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Break The Ice

Task: Take the plunge on the latest health craze

The Expert You might know Mitch Mathews as the BYU wide receiver who gave us that iconic Hail Mary touchdown win against Nebraska. Itís been almost 10 years since that moment, and these days he is focusing his drive and energy on entrepreneurial endeavors and raising two little girls with his wife, Madie. One of the things Mitch has done to stay in shape after his sports career is embracing the practice of cold plunging. The trend is a form of cryotherapy that involves immersing yourself in cold water to gain health and wellness benefits. In college, he did ice baths for recovery, but these days he gets iced up for mental and physical benefits. 


ìI got interested in cold therapy after I did a crazy excursion to Poland with 10 buddies to meet Wim Hof,î Mitch explains. Wim Hof, also known as ìThe Ice Man,î is an extreme athlete, motivational speaker and Guinness World Record holder. ìWe stayed at his house, did 10-minute cold plunges up to our necks, hiked half naked in sub-20 degree weather, and lived!î Mitch says. You donít need to go all the way to Poland to get pumped up, but a few Wim Hof videos on YouTube just might have you craving some cold therapy. 


ìThe science says between 35-50 degrees is a great range, and 11 minutes a week is optimal to get all the mental and physical benefits,î Mitch explains. Some people start out at 60 degrees, which is colder than you might think when you consider that the average temperature of swimming pool water is in the high 70s. 


According to Mitch, freezing your buns off on purpose is not just an exercise in mental toughness. ìI feel like it launches me into peak energy and clears brain fog, boosts immunity and reduces swelling,î he says. The research on cold water therapy is still emerging, so there is no way of saying for certain it does ëX-Y-Z,í but many personal anecdotes describe muscle recovery, mental clarity and mood boosting benefits. 


ìI tell people to start with 50 degrees and then work down,î Mitch says. ìTry to slide into the water without freaking out. Then do four-second exhales and a big inhale. This helps you calm down and helps fight the urge to gasp for air. Conquer the water!î Mitchís internal dialogue is all about staying calm in the chaos. ìThe water is chaos and it wants to make you freak out,î he says ìBut if you can learn to stay calm in the chaos, itís a good metaphor for lots of things in life.î 


To stay safe, Mitch suggests not going longer than 10 minutes and not cold plunging alone until you have plenty of experience. In fact, freezing your face off in the group is his favorite way to do it. ìThe best way to cold plunge is in a group,î he says. ìAnd then get in a sauna afterwards.î 


Mitch suggests warming up to the idea of being ice cold with a few minutes of cold water in the shower, or standing outside without your coat and deliberately breathing in some cold air.