I have been regularly taking ice baths for the past eight months, mainly during the summer, and I've started to notice some patterns.
A bath for up to five minutes helps me relieve muscle inflammation and improve my recovery time. It's not surprising since the cold water constricts my blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to my muscles and helps to reduce inflammation and pain caused by DOMS. Ice bath is also believed to flush out waste products and lactic acid that build up in muscles during exercise, which further aids in muscle recovery.
Between 5 to 10 minutes, I experience not only the physical effects but also a noticeable improvement in my mood, focus, and alertness. I can feel the release of endorphins, and I'm ready for immediate action after drying myself off.
Anything over 10 minutes is a different story. The release of dopamine seems to spike, and a sense of deep calm and connection takes over. I need to sit or lie down in the sun for another 10 minutes before I can interact with others. I may even need to take a hot shower to pull myself back into the present moment. This experience is not like a soft reboot but a hard reset of my system. It's a strange feeling that I both enjoy and fear. For me, it's more of a meditative state.
I have noticed that somewhere between these stages, my physical sensations and inner voice fight back, urging me to get out before I go any deeper. I wonder how many stages there are and what it would feel like to be immersed for 30 minutes. It could feel like a hard mental and physical workout, and it would probably take a couple of hours to "come down." The more ice baths I do, the more interested I get in the science around it and experimenting with it.