The best $200 i've ever spent
Ice baths and the benefits of cold water therapy are nothing new, but this Do-It-Yourself (DIY) hack was new for me. I have long talked about the advantages of cold water from your immune system to your recovery. Everything from ice-cold showers to full immersion can be an absolute game-changer. When I committed to running an Ironman this year, I knew that I wanted to make it a big part of my training/recovery. The physical demands that I was going to be putting myself through was going to be a considerable increase from anything I had done in a long time. And let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger.
When we started to plan and build our garage gym, our dream gym, I knew I wanted to have my very own ice bath at home. There was only one small issue, an at-home ice bath would cost just slightly more than the rest of the entire gym combined. Yeah, that’s right. In-home ice baths can run anywhere from $1,500 to a mind-blowing $8000. I mean I’m all about speeding recovery, but for that price, I could just buy a whole new body. Now you can buy portable and other “ice bath” style tubs for far cheaper, as low as $50 bucks even. But this is just a temporary tub that will need to be filled or refilled with ice each time you use it. I already have two bathtubs in my house I can do that with.
I was about to chalk this one up to a loss when I finally googled “DIY home ice bath” and voilà! A standard deep freezer or chest freezer, that you would put in your garage anyway, filled with water. That’s it. Mind blown. Why didn’t I think of that? This is the by far one of the simplest DIY fitness hacks that will save you thousands of dollars and still you bring you all the benefits. So if this is something you think you want to add to your home gym or your recovery routine, I’ll walk you through my set up to make this an easy DIY project for you.
Buy Cheap Buy Used
Unless you think it’s necessary or you can just afford it, there is no real reason to buy a new freezer. Look for sales, closeout deals, and the best source for just about everything used these days, Facebook Marketplace. I was lucky enough to find the one I did at a Sears Outlet on a closeout deal and only the floor model left. I tell you, nothing is more hilariously awkward than asking the salesperson, “will a body fit in this freezer.” Maybe more awkward is when you actually crawl inside to see if you do. It was perfect, it was all black, it was only $200 brand new (minus some small scratches from being a display), and yes, I fit inside.
A couple of things that will take your ice bath to the next level are a digital thermometer and a timer. A simple and small digital timer like this one which I got off Amazon for about $9, will make knowing and managing your water temperature much easier. Drop the cord in and mount the digital display on the outside with some double-sided tape and you’ll be able to see the temperature without having to open the freezer. Now on to the temperature, which can be a difficult task to tackle and the reason why you’ll need a timer.
First is don’t be confused, your chest freezer can freeze all that water, it’s just going to take a while. It’s called a freezer for a reason. You don’t want to be sitting on top of a big ice block, so you can’t just flip it on and call it a day. Most freezers come with a standard temp dial from min-max, especially the cheaper used ones. You could try and adjust that dial to see if you could achieve the right temperature, but I think it would be very tedious and frustrating. I found the best way is to use a smart plug with a timer. No two freezers are the same, so you’ll have to adjust the time patterns that work for you and the temperature you desire. I use a Kasa smart plug that I can control from my phone and have it set to run for 30 minutes twice a day. That keeps my water temperature at steamy 43 degrees.
That leaves us the question, “what is the right temperature for you?” This is going to be based primarily on your tolerance and your intentions. Muscle recovery will require longer sitting times than say, a morning routine refresher. Either way, you’ll want to start slow and build your threshold. A safe approach would be to start at around 55 degrees with a sitting time of approximately one to two minutes and build up from there. No matter where you start at the benefits will begin immediately. If you’re an athlete, a weekend warrior, or cold water immersion is something you wish you could do or do more of, then this is definitely something you should try. Cold water can change your life.
Authors Note: Safety first! Deep freezers can be dangerous and when full of water they can be deadly. If you have young children, please put a lock on your freezer. Such a simple and easy fix shouldn’t go overlooked. This is the lock I have on my freezer and peace of mind is well worth $12.