I tried cold water therapy – a well-being movement known for bringing Australian men to tears – on a recent trip to Tasmania. I didn’t find it life-changing, but I can now see why people rave about it. I also discovered it may work better in a group setting.
Blame Wim Hof; blame Joe Rogan – I don’t care. Ice baths are trending. That’s right, thanks to Internet Couture, apparently, you’re no longer a real man unless you shrink your testicles on the daily (as if those ball-melting saunas weren’t enough).
Anyway, after Aussie boxer Harry Garside got in on the act (even showing us how it can be done on the cheap, by substituting the ice bath machine with a winter dip in the ocean) I figured what the hell, why not give it a try? And what better place to try it than Tasmania, where the water temperature is currently somewhere between “I’m good thanks” and “get the f**k out of here.”
RELATED: The Australian Winter Ritual Americans Will Never Understand
Having read up all on the potential benefits of cold water therapy, which include the easing of muscle soreness, boosting of the central nervous system, limiting of inflammation and training of the vagus nerve, I threw (most of) my kit off, and jumped on in.
WATCH: DMARGE Goes Cold Water Swimming In Tasmania
Here’s how the experience went, how I felt afterwards, and everything I learned from the experience.
Cold Water is cold
Healthline says “the most noticeable side effect of an ice bath is feeling very cold when you immerse your body in the cold water,” to which, I say: “no shit.” Jumping into this very cold water made me feel as if a thousand tiny knives were stabbing me. As for the other risks of cold water immersion, such as hypothermia and decreased blood flow (which may temporarily increase your risk for cardiac arrest or stroke), I seem to have got away with it.
Being freezing cold before jumping in makes the experience easier
I tried cold water swimming in Tasmania twice. Funnily enough, the time I was dreading it the most (already being a bit cold) hurt the least. So it seems the shock of going from cold to very cold is less than the shock of going from warm to very cold.
Both times, I felt amazing afterwards
It seems the expression: “no pain, no gain” has something to it after all. I can’t see myself climbing Mount Everest in boxer shorts any time soon, nor did I enjoy the experience enough to justify spending thousands of dollars on an ice bath (they range from $100 to $7,000), but I’ll definitely be repeating the winter swim experience in Sydney. If you want to try it yourself all I’ll say is this: make sure you have something warm to put on afterwards. Oh, and maybe avoid jumping in a boiling hot shower straight away (unless you’re a fan of pins and needles).
I didn’t look like James Bond
I may not be as emotionally repressed as the iconic 007, but I also don’t have his abs. I guess we can call it even?
The therapeutic benefits are not just physical
Ok, I’ll admit. I was too cold to recollect any childhood trauma or to confess my most f**ked up secrets to the unforgiving Tasman ocean. But freezing your ass off keeps you alert (in my experience) for much of the day. And the sense of superiority you get when meeting non-cold water swimming souls (“oh, what did you do this morning? Roll out of bed and drive to work? That’s cool…”) is hard to beat.
Taking deep breaths really does help
If nothing else, it gives your mind something else to focus on. Just make sure you don’t do it alone, in case you pass out.
Your vagus nerve will not literally thank you
To be honest, I still don’t know what a vagus nerve is.
I’m yet to feel the emotional benefits, but I can see why people talk about them
The ABC talked about cold water immersion as a “wellbeing movement bringing tradies to tears” in 2021. I haven’t practised it for long enough yet, and I’ve never done it as part of a community. But even from my limited experience, I think I can start to see why this might be the case. Also: I see why people say it’s addictive. I already crave more, and the thought of freezing cold water doesn’t bother me so much as it used to.
People will think you’re mad
But that’s all part of the fun… Welcome to the “ego free zone.” In all seriousness, cold water swimming is bringing men together all around Australia (from Victoria’s Elevated Springs to Coogee’s How’s The Head) and helping them with their wellness. I’m no expert after two solo sessions, but I’m all for it. And let’s be real: we all need it…