The aim of ice bathing is to improve physical fitness, to strengthen health, to increase the resistance of the organism and to strengthen the psyche.

Ice bathing can be recreational or sporty. Under recreational ice bathing we count cold water shower, sauna and sports all year long – and winter in nature (for example, running or riding a bicycle dressed lightly. Under sports ice bathing we count swimming in water colder than 10 °C in all weather conditions. Winter swimming is a good supplemental training for other sports – alpinism, long-distance swimming, diving, winter hiking, skiing and similar activities. It is equally good preparation for winter swimming, which is recognized by the World Swimming Federation FINA for different types of jobs in difficult and bad weather conditions.

Who can take a bath in cold water?

Every healthy man after a medical examination, after a doctor’s approval. Winter swimming in cold water can do any person who is over 18 years of age, and younger children with doctor’s approval. It’s best to start up before the age of 40. After the 40s, you can start winter swimming, but after an extensive medical examinations (which should not discourage you) and doctors’ approvals.

Ice bathing at home

The base of ice bathing is home ice bathing. Beginners need to shower everyday with cold water as part of regular hygiene (bathing, showering). It is best to start with lukewarm water and gradually go to the colder. If you do not use a shower, you can replace it by bathing with cold water (whole body or classic bathing – do not sit in cold water!). Basically we do it in the morning. Ice bathing with cold water can be done in the evening, we do not count it as morning, but we only add to morning’s bath. In the morning, it should be bath should lasts two times longer than in the evening. In winter cold water is recommended for a period of 1-3 minutes (after hot water shower, which is used for personal hygiene), for the summer 3-5 minutes (also after hot water).  Children 2 and 3 years old can start with ice bathing. During the ice bath we are constantly moving, we are not standing in one place. When ice bathing in cold water is not recommended to stay still! Under the shower, we try to be in a good mood and in peace of mind, so that we can strengthen ourselves mentally. After showering, wipe with dry towel. We do not immerse the head into a cold water, so put on a bathing cap in order not to wet the hair. After ice bathing heat the body with simple exercises, so that our body is warmed up by the movement and then we can eat food. If we are in a rush with time (we hurry somewhere), morning ice bath should be skipped. Ice bathing in a hurry is not good for a psyche. We try not often to omit the morning ice bath, because regular contact with cold water is very important moment. In fact, a very strong person becomes a man after 2 years of regular ice bathing.

Bathing in the bathtub

If we practice “classical” bathing in a bathtub, we should never do it in water that is warmer than 37 °C. After bathing always wash your face or take a bath with lukewarm or cold water and then wipe with a towel. Bathing in hot water disturbs the effect of ica bathing and can cause a cold! We always ice bath the whole body. Washing only your hands and face or just a belly is not effective.

Ice bathing and diseases

If we have been ice bathing by the above recommendations, for half a year and more, we can start with ice bathing (winter swimming) in nature – running, cycling, practicing and then swiming in all weather occasions, first in summer, gradually in autumn and winter. If we ice bath in the nature in winter, it’s important that we are in a constant movement. By this way we will increase the resistance of the organism, and after about 2 years we will register less occurrence of many diseases, and if, if they do, their flow will be much milder and faster we will recover and cure. We should use the anti-temperature drugs and antibiotics minimally. Our organism after 2 and more years of ice bathing will first of all combat itself against all deseases. All medicines have their own side effects besides their desired effects. Cold water if it is hygienically correct, there are no side effects except for the subjectively higher sensitivity for beginners. By regular ice bathing we increase the threshold of susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections, and immunity can better deal with infection than in an persons who are not ice bathing. In this way, immunity rises to a higher level, in which it is able to eliminate many of the antigens and allergens that we are surrounded by. By cooling the organism in this way there is a narrowing of the blood vessels, pressure increase, heart rate (when the heart is healthy it represents a kind of “gymnastics”), then the warming continues to expand the blood vessels, which increases their elasticity, thus delaying the aging of the organism (because we are as healthy as our heart and arteries). Swimming in cold water strengthens our will (psychiatric exercise), endorphins-hormones of happiness are released, and adrenaline, so we will be able to deal with everyday stressful situations and bad mood, depression, especially during autumn and winter.

