How do I warm up after an ice bath?

How do I warm up after an ice bath?

The most important thing to do when you emerge from your ice bath is to warm up naturally and gradually. 

Yes, it’s tempting to wrap up in your dry robe or dash to the sauna - but hold off! Allowing the body to create its own heat is all part of the process, and where many of the benefits are found. 

You can read more about the incredible way our bodies adapt in the cold, learning to convert white storage fat into brown energy-rich fat and use it as fuel to heat the body, in our January blog ‘Can an ice bath help with weight loss?’

You have a choice

When you carefully and slowly climb out of the cold water you can stand still and focus on your breathing – slow, deep inhales and exhales or, do The Horse Stance. 

The Horse Stance can serve as a form of movement meditation before and after your immersion. As a post-cold technique, it helps bring focus and offers a natural way for your body to generate heat. Do this for at least 3-5 minutes before getting dressed or heading into the sauna.

A caution on ‘after drop

For ice bath users only (as opposed to cold showers or cold water with no ice), ‘after drop’ can occur if your body detects a warm environment too soon after being in the cold. After drop is caused when the body senses warmer temperatures and dilates the blood vessels too quickly. This releases the cold peripheral blood back to your heart and too fast, mixing it with warm blood creating a sudden drop in core body temperature. This can lead to severe shivering 10-15 minutes after the cold exposure. It’s dangerous, and it’s not fun. 

Staying in the cold water too long has the same outcome. Severe shivering is triggered if the core temperature drops too low. Listen to your body. Ice water is no place to be led by the ego. Your body will tell you (through a huge wave of catecholamines) that it wants out.

This is why it’s so important to warm the body slowly and naturally using time and breathwork, or gentle movement to generate heat in the muscles. And most of all, listen to what your body is telling you.

A note on using sauna and contrast therapy

The use of sauna is encouraged as both hot and cold work on similar pathways and Scandinavian cultures have done it for millennia. However, the evidence for maximising the metabolic benefits suggests starting in the hot and ending in the cold and then reheating naturally. 

This matters for the people wanting to increase metabolism and activate brown fat, warming in saunas or hot rooms will stop this benefit. The process of reheating naturally encourages the body to adapt, saunas discourage this adaptation of our metabolism. 

Wondering how long and how often you should go in an ice bath? Check out this next video.