Ice Water Baths

AK_SteveAK_Steve Member
edited September 2012 in General Discussion
I'm seeking advice from anyone that has done ice water baths in preperation for the English Channel. What temperature do you add ice for? How long do you stay in at a time? Do you do it once or twice a day?

I live in Alaska and am about to lose my outdoor swimming privileges because winter is coming fast up here. My little local lake is down to 52 degrees F. It had been 59-65 degrees F through the summer. I think ice baths are my only chance of not losing my cold water acclimation over the winter. I gave up hot showers about a month ago and only take cold ones now and that has helped my acclimation a lot. This was my clue that I really need to be taking ice baths. Also, my little lake won't get back up into the 50's until May and my slot for the EC is the first week of July so I can't afford to lose all my acclimation over the winter. Figuring out the cold really is as long of a process as everyone says. Right now I'm OK with anything 56 degrees F and up, but at 52-53 degrees F I start shaking like someone who is having a seizure after a half hour. I just mention this because should I set my ice bath temperature for this or the nominal EC temperature of 60 degrees F?



  • GordsGords Salt Lake City, UTCharter Member
    I started doing ice baths once the lakes got too warm in Utah (about June). Cold water right out of the tap was 70f. Added about 4 gallons of ice to the bath and that dropped it down to 58. Stayed in for 40 min to one hour. Once a day for about six weeks. Channel aug 9th this year was 64-66f and was perfect. Never even felt cold. Ice bath prep was wonderful and worked out for me.
  • Alaska water out the tap should be cold enough without ice.
  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCharter Member
    edited September 2012
    @AK_Steve, honestly I would not worry about "losing" your cold water feeling, as the temperature in your region (as any cold region) will be fine to walk around in shorts, t-shirt and flip flops through the winter (although, from my friends who live in Alaska would tell me, it can get pretty darn cold!) I would focus on keeping your home temperature down (mid-upper 50s) and again, not wearing unnessesary extra clothing. Focus on "being cold" as much as possible throughout the winter. Hopefully your ice baths and cold showers will allow you to get out into the lake as early as possible in the spring. I was training in 75-80 degree lakes in the months prior to my Channel swim, and was able to make it work by keeping the home cold and taking cold showers. When you get over there, I recommend spending as much time as possible just floating around in Dover Harbor to help acclimate; even it that means plenty of teeth chatter!

    As far as ice baths go, I personally have a 300-gallon cattle trough on my deck which I have to break the ice to sit in during the winter. I find that I can sit still for around 20-25 minute increments (longer if I was actually moving) in the 34-36 degree water. This for me was more about the mental training, versus the physical training - if you can handle that pain, you can handle anything! If you don't have the ability to swim in Channel equivalent water, then focus on the mental training - I feel that is far more important!

    For those of us who don't have 55-65 water year round it is a struggle, but you can make it work! Let me know if you have any further questions!!
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    As far as ice baths go, I personally have a 300-gallon cattle trough on my deck which I have to break the ice to sit in during the winter.
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    I would focus on keeping your home temperature down (mid-upper 50s)

    That's assuming you are single or want to be
  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCharter Member
    @evmo - You know what the best part is about that cattle trough? When I spoke at a local Rotary, and I talked about breaking the ice with a sledgehammer, and then sitting in it - my sponsor signed on simply by hearing that story. The trough brings good luck to those who wish the enjoy the pain... True story. Want sponsorship? Sit in the tub.
    @bobswims - Good point! You think that is why I'm still single? ;)
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    It's really not very often that you get to read "you know what the best part is about the cattle trough?" and it make perfect sense.
  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCharter Member
    @niek - I will be glad to provide the forum some 'freezing in the tub' shots as soon as we get some cold weather around the northeast USA!
    @karent - I could go for one of your awesome cupcakes right about now! I remember the one you gave me in La Jolla - fantastic!
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • nvr2latenvr2late Central VirginiaCharter Member
    I am fairly comfortable in 60 degree water, but I also want to maintian my cold water tolerance with ice baths. I don't mind swimming in chilly water, but I find it very difficult to sit still in a tub in it! Any advice on how to do that? Is it just mind over matter, or repeated exposure to increasing intervals in it?
  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    I've only tried the ice bath thing a few times, but found playing loud music, screaming and drinking gallons of hot tea to be very helpful.
  • ForeverSwimForeverSwim Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaCharter Member
    @nvr2late - It is 99% mind over matter. Personally, I view it as a way to build mental tenacity - a way to handle anything. Repeated exposure will help become more and more acclimated, however it still never feels like a hot tub! I would time myself in the ice, and try to build on it each time. It has worked for me thus far!
    @chickenosea - Ditto. Haven't done the hot tea yet, just a lot of loud music, ha!
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A.

  • I am in real trouble. I have realised my watch is giving a 2 degree C lower reading than a standard thermometer. I don't know which to trust. And today my pool was 1 degree warmer than my last few hours and it felt toastie (I thought the number 1 was a small number, but its huge). I reckon each degree down will be a tough challenge. But I can't wait for each degree and today I was disappointed it went from 10 to 11, rather than from 10 to 9. Things are getting really interesting, but I am worried that I am actually swimming in 12 or 13 and have much further to go to get below 5 within the next 3 months.
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    @AK Frankly I'm not sure you need ice baths. You live in Alaska right? I lived just outside Denali National Park for a number of years. I wasn't swimming in those days, but I got fairly adapted to the cold just by being out in it on a daily basis. Just wear fewer clothes when you go out.

    I'm scheduled for EC in 2013 as well and haven't decided what I am going to do. It has to be more than I did for Catalina in 2011 - which was nothing. I planned on the water being 62° or warmer so the 65° I encountered was fine. At those temperatures I believe it is just a matter of swimming strong, carrying a "little" extra weight and having confidence in the cold water (I trained in an indoor 83° pool). It's not that the water didn't feel cold, it's just that I taught myself not to mind that it did.
  • nvr2latenvr2late Central VirginiaCharter Member
    @bobswims - what is your tide in 2013? I am on the July 27 - Aug 2, 2013 and I am staying at Varne Ridge.
  • MandaiMandai Charter Member
    Somewhat fishy ice bath...

  • oxooxo Guest
    edited December 2012
    Wow, that video production crew sure has the knack. Here's a map link to the corrie Nuala Moore is shown at times swimming in just below Connor Pass[1], a gorgeous if hairy drive that made me think of The Struggle and Kirkstone Pass[2][3] at the north end of Windermere, with it's 500 year old inn atop. That corrie is pretty sweet, mid 40's in Jan/Feb I'd suspect.

    Any guesses on the temperature of the ice bath? Maybe 40 plus or minus 2?
  • miklcctmiklcct Kowloon, Hong KongMember

    How do you obtain the ice needed to make the ice bath? Do you make it in your refrigerator?

  • AzskiAzski Prescott, ArizonaMember

    @miklcct said:
    How do you obtain the ice needed to make the ice bath? Do you make it in your refrigerator?

    @miklcct, you could try to find a medium-sized chest freezer, just big enough and deep enough to sit in. Fill with water, set temperature and plug into a timer so freezer will only run a couple hours a day. No ice needed. Ready for cold soak anytime.

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