Biorhythm of ice bather

This person sleeps in summer and in winter easily covered, and goes to bed at the same time. He tries to respect the proper biorhythm. During indoors, it is often recommended to ventilate and sleep in the room where the window is open until late autumn. Optimum temperature in the bedroom is from 12 to 18 °C, in the living room or office around 20 °C. Even for ice bather with no movement is easier to get cold. In winter, ice bather take lighter clothes. If he wants to maintain body heat at low outside temperatures, he moves more, runs fast, and almost never stands without movement. Extremely easy (poor) clothing in winter does not make sense, it is considered true exhibitionism. Ice bather does not carry scarves or gloves to outside temperatures -5 to -10 °C, according to individual fitness. We try not to cover the nose or mouth with a scarf or buff when we are exhaling, infectious cells are stored, which we then breathe in again. From drying the face with cold, we are preserving with moisturizing creams – the colder temperature outside is we apply the thicker layer of the cream. Unlike non-ice bahters, ice bathers even in the winter have the impression that the weather is warmer and better tolerant to ice weather.

Nutrition

Ice bather consumes food that are proper and appropriate! They keep in mind that they consume a lot of calories while cooling the body, and they supplement it with proper nutrition. During an ice bath in water that is colder than 4 ° C, the body consumes 400kcal for 1 minute without movement, for maintaining body temperature, which is extremely high! This energy is consumed from glycogen reserves in muscles and liver in anaerobic metabolism. We could hope that in this way we can quickly lose weight. During the cooling of the organism, slow energy consumption from fat deposits occurs, by consuption of fats after this activity in their excessive intake could cause their deposits under the skin in unwanted places – on the hips, stomach, carcass and abdominal cavity, and it can even cause obesity. Therefore, it is important that, after the ice bathing, we take care of what we eat and avoid the intake of fats in any form. We take care of the proper intake of liquids and minerals. We try to import more vitamins in natural form from fruits and vegetables. Vitamins are important A, B, C, D and E. Carbohydrate intake is also very important. We are trying to get them first of all from natural minimal processed foods (dry fruits, fresh fruits, cereals, legumes, and whole grain products). Many ice bathers are vegans and vegetarians, which is not required, some have a separate diet, which is suitable for eliminating obesity.

Sport ice bathing

With sports ice bathing – swimming in cold water in rivers and lakes we can start after 1 to 2 years of cold water showering. We must always do a medical examination before the season. We start swimming in all weather conditions in rivers and lakes or open swimming pools, daily, depending on the possibilities. In the hot water in summer, we try to perfect the swimming technique. This is due to the fact that in cold water comes the hardening of the back muscles and muscles of the limbs even with the topmost swimmers, therefore slowing down in pace, and the difference between top and recreational swimmers is erased in these situations. We recommend swimming in the group, because it is mentally easier and stimulant, especially in unpleasant weather conditions. If the water is warmer than 20 °C, swimming is not time-limited. If we are beginners, at a water temperature:

  • from 15 to 20 ° C swims for a maximum of 40 minutes,

  • from 10 to 15 ° C to 30 minutes,

  • from 5 to 10 [deg.] C. to 10 minutes,

  • below 5 ° C to 5min.

We must not overestimate our possibilities! When the water temperature drops below 12 °C, it is enough to swim 2-3 times a week, because the body needs time to regenerate. At high intensity, endorphins are released, the swimmer is subjectively feeling good, not tired, and this often leads to a poor assessment of his possibilities. Therefore, during swimming competitions in cold water, at a water temperature below 10 °C, the swimming time is limited for 22 minutes for safety reasons. In open water it is always good to swim along the coast, so that it can be reached any time to comes out of the water. Only experienced swimmers can swim in high-speed rivers. Distances of swimming in icy water:

  1. 750m – masterful performance
  2. 500m – high performance of the first degree
  3. 250m – effect of II degree

  4. 100m – effect of III degree

The acquired performance in one season also applies in the following season, if in the next season this effect is not repeated, it automatically decreases in 1 degree. In the first season, ice swimmer can swim up to a maximum of 250m, in exceptional situations 500m. An exception is never made for swimming at 750m.

