All The Cold Plunge Questions, Answered: Our Cold Plunge Review And What We Love About It – Emily Henderson

All The Cold Plunge Questions, Answered: Our Cold Plunge Review And What We Love About It – Emily Henderson

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Well, here we are. My job is so weird (and wonderful). Three people, three cameras, shooting me cold plunging, in an admittedly pretty low-cut suit, was once again quite the way to spend a Thursday. There is no perfect career or job and many days are challenging being a small business lady on the social media internets, but this day, I’ll gladly celebrate (despite being terribly self-conscious) as I dunk my body in freezing cold water for your viewing pleasure (and my actual pleasure).

#1 Question: Why Do You Cold Plunge?

During lockdown, Brian and I lived in Lake Arrowhead with our house a 20-minute walk to the lake. Most weekdays we’d take turns running down, working out, jumping in, drying off in the sun and running back. It immeasurably helped my low-grade COVID anxiety on a daily basis and simply felt incredible (yes, year-round). I’ve obviously read a lot about Wim Hof (watch the Goop Episode if you are curious) so sure, I know about all the good things it does for your body. But for me, it’s the mood boost that accompanies it (likely paired with the workout endorphins) that has made it something I crave.

So after 2 years up here of ice baths and cold showers, I bought a janky one on FB Marketplace last summer that didn’t end up working for me or my yard (too hot outside, but couldn’t live inside). I was even more hooked and started doing the research for a non-janky plunge. I felt that after 4 years of voluntarily shocking my body in freezing cold water, I could allow myself to invest in one. Brian loved plunging in the lake but not as much as me (he now meets my enthusiasm).

After doing my research, most reviews put Plunge as the best for mid-range cold plunges (plus they are so pretty). There are some that are splurgier, but they seemed more for commercial/spa use and there are some more affordable but with obvious concessions (many are for adding ice or simply cold water due to the outside temperature). I reached out, pitched them admittedly VERY HARD, and struck up a trade. In other words, I would have bought this outright but in full transparency, I didn’t.

The reason I chose this cold plunge is the usual: the great looks + the great function + really good reviews. Stylistically it’s very simple with a lovely shape that obviously looks like a large tub and you can hide the mechanics behind it (their new version that just launched houses the cooling system inside).

Wait, Why Do You Put Your Body In Freezing WATER…IN THE WINTER?

Listen, hot and cold therapy has been used as a healing tool forever – good for inflammation, the immune system, and yes even burning calories. But the reason that I do it is 100% because I love the way I feel, both during and after. It’s a coping mechanism, perhaps even an addiction, and one that I have zero guilt about. They say that it’s 3 hours of a happy dopamine burst from your brain into your body (quoting Andrew Huberman, here). I walk into the house after a workout/plunge and feel like FANTASTIC MR. FOX and ready to work and be a lot more positive. If you are already shaking your head and annoyed with this blonde lady getting all Goopy on you, I get that and this likely isn’t for you. This isn’t just a new fancy fad to spend money on, there is enough scientific and anecdotal evidence showing how beneficial it is to our bodies, brains, and moods. (And they have payment plans, FYI).

I love it year-round, but in the winter when it’s gray outside, I specifically go to it to stave off Seasonal Depression. The last two winters here I spent doing long walks/workouts and ice-cold showers (which also works!) so once we had a place to put this Plunge I felt confident that I would use it enough to warrant having one. Remember, not only is this a financial investment but everything we do/buy has an environmental impact so if you don’t think you will use it frequently, then think hard about getting one. Despite me forcing most people in my life to try it – 2/3rds LOVE IT and others love how they feel afterward (which is a guarantee) but hate the cold enough to not opt for it again. Even my kids are split – Birdie LOVES IT and will ask to do it with me and her friends, Charlie took a big “no thank you bite” and hasn’t touched it since. My brother drives over to our house just to do it, so apparently it’s in the Starke DNA.

How Does The Cold Plunge It Work?

It’s essentially a large bathtub with an electric heat pump next to it (similar to a low-energy AC unit) that is attached to a big tub with jets that filters the water and keeps it around 43 degrees (I think it goes down to 37 which now that I think about it I’m going to set it lower). So yes, IT’S VERY COLD AND YOU WILL MAKE REALLY ODD SOUNDS.

How Long Do You Stay In The Water For?

The length of my plunge depends on how warm my body temperature is (which is determined by how long my workout was). I almost always do it after a workout (even if the workout is 15 minutes Peloton) because having a warmer body temperature makes it so much more enjoyable. If I don’t have much time I’ll just get in for a minute, but most days its the length of 1 or 2 songs (think Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger” or Pinks, “I’m Never Not Going To Dance Again” and YOU BET I SING). Many times I’ve stayed for 9 minutes but it takes a long time for my bones to heat up after that (so best on the weekend when I can snuggle up afterward). I know you won’t believe this, but after the initial shock, it gets pretty easy. Cold, but you stop noticing it, and feels so magical.

Also to note: we have the XL which is lovely, but if you want to save some $$ the smaller version is probably big enough (unless you are super tall). You fill it with clean water and the filter is easy to change (full disclosure, we haven’t changed it yet which I’m sure we need to but it seems fine – we’ve been using it for 3 months, 2 of us 4-5 times a week). It does have a filter and chemicals similar to a hot tub. Also to note: it’s really cut down on my spray tan addiction because I’m prioritizing this and I don’t want orange water for obvious reasons.

Do You Scream???

