Did you know that extreme temperatures can boost serotonin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter? A University of Eastern Finland study confirmed regular sauna use elevates serotonin levels, which can improve conditions like depression.

Pairing sauna benefits with a cold plunge intensifies the health advantages. Switching from hot to cold induces “vasoconstriction,” enhances blood circulation and supplies oxygen and nutrients to cells.

That energised feeling after a cold plunge? I know I always do.

That’s because the brain produces norepinephrine, which is linked to focus and mood. Combining this with the sauna’s serotonin boost offers a holistic mood enhancer.

happy woman enjoying her post sauna cold therapy session

Athletes swear by contrast therapy for muscle recovery. Alternating between hot sauna, and cold plunge sessions reduces inflammation, improves blood flow and aids minor injury healing.

Basically, contrast therapy isn’t just a sensory exploration. It’s a science-backed way to improve mood, circulation, and recovery. And who doesnt want to feel better!!

Explore this therapy further with our “best sauna cold plunge routine beginners guide.

Short Summary on Contrast Therapy

  • This simple hack will elevate your health and wellness. Warmth relaxes, cold revitalises, and they work magic on your well-being.
  • Rule #1: Hydration is key. Remember, you’re playing with extremes, so keep those water levels up.
  • Rule #2: Listen intently to your body’s whispers; it knows best. Start slow, and as you get acclimated, ramp things up. And of course, get a nod from your healthcare expert before diving in.
  • Looking to elevate the experience? Integrate deep, calming breathwork, gear up with comfy accessories, and toss in some pre-plunge stretches. This isn’t just wellness; it’s an adventure in feeling fantastic!

Understanding the Sauna Cold Plunge Routine

Contrast therapy blends heat and cold to boost mental health, recovery, and well-being. Aim for a sauna at 85 C/185F and a cold plunge at 19 C/66.2F. An 11-minute weekly cold dip offers significant mental benefits. But why? Let’s explore the science of saunas and cold plunges.

The Science Behind Saunas

Unraveling the Sauna’s Therapeutic Secrets

At the heart of a sauna is the power of heat. But what really happens when you step inside?

  1. Sweating It Out: One of the most immediate effects of a sauna is profuse sweating, which assists in detoxifying the body by expelling impurities through the skin.
  2. Circulation Boost: The warm environment makes your blood vessels expand. This increased blood flow means more oxygen and nutrients reach your muscles, alleviating muscle and joint discomfort.
  3. Relax & Rejuvenate: Beyond the physical, there’s a deep sense of relaxation, attributed to the release of endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemicals.

Now, here’s an intriguing fact: A study from Harvard Medical School indicates that regular sauna use can help lower the risks of heart diseases. source

However, as therapeutic as it sounds, not everyone should bask in this warmth. Vulnerable groups like pregnant women and young kids should be cautious due to overheating risks.

Whether you’re new to the sauna experience or a seasoned sauna user, it’s essential to understand the benefits and potential risks associated with heat therapy. By knowing what to expect and how to prepare, you can safely and effectively harness the power of heat for a better sense of well-being.

Looking for more insight and sauna hacks, click here to see my sauna 101 article.

at home sauna - great addition to your sauna cold plunge routine

The Power of Cold Plunges

Diving Deep into Cold Plunge Therapy

Stepping into icy waters might seem daunting but trust me, it gets easier once you’ve started and know what to expect.

Here’s science to the behind the shivers:

  1. The Art of Vasoconstriction: Much like a brisk cold shower, plunging into cold waters causes your blood vessels to snap shut. This immediate reaction reduces blood flow, acting as a natural defence against inflammation. This swift change can boost circulation, and rejuvenate your skin.
  2. Mood Elevator: That sudden chill isn’t just a jolt to your skin. It kickstarts your central nervous system, triggering a rush of endorphins, nature’s own mood boosters.
  3. A Pressure Drop: The therapy not only benefits your muscles but offers a reprieve to your circulatory system with lowered blood pressure, promoting heart health and reducing the risk of cardiovascular issues.
cold plunge pool

Engaging with cold plunge therapy is like embracing nature’s own chill pill. Understanding the why and how of this cool practice can help you harness its invigorating benefits for holistic wellness. Dive in and let the cold optimize your well-being.

Cold Plunge vs. Ice Bath: What’s the Chill Difference?

Cold plunges and ice baths both offer icy retreats, but they come with subtle distinctions:

  1. Temperature Tug: While both are cold, ice baths usually push the limits with near-freezing temperatures. Cold plunges, on the other hand, are just chilly enough to invoke the desired physiological responses without the bite of ice.
  2. Duration Dynamics: Ice baths often have shorter recommended durations due to their extreme cold. Cold plunges can be a tad more forgiving, allowing for a longer immersion.
  3. Setting the Scene: Ice baths, by definition, involve literal ice, often making them a more intense experience. Cold plunges give consistent cold without the icy sting.
  4. Synergy with Saunas: Both can be paired with heat therapy or saunas to maximize contrast therapy’s benefits. However, it’s crucial to adjust durations based on the chosen cold method.
stunning sunset over an icy lake half frozen with a diving board for cold plunge

Distinguishing between these two cold therapies is essential to make an informed choice. Both offer compelling benefits when used alongside saunas, but understanding their nuances can ensure you’re getting the best cool-down for your personal wellness journey.

