in your day. Strive for consistency to get optimal results.
Cold Plunging Mistake #4: Breathing Too Fast
It’s challenging, but controlling your breath is the most important part of your plunge experience. It’s hardest in the first few moments, but if you focus on it, you should be able to slow your breathing down to a parasympathetic state, which is 5-8 breaths a minute. Your breath is your greatest asset and your greatest anchor in the plunge. Use it to your benefit and you’ll start having a much easier, more enjoyable, and beneficial experience in the plunge.
Cold Plunging Mistake #5: Staying Too Shallow
It’s important to get as much of your body into the water as possible. When you get into the plunge, you want to slide all the way in so that you get the vagus nerve in your neck submerged. This helps trigger the body’s cold shock response to release norepinephrine, a powerful anti-inflammatory and mood-booster. The hands are the toughest part to submerge, so we recommend cycling them in out out of the water if you cannot hold them in the whole time.