“How long should I stay in?” is one of the most common questions I get when I talk to people about ice baths. It’s a fair question and I’ll give you an answer. But before I do that, I want to address which poisonous element can’t be included in the answer: Ego.
Ice baths are not about time or competition. They are about awareness and understanding your mind, body, spirit, and intention. Gritting your way through ice baths so you can stay in longer than your last plunge, or your friend or partner, is akin to letting your environment control what you do, how you think, and how you feel. Letting your outside environment control what you do, how you think, and how you feel is a recipe for disaster. It is a life lived on others’ terms, in pursuit of self-glory, not yours. And living a life on others’ terms is not living at all.
The spirit you engage entering the ice bath should not be one of challenge to a linear thought process like time. It should not be about ego. It should be one to engage the intangible aspects of our lives that make up our soul. Your spirit should be made up of a love and appreciation for what you are capable of. It should be made up of your awareness around how you are finding control of your breath and moving from a panicked, staccato pattern to one of control and calm. It should be made up of appreciating our ability to move from thoughts associated with stress to thoughts associated with love and appreciation.
Stress and Ego? Or Love and Appreciation?
How are you entering the cold? How are you living your life? The cold will represent how you live in moments that force you to choose…stress and ego or love and appreciation. In the words of my favorite musician of all time, “Let love rule”.
So, the answer to the question is just that, “Let love rule”. Once you find your calm breathing pattern, once you bring your thoughts from stress (This is awful! When can I get out?! This is so cold! I can’t do this anymore!) to love and appreciation, to a slow, calm, intentional breathing pattern, then you can get out. How long will that take? Who knows and who cares? It will be different for everyone. But the answer is just that: when you find love, appreciation, and calm in the cold, feel free to get out. It’s not about how long you stay in. It’s not about your ego. It’s about what you do, how you think, and how you feel while you’re in.
Now, get into an ice bath and “Let love rule!”
I’ll be posting about this regularly on my Instagram (follow the hashtag #Leader193cold) and I hope to update you weekly here on the blog. You can learn more about how I use cold exposure as a leadership tool in my book The Process, Art, and Science of Leadership. You can also read more about the benefits of cold exposure on leadership here.
Errol Doebler is the founder of Leader 193, a leadership consulting firm. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Leader 193 to realize his passion of empowering great leaders and better human beings. Errol provides executive coaching, keynote speaking, and corporate retreats to individuals and teams across the world.