I have a review on the top 6 ice baths at home here.

To experience the benefits of cold plunges, follow these steps:

The best Sauna Cold Plunge Routine Beginners’ guide – Step by Step

It’s crucial to start with the proper foundation. This guide will cover the essentials of sauna cold plunge therapy for beginners, including preparing your body and mind, executing the routine, and recovery and post-routine care.

By following these guidelines, you will be well on your way to unlocking the myriad health benefits, of this powerful therapy.

Preparing Your Body and Mind

Preparing your body and mind is essential before entering the world of saunas and cold plunges. Take a few moments to relax and clear your head, focusing on your breathing and being present.

This mental preparation will help you stay attuned to your body’s signals, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience.

And remember to show up in a good state of mind and body – not exactly something you’ll enjoy if you’ve just come from a big lunch with a few drinks or the morning after a big night out. That will put too much stress on your body.

Executing the Contrast Therapy Routine

Those new to the sauna are suggested to spend 10-15 minutes there. After that, a 30-second to 2-minute dip in the cold plunge is recommended.

The optimum temperature for a full sauna session is 85 C/185F. Humidity should be kept in the range of 10-20%. For a quick dip in the cold plunge, go for a colder temperature than 19 C/66.2F. Keep in mind that it should be a comfortable experience. This combination of heat and cold exposure provides a balanced and effective therapy for beginners.

As you become more comfortable with the sauna cold plunge routine, you can gradually increase the duration and intensity of both the sauna and cold plunge sessions. If you feeling very pleased with where you are and want a challange – try an ice bath instead of a cold plunge.

Recovery and Post-Routine Care

After completing your contrast therapy routine, proper recovery is essential to maximise the benefits. Rehydrate with water and electrolyte-rich beverages to replenish lost fluids and nourish your body with a balanced diet to support muscle repair and overall health. Want something electrolyte-rich that warms you up – try a cup of bone broth!

Finally, ensure you get enough rest to allow your immune, nervous system, and entire body to recover and heal, enhancing the benefits of sauna cold plunge therapy.

home made electrolyte drink for post sauna revoery

Essential Tips for a Safe and Effective Contrast Therapy Routine

This section shares essential tips for a safe and effective sauna cold plunge routine, including hydration, gradual progression, and listening to your body’s signals.

Hydration is vital to a successful sauna cold plunge routine. Make sure to drink plenty of water.

Hydration and Nutrition

Staying well-hydrated and consuming a balanced diet is crucial for a successful sauna cold plunge routine. Hydration helps flush out toxins and replenish electrolytes. At the same time, proper nutrition gives your body the necessary nutrients to repair and rebuild.

Make it a priority to drink plenty of water and electrolytes before, during, and after your sessions, and consume various fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, brown fat, and whole grains to support your body’s needs. Wellness shots are a fast, effective way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs after a sauna. If you want to learn more, have a look at my wellness shot guide.

Gradual Progression

Gradually increasing the intensity hot temperature and duration of your sauna and cold plunge sessions is critical to minimizing risks and maximizing benefits.

Start with shorter sessions and build up over time, allowing your body to adjust to the temperature changes and avoid potential injuries or health issues.

By progressing slowly and consistently, you’ll be able to safely push your body’s boundaries and unlock the full potential of this transformative therapy.

Listening to Your Body

Paying attention to your body’s signals and adjusting your routine is vital for a safe and effective contrast therapy experience. If you feel discomfort, fatigue, or other signs of distress, take a break or modify the intensity of your sauna session.

Your body’s response is your best guide, so listen to its cues and adapt your routine to ensure you’re getting the most out of your sauna cold plunge therapy.

Equipment and Facilities: Choosing the Right Setup for Your Sauna Cold Plunge Routine

The right equipment and facilities can make or break your contrast therapy experience. This section guides you through choosing the perfect setup for your routine, including home sauna options and cold plunge setups.

By selecting the right equipment and facilities, such as a steam room, you’ll be well on your way to reaping the many benefits of sauna and cold plunge therapy. I have a great post about saunas vs. steam rooms if you want to learn more.

Home Sauna Options

Having a home sauna can provide a personalized and convenient experience. Home sauna options include portable saunas, sauna tents, and barrel saunas, each offering different levels of affordability and customization.

By selecting the best home sauna option for your needs and budget, you’ll enjoy the benefits of a sauna without even having to leave home. I have a guide to sauna choices for at home here.

at home infrared sauna

Cold Plunge Setups

Depending on your preferences and budget, cold plunge setups can range from natural water bodies to ice baths and freezer chests. While some people prefer the refreshing experience of natural water bodies, others may opt for the convenience and control of an ice bath or freezer chest.

Whichever option you choose, please ensure that the temperature and setup meet the guidelines for a safe and effective cold plunge experience.

