Decades of abuse from Submission Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do, Close Quarters Combat, and numerous car crashes has left my back, neck, and knees in a constant contest of “who hurts the worst today”. Recently on my search to find more relief than just chiropractic care (thanks to the fine folks at La Grange Chiropractic, by the way), I began taking occasional ice baths after my workouts. This seemed to eliminate a great deal of the inflammation in my body, but buying 40 pounds of ice three times per week was getting cost and time prohibitive. Buying a ready to go cold plunge was also out of the question, as the price tag starts at around $4k – $5k. So, I sat out to build my own cold plunge for under $1,000. Here’s what I’ve got so far.
The Benefits of Cold Therapy
You may be wondering what all the fuss is about, so here are some of the many benefits that a cold plunge provides.
- It boosts your immune system!
- It Reduces inflammation
- It improves the cardiovascular system
- It helps with weight loss
- It helps improve mood and battle depression
- It helps alleviate arthritis
Building a DIY Cold Plunge
Like I said, I started this cold therapy journey with just cold showers. They worked for a while, but I had to upgrade to an inflatable pool filled with ice. These are both pretty cheap options, so I wanted to
keep this project as close to that side of cheap as I could. I started with was a 14.1 cubic feet freezer and a pond liner from Lowes.
I simply put the pond liner in, trimmed and taped it off with Gorilla Tape, and filled the freezer with water. I caught the freezer on a deal from Best Buy and paid less than $500 with free delivery. They even unpacked it and placed the unit where I wanted. The pond liner was $50-$70, I think. I lost the receipt, so I’m not able to remember precisely. I went with the liner, because I didn’t want to fool with sealing all the seams inside the freezer. Freezers are not designed to hold water. You have to seal all of the seams with JB Water Weld or epoxy to protect the inner workings of the freezer. Even then, you run the risk of having a leak. I figure having a liner is a much safer and easier option. Maybe even cheaper, as I know that JB Water Weld can be quite costly.
I then added a bag of Epsom Salt and some hydrogen peroxide to keep the water clean. This worked for only a short while, though. Even if you get in the shower right before you plunge, your body will release oils into the water. This kind of creates a biological goo/slime that gets on the sides of the freezer. This happens in spas and pools also. So, I decided to add a few items to my DIY cold plunge to keep the water cleaner.
The first thing I added was an ozone generator. An ozonator purifies the water, killing off bacteria and algae. Using one eliminates the need to use high dosages of
chemicals in the water. I also added a large aquarium filter that helps keep debris like hair from staying in the water and creating even more opportunities for bacteria to take over. I didn’t go overboard on either one of these pieces of equipment. The ozonator is around $100 and the large pool filter was less than $30. The filter is simple, you just snap it apart and rinse the sponge filters under running water in your sink.
I turn on the ozonator and let it run for 60 minutes every time I get out of the cold plunge. I also will turn it on for an hour anytime I walk by the freezer throughout the day. At least once per day it is running. The negatively charged ions this unit releases kills bacteria and keeps the water fresh. The only drawback is that “ozone smell”. It’s kind of like a dentists office. Come to think of it, I bet they use these in dentists offices to keep things clean.
The last item I added was an Ink Bird digital thermometer. Now, this unit is really cool! I was basically having to guess how long to run my freezer to keep the
temperature where I want it. If I forgot, the water would get too hot. If I forgot to turn it off…ice, ice, baby. The Ink Bird allows me to set a temperature like a
thermostat for your house. You do this by plugging the freezer into the Ink Bird, and then plug the Ink Bird into an outlet. If the temperature gets higher, the probe in the water senses the fluctuation, and turns on the circuit to power on the freezer. Once the water temperature reaches your desired setting, the Ink Bird turns the freezer off.
NOTE: Anytime you are getting in the plunge or cleaning it, make sure it is unplugged completely from the wall socket. This will eliminate the danger of you being electrocuted. Water and electricity don’t mix, so don’t tempt fate.
List of Components
- 14.1 Cubic Ft. Chest Freezer: $499
- Pond Liner: $70
- Ozonator: $69
- Ink Bird Thermometer: $35
- Aquarium Filter: $29
- TOTAL: $702
My Cold Plunge Routine
I basically sit in the cold plunge for about 10 minutes after my workout. I seem to get the most benefit from it that way. I know some people swear by the morning plunge, but my knees and back really like the icy cold right after they have been worked hard. I am doing this for longevity. I’m not interested in guru status or reaching any kind of trance like state of euphoria by getting in the cold plunge. I just want to have pain free joints.
After my workout, I jump in the shower. This eliminates all of the sweat and oils from my body. I don’t want this stuff in the plunge to muck up the water. I only use high quality natural soaps and don’t put on deodorant or cologne after the shower, because I don’t want that in the water either. I think set a timer on my phone, and plunge for 10 minutes or so. As I start to lower the temperature more and more, I’m noticing that I don’t need to stay in as long to get the inflammation reducing benefits.
Once I’m done, I might rinse off but usually don’t. I feel refreshed and ready to go!!
Future Plans and Upgrades
I’ve read that you can take your freezer down to the local Line-X shop, and have it sprayed for around $300. Line-X is the company that does spray in bed liners for pick up trucks. They are durable and completely waterproof. This may be an option I look into. The pond liner works great, but has drawbacks. Unless you have a custom sized liner made, you are going to have pleats and folds in the liner. This is a great place for bacteria to grow, and a pain to clean. I think this spray in liner would eliminate all of that.
I’ve also seen some folks use what is called “Pond Shield”, which is a paint on application designed for concrete bird baths and such. It seems less durable than the Line-X, and a bit of a mess. But, I may look into it further if the price is right.
Anyway…there you go. I hope you got some great ideas from this article on how to build your own DIY freezer cold plunge. If you have any questions, please feel free to hit me up in the comments section!
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