Find comfort in the uncomfortable by plunging into frigid water

Turning the dial, I sent my body into shock and changed my life forever.

My immersion in cold water and even colder air began in January 2016 when I moved to Chicago. That’s where I began taking ice-cold showers as part of the hustle and bustle of my new early morning routine as I scurried from the gym to the tastytrade TV studio. And when you match the city’s sub-freezing weather with what feels like sub-freezing showers, it changes you from the inside.

Fast forward to the present and I’ve moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where the climate’s nearly the exact opposite of what Chicagoans face. How could I maintain my connection with the cold? Drawing up an ice-cold shower on demand during the eight-month winters in the Windy City never presented a problem, but mustering anything cooler than a lukewarm shower stream seemed nearly impossible in the Sunshine State without completely gutting the bathroom, hiring an electrician and obtaining building permits from the city. 

Still, the boundless energy and acute alertness I cultivated with years of cryogenic showers in Chicago left me eager to find a way to continue the tradition. So, 14 hours down the YouTube rabbit hole, I discovered Cold Therapy (didn’t know that was a thing), learned about Wim Hof (the Iceman himself)and knew I had to become part of the worldwide cold-plungercommunity.

Soon, I secured a chest freezer for immersion purposes only and began plunging daily. But that seemed inconvenient in too many ways. Then I found a product that revolutionized my search for the freeze. I was sent an Ice Barrel, a device that makes it easy to plunge into the cold. 

The Ice Barrel

The Ice Barrel’s black color helps set the dark mood that enables the ice to seep through the cracks of your soul and penetrate your innermost thoughts and feelings. It leaves you desperately wanting a Binky—in the best way possible.

The device stands about 3-1/2 feet tall and weighs around 60 pounds empty. It’s sleek and compact on the outside but roomy on the inside. It looks much better than the rusty $60 1978 Kenmore chest freezer I had been using. 

The goal for the first immersions was simple: get into the water, try to survive for a minute or two and get out. You’re not trying to enter a zen-like state—you’re just trying not to die. But as the body adapts, the mind begins to crave the challenge. You look for ways to improve the experience—and this is where the Ice Barrel really delivers.

After plunging into sub-50-degree water for months on end, I can attest to the fact that there’s something special about the experience. But by adding your ice to the Ice Barrel, you end up with cubes, mounds or chunks floating on the surface that form a thick sheet of ice that you must gently break through.

It’s like jumping into a pond in the wilderness at night. There’s something mysteriously primal about descending into the Ice Barrel and feeling the combination of ice and water chill your entire body in seconds. Then you emerge ready to shoulder any task that awaits.

If you’ve ever wondered how Aquaman feels, this is probably it.

Attention to details

Using the Ice Barrel requires turning on the garden hose, adding a few big bags of ice and opening the drain valve a couple of weeks later when it’s time for new water. My DIY chest freezer took months to put together and required a stack of 60-grit sandpaper, several tubes of silicone caulk and an hour of my electrician’s time.

Bottom line: Who wouldn’t want to endure an icy bath if it increases energy and sharpens alertness? Consider taking the plunge. You won’t regret it. 

Click her to watch Jim take the plunge.

Jim Schultz, Ph.D., a derivatives trader, fitness expert, owner of fitness website livefcubed and the daily host of From Theory to Practice on the tastytrade network, was named a 2017 Novice Bodybuilding Champion. @jschultzf3