Warmup with movement

Before swimming, it is good to warm briefly – in the swimsuite, we make warming exercises or short run, without overheating, only so that the temperature on the surface of the body is adjusted to the outside temperature. After swimming, it is necessary to warm up with a little longer exercises, by moving, possibly by running, the body should only warm up! In winter it’s not good to go to the warm room right from the cold water. To take a bath in hot water is forbidden because there is a risk of collapse with a sudden heat effect on the body. After exercising or a short run, rub body with a dry towel and only then slowly dress up and move constantly (dressing on the go 🙂 If we dress too fast, the clothes act as an insulation between the warm air in the room and the cool surface of our body, and more difficult we will warm up. We bring liquids to drink a warm tea in small sips. The stomach is well supplied with blood and the warm tea in it acts like water in the radiator and will fastly spread throughout the body.

When are we shaking?

When the body warms up after cooling, we begin to shake. It is completely normal, the body tries to produce heat naturally by working (vibrations, short contractions) of muscles. The time when we start to shake is depending on the degree of ice bather fittnes level, degree of cooling, and the amount of subcutaneous fatty tissue. Shaking should not be repressed or hidden, should be left to work. If we are very cold try to warm them up  feet and our hands by rubbing , or wash with mildly cold or lukewarm water, never hot.

Food, liquids and alcohol

Before swimming, we should not eat to much. Approximately 2 hours before swimming of an easily digestible meal is recommended – hot soup. We must not forget about the sufficient intake of liquids, especially tea and water. Do not drink alcohol before swimming in cold water. Alcohol spreads peripheral blood vessels, which will achieve the opposite effect of the effect that we want to achieve by ice bath, and the body will quickly cool down. In combination with the release of endorphins, the brain will lead to euphoria, but it can lead to overestimation, which can have traumatic consequences. After swimming we can eat only when:

  • we warmed ourselves after practicing,

  • hydrated with warm tea,

  • and only after the body shaking had passed.

In order for body to warm up it needs a lot of energy, and by digestion of food we could deprive it of this energy and good circulation. In winter, and especially in the spring, it would be good for our diet to be especially rich in vitamins, preferably by consuming raw vegetables and fruits, and in the second case vitamin supplements (at recommended doses) in the diet if fresh food are not available.

Clothes and shoes

Swimsuits is mandatory, women should wear one-piece swimsuit, a swimming cap. In summer, it protects you from inflammation while swimming at longer distances, and in winter it is better one made of thicker silicone, neoprene of similar materials. A head is rich with blood and if it is not protected, it gives the heat away, head has the fastest heat lost of all parts of the body, and besides, the brain is equipped with a thermoregulation center that we need to protect. For this reason, many swimmers do not submerge their heads during winter, and even at the price of swimming more slowly during the race. In rivers and lakes, we swim in some type of water shoes, if the terrain is not checked, because of possible cuts or injuries to the feet from glass bottles and similar things, which unfortunately we often see in these waters, also because of ice in winter. We also recommend to use swimming goggles, which would protect the eyes from possible impurities from the water. 

Ice bath after illness

Ice bath should not be practiced during illness. After healing, we give you at least 7 days of resting from the ice bath in the cold water, and then gradually continue with the activity, we do not continue where we stopped before the disease, but gradually dosing. This refers to easier illness. In serious illness, we listen to the advice of doctors, if necessary, we will leave the ice bathing for a longer period of time. If a person who is ice bather becomes weak after the illness, he/she falls to bad condition, and overestimates the abilities to stay in the water, and after getting out out from the water he/she is deeply exhausted, someone needs to motivate him/her to start warming up, not shouting at him/her and burden him/her mentally with unnecessary conversation. He/she needs to rub the surface of the skin with a dry towel and try to motivate him in some way to move, then help her dress up. That’s why it’s good to ice bath in larger groups.

Listen to your body

Every athlete and ordinary man, especially the one who is ice bather, should listen to his body (he sees all the signals sent to him by the body), and he knows his immediate preparation, which depends on the state of health and changes over the years. In this way it enables itself to achieve high performance, preserves freshness and looks forward to its performance and progress.

Marko Popin

🇬🇧 Advanced student of medical science and nutrition expert, skyrunner and dog lover.

🇷🇸 Apsolvent medicine i ekspert za ishranu, skyrunner i ljubitelj pasa.

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