The image below is an example of a very cost-effective portable ice bath, i have a run down on at-home ice baths here. I have used a large range of portable ice baths, and you’d be surprised at how effective and easy they are to set up so you can get started right away.

a range of portable ice baths are available

Enhancing Your Sauna Cold Plunge Experience

While the sauna cold plunge routine offers numerous benefits, incorporating additional elements can further enhance your experience.

This section explores breathing exercises and accessories that can improve your comfort and convenience during sauna cold plunge sessions, providing an even more enjoyable and beneficial experience.

Breathing Exercises

Incorporating breathing exercises during your contrast therapy can significantly enhance relaxation and improve overall benefits. Focusing on deep, controlled breathing or holding your breath during the hot sauna cold plunge, can heighten your awareness and better connect with your body’s sensations.

Practising conscious breathing, such as taking deep breaths, can help you clear your mind, stay present, and fully immerse yourself in the therapeutic experience.

Elevate Your Sauna Cold Plunge Experience with Essential Accessories

With the right accessories, you can amplify the therapeutic effects and ensure a ritual you’ll eagerly anticipate every time. Here’s how to take your sauna and cold plunge to a whole new level:

Sauna Hats:

Often overlooked, these hats ensure your head stays cooler, letting you stay in the sauna longer and benefit from prolonged exposure without discomfort.

Fun fact: In many cultures, especially in places like Russia, wearing a sauna hat is a fundamental part of the sauna ritual!

Luxury Towels:

Think beyond the basic. Soft, absorbent towels not only wick away sweat in the sauna or water post-plunge but also enhance your overall sense of relaxation. Feeling the plush material against your skin adds a touch of luxury to the experience.

Essential Oils:

Elevate your senses by adding drops of your favourite essential oils to your sauna. Eucalyptus, for instance, can clear up sinuses and add a refreshing scent. It also has many health benefits. See my article about it here.

Lavender can further relax and calm your mind. The aromatic ambiance significantly amplifies the therapeutic nature of your session.

essential oils can add many health benefits to your sauna experience

Calming Music or Guided Meditation:

Introducing sound therapy can transform your sauna or cold plunge into a holistic wellness retreat. Whether you’re tuning into calming frequencies, your favourite relaxing playlist, or a meditation guide, sound can profoundly enhance the immersive experience.

Some fantastic apps are available to keep you on track and guide you through a valuable meditation experience.

Bench Cushions & Backrests:

It might seem trivial, but these add an extra layer of comfort to your sauna sessions. By providing support and cushioning, they allow for prolonged sessions without any discomfort.

Hydration Station:

Keep a water bottle with electrolytes nearby. Given the amount of sweating in a sauna, staying hydrated is paramount. Having your hydration source within arm’s reach ensures you’re replenishing those lost fluids, making for a safer and more beneficial experience.

Did You Know? A study from the ‘University of Eastern Finland‘ suggested that regular sauna sessions can lead to improved endurance performance. T

his can translate to increased energy and stamina in daily activities, from work tasks to recreational sports. Incorporating sauna sessions into your routine could give you that much-needed vitality boost.

In essence, while the sauna and cold plunge provide the core benefits, it’s these thoughtful additions that transform the experience from ordinary to extraordinary.

two ladies enjoying their sauna - preparing for contrast therapy

Adapting the Sauna Cold Plunge Routine for Specific Needs

Everyone is unique, and adapting the sauna cold plunge routine to suit your needs and preferences is crucial for achieving optimal results. In this section, we’ll discuss how to adjust the duration and intensity of your sessions and add exercise and stretching into your routine to ensure a tailored and practical sauna experience.

When it comes to duration, it’s crucial to find a balance between the amount of time and the amount of time it takes.

Adjusting Duration and Intensity

Tailoring the duration and intensity of your sauna cold plunge sessions to your individual preferences and fitness levels ensures optimal results. Here are some tips to follow:

  1. Start with shorter sauna sessions and cold plunges.
  2. Gradually increase the duration and intensity over time.
  3. Always listen to your body and make adjustments as needed.

Following these tips, you can customize your sauna cold plunge sessions to suit your needs and achieve the best results.

By customizing your routine this way, you can safely and effectively harness the power of heat and cold for your unique needs.

Incorporating Exercise and Stretching

Exercise and stretching into your sauna cold plunge routine can enhance recovery and overall health benefits. Engaging in light bodyweight movements or sports between sauna and cold plunge sessions can help improve circulation, blood flow improved circulation, and muscle recovery.

I have only recently started adding stretching after my contrast sessions and found it has helped increase flexibility and reduce nerve tension, especially in my lower back.

stretching is great to combine with your sauna and cold plunge therapy

Precautions and Contraindications

While sauna, cold showers and plunge therapy can provide numerous benefits, it’s essential to be aware of potential risks and contraindications. In this section, we’ll discuss medical conditions and why it’s so important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a routine.

It is important to note that sauna, cold water immersion and plunge therapy may not suit everyone.

Medical Conditions and Pregnancy

Certain medical conditions, such as cardiovascular or respiratory issues, and pregnancy may require caution or avoiding sauna, cold therapy or plunge therapy. It’s essential to be aware of any existing health concerns and to consult a healthcare professional before beginning a sauna or cold therapy or plunge routine. Ensuring a