With ten pale, blue fingers, I white-knuckled the steering wheel of my Toyota RAV4 and strained to remember how to turn on the engine. After staring blankly through the windshield at the parking lots for several minutes – teeth chattering and brain slowly coming back to life – I leaned to the right, fumbled for the keys that lay on the passenger seat, then cursed as my large intestine contracted and filled my soggy Speedo with a liquid bowel evacuation.
Just ten minutes earlier, I’d dragged my sorry ass out of the frigid Spokane river and stumbled like a drunk, waterlogged sea otter up across the pavement back to my Toyota. See, after studying up on the benefits of cold thermogenesis and practicing cold showers and ice baths for several weeks, I figured I’d level up a notch and try a true cold water swim in the middle of March, when chunks of ice still floated down the Spokane river near my home. But rather than simply dipping in and out of the safe edges of the water, like a true, hard-charging overachiever I’d donned nary a shred of clothing and attempted to swim upstream for a good twenty minutes. And now, as my body fought to restore its normal temperature after my foolhardy attempt at a health hack, I was paying the price.
…a long, frigid, lose-control-of-your-bowels ice water swim is not necessary (and very much ill-advised) to take full advantage of the benefits of cold thermogenesis, which include not only a restoration of blood-brain barrier health, but increased cell longevity, a robust immune system, rapid fat loss in the absence of exercise and many of the other benefits I’ve discussed in the plethora of cold thermogenesis articles and podcasts I've released.
Instead, one simple option is to use Ray Cronise’s “Shiver System” technique – a relatively brief five minute cold shower at the beginning and/or end of the day that involves simply alternating from 20 seconds of cold water to 10 seconds of hot water ten times through. When Ray spoke at my “Become Superhuman” live event in Spokane, Washington, he shocked the crowd with before-after photos of clients who had decimated over twenty pounds of fat in a month with this technique alone. If this sounds boring or monotonous to you, you can always get a good underwater .mp3 player or learn some rollicking shower songs to move the time along.
Alternatively, you can use my fellow biohacker Luke Storey’s “Budget Freezer Hack”, my friend and music producer slightly more spendy Rick Rubin’s “Luxury Chiller System”, big wave surfer Laird Hamilton's above ground “Done-For-You Cold Tub”, or my own “Endless Cold Pool”. You'll discover each of these cold tub, thermogenesis setups in today's article, with full blueprints and instructions.
Enjoy the goosebumps.
Luke Storey’s Budget Freezer Hack:
Let's begin with my friend Luke Storey (I appeared on his website in the podcast “Biohacking The Ultimate Home“. Luke is a fellow biohacker, fashion guru, fringe wellness enthusiast and a curious and knowleadable guy. He was kind enough to give me the low-down on his entire budget-friendly $800 ice bath setup that uses a department store freezer.
For a ton o' folks, this will beat the hell out of spending $5K-35K for a pro sports or spa version of a fancy cold tub or cryotherapy chamber.
Step 1: Buy a 19.8 cubic feet Ice Bath Freezer. This size is big enough for two normally sized humans to sit in at once (barely), or plenty of room for one person with legs extended. The minimum size for me to extend my legs fully is 17.5 cubic feet (I’m 6’2). You can always go to a Sears, and jump in a few different size freezers to find the one you want (prepare to get some curious glances). I like the Frigidaire unit because it comes with casters, which makes it mobile and that can be very handy when it comes to emptying the water out to change it. You might want to consider throwing down and extra $150 for an extended warranty, especially since you’re not using the equipment as it was designed. That said, mine’s been going strong for over a year, with zero issues.
Step 2: Fill freezer all the way up to around 5-8 inches from the top with water, using a garden hose chlorine filter. Next, plug the freezer in and turn it up to max cold. Depending on your outside temperature, and the desired water temperature, it will take 36-72 hours for the water inside the freezer to become cold.
Step 3: Pour 1/2 cup of 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide into the water. This will prevent, or at least slow down bacteria growth. Use as often, and as much as needed, preferably each time you bathe. Do not use salt, as it will promote rust.
Step 4: Once the water has reached the desired temperature (mine is 39 degrees fahrenheit), plug the power cable of the freezer into a grounded 24-hour plug-in mechanical timer so that the freezer turns on approximately 2-4 hours per night, when it is not being used. You’ll have to find a sweet spot right where the water stays cold, but doesn’t freeze over. You can monitor your water temp to find the correct timer setting using a laser thermometer.
Step 5: Plug a breaker-safe grounding stake into any nearby ground (preferably wet), and drop the opposite end alligator clip into the tub. This will keep the water grounded, which confers additional health benefits. Furthermore, bodies of water are never ungrounded in nature, and I find ice baths to be much more calming when grounded. To prevent lightning strike electricity surges, make sure you use a grounding cable with a breaker.