At first, I make all sorts of sounds that might sound totally primal and dare I say erotic (sorry – or your welcome – neighbors) TBH, but then I settle in, breathe, and can relax. I keep my hands out because since I need to writer it takes them too long to warm up and then I can’t work. And while I’m done showing people my crotch in life, I clearly have no problem showing off what we will now call “my buoys.”

All the photos of people looking peaceful might look like BS, but again, once you settle in (after about 30 seconds) you get used to it. close your eyes, and belt out Kelly Clarkson. Moving your legs and arms in the water definitely makes it colder/harder and extra credit for putting your head in. I highly suggest going up to your neck (not just your legs) for full effect.

Afterward, you might be like me, bright red, but you will definitely be like me – VERY HAPPY. Your body feels numb in such a good way and you are instantly warm when you get out (your body temp isn’t but your skin is due to the contrast). I usually try to warm up on my own. But if I don’t have the time to wrap myself in a sweatsuit then I’ll obviously take a hot shower in order to not shiver during Zoom calls. Going back between cold and hot is part of water therapy that feels MAGICAL. We don’t have a sauna (yet) but it’s part of my master plan to build out this property for small design + fitness/wellness retreats when I’m “retired”. WHO WANTS TO COME??????

This plunge is mid-priced for what’s on the market, starting around $5k (think hot tub pricing) and the newer version (with the heat pump inside the unit) is more. It’s undoubtedly a luxury for many that are privileged and one that Brian and I are both thankful for daily (yes, he’s obsessed now, too and calls it “liquid creativity”‘” for what it does to his brain and writing directly after). If your first reaction is annoyance about these types of wellness splurges, I get that. Just remember that if a big tech business MAN were touting the benefits of their personal cold plunge (and they do) we’d call it “bio-hacking” and no one would judge. But when a woman with big or small buoys, living an obviously privileged life, does anything like this, it’s chalked up to woo-woo Goopy “wellness” garbage. But y’all, It’s the exact same thing. The world just wants women, specifically in the domestic and “wellness” space, to stand down and be small, and yet let all the men run free, get big, and make all the $$$. Here we are!!

Cold plunges feel great and are good for your body and mental health, full stop. My best advice for whether this is for you is to start with cold showers after a workout, consistently for a month or three. If you honestly enjoy it and get to the place where you even crave it, then you could snag one that doesn’t have the refrigeration mechanism (some are under $200). There are so many more affordable ones on the market, mostly those that work with outside temp in the winter and these are GREAT. Come summer they won’t stay cold, so people put ice in them when using. It’s a great way to dip your toe If the temperature outside is under 40 degrees, then grab yourself an inflatable one or a barrel and give it a whirl. If you have the budget, consider this the same price as a hot tub and go for this one if you can, from Plunge, which I love very very much.

A few common more logistical questions:

  1. How do you drain/change the water? There is a hookup in the back for a hose that will extend outside onto the pea gravel. We haven’t done this yet, but it’s the reason we put it where we did.
  2. Can you put it anywhere? From my experience (with the other janky one I bought before this one from FB), just make sure it’s in 100% shade in the summer (we didn’t have anywhere except our front porch which would be admittedly super weird). The other one couldn’t keep up with the outside summer temp (and it was built to drain directly from the bottom, no hose so it couldn’t be inside). You can put this one, from Plunge, inside your house, but just make sure the hose can reach to drain it somewhere. The tub itself is fiberglass so it’s not heavy, but with water it sure is. Also, make sure that whatever floor you put it on is waterproof – i.e. no wood flooring or carpet, obviously. Despite having a bath mat, we drip everywhere and have to clean up the splashes on our rubber floor daily.
  3. Can it get hot like a hot tub? I know there are models that do that but we don’t need it to so ours doesn’t. We have the Soake pool (which is a hot tub in the winter) and I have a bathtub. But if you don’t have a bathtub, it might be worth considering getting one that can be both. Just a reminder that going from freezing to hot might take hours and a lot of energy so I’m not sure how often you’d do this, but I like the option.
  4. Does it require electricity? Yes, we just plugged it into the wall (you need two outlets for two plugs) and we had this building wired up knowing that potentially a plunge and a sauna would be hooked up to it. You have to keep it on to keep the water circulating so consider that. We saw our electricity bill bump up a bit (but Oregon also surged theirs by 18% starting in January so hard to know what is what).
  5. Easy to install? Yep! I didn’t do it, but our handy guy said it was easy.
  6. Why don’t you use your Soake pool as a cold plunge? We could, but we’d have to keep it no less than 55 degrees because we don’t want the pipes/equipment to freeze. For a lot of people, this is cold enough! Also, we like to use our Soake pool as a hot tub in the winter so going up and down takes a lot of energy. Also when it’s rainy it’s obviously less wonderful We keep our Soake pool at the recommended 70 most of the time knowing that it takes 3 hours to heat up so we plan ahead. I fully realize we are spoiled and have no need to ever leave the property, like ever.
  7. Do your kids like to plunge? Birdie loves it (has done it 4-5 times voluntarily, obviously) Charlie has no interest. Come summer when it’s 95 degrees, we’ll see. Brian does it every day after he works out as well and loves it.

Thanks for reading y’all. And thanks to Plunge for partnering on this. For the record, the trade was an Instagram reel and stories on social media, not a blog post here which I gave freely (literally) because I love the product so much. No PR messaging necessary. I just love how this thing makes me feel and how much it’s benefitted our mental and physical health. (If you are near a cold lake, I HIGHLY suggest doing the analog version:))

*Photos by Kaitlin Green

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