Step 6: Depending on frequency of use, how sweaty you are, and how many users are getting into the water regularly, you will need to change the water in the tub every 1-2 weeks. You’ll know when it’s time to change it by the swampy smell that will occur once bacteria starts to grow. To change the water, simply pull the drain plug out on the bottom corner of the unit, empty all the water out, clean the tub, then refill it with filtered water. If you shower off sweat from workouts or saunas before getting into the bath, your water will last longer.
Step 7 (important!): Always unplug the power from the unit when you’re using it. It’s extremely unlikely that there is any danger is using the unit plugged in, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to mixing water and electricity. Trust me, you do not want to create a “toaster oven in the bathtub” effect.
- If you ever see rust starting to form inside the tub on the seams, empty and dry the inside of the tub and apply clear silicone sealant to the affected seams to prevent future oxidation.
- To extend clean water life, keep a doormat next to the tub, so that users can wipe feet before entering.
- If you want a less ugly tub, consider building a wood encasement around the freezer. Alternatively, you could have the tub professionally painted at an auto body shop to blend into the color palette of the setting. Please note that if you do elect to build an encasement, your water will likely freeze much faster, and this will, of course, affect the settings of your outlet timer.
Here's a few pics of the complete setup:
Rick Rubin’s Chiller System:
Although perhaps more well known for his celebrity status in the music industry, producer Rick Rubin is quite the health enthusiast and biohacker himself, and having lounged in Rick’s beautiful, highly effective luxury chiller system in the backyard of his Kauai beach house, I can attest to the fact that this is indeed the “cadillac” of cold thermogenesis setups.
But unlike Luke Storey's budget freezer hack, you’ll likely need the services of a professional contractor or builder to tackle this project – and definitely need about 5-8K set aside for the total investment.
Step 1: Order a fancy Ofuro tub and chiller system from Northern Lights Hot Tubs. The best contact is Peter Moroz, who personally worked with Rick on this order: [email protected] or 1-800-759-8990, ext. #223. Below, you can see Rick’s exact order invoice for all parts necessary for this project.
Step 2: Place tub on a wood pallet and use the wooden staves and wood joists ordered from Northern Lights to place around tub exactly as shown below (all diagrams and photos are relatively self-explanatory).
Step 3: Using your existing water supply, fit the EcoPlus Chiller System with filtration feed into the tub as the primary water supply. In Rick’s setup, this Chiller System includes an ozonator to ensure the water stays clean without the use of chemical chlorine. Again, all diagrams, photos and invoice, along with a conversation with Peter from Northern Lights will give you everything you need to know, aside from the approximate cool 4.8K necessary to complete the actual order.
Laird Hamiltons “Done-For-You” Above Ground Cold Tub
Having spent time freezing my booty off in Laird Hamilton's Malibu cold pool setup and Kuaui cold pool setup, I've witnessed the big-wave surfer to be authentically and legitimately fond of all manner of cold bathing, including this relatively affordable Rubbermaid 150 gallon stock tank that he fills with ice from a commercial ice maker along with cold water, and a more “done-for-you” above ground cold tub from ColdTub.com, which will set you back just $11,900 according to this .pdf quote they sent me for their 1-person “cold pod” (if you get one, mention my name to get a similar quote). Alternatively, it is highly likely you could save some money and buy any of these inflatable hot tubs from Amazon, then just keep as cold as possible.
Behold the videos below, one in which Laird describes his practice as “extreme thermal cycling”.
Summary & My Endless Cold Pool
Finally, what’s my own home cold thermogenesis technique?
After foregoing the painstaking process of swimming through ice chunks in the Spokane river, I wound up taking the admittedly elaborate and expensive step of hiring a crane to drop a 19-foot “Aquatic Fitness” endless swimming pool in my water-void backyard forest, then completely disabled the heater in the pool. In the cool, shady conditions of the Inland Northwest, the pool remains at a chilly enough temperature of 40-55 degrees Fahrenheit year round, and in the more warm seasons, I occasionally swing by the convenience store for a few big ol' bags of ice to toss in.
The added advantage of my setup? The ability to simultaneously freeze your butt off and swim laps. For us bone-chilling masochists, that's a match made in heaven. Here are a c0uple photos:
I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to leave links and/or descriptions of your own cold tub setup in the comments section below. Here's a few final goodies for you:
-My podcast with Rick Rubin: How To Lose 131 Pounds By Eating Meat: The Rick Rubin Podcast
-My podcast with Laird Hamilton: Anti-Aging, Homeschooling, Underwater Workouts, Pooping & More With Laird Hamilton & Gabby Reece
-My podcast with Luke Storey: Biohacking The Ultimate Home (my podcast with Luke Storey)
Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for me about these cold thermo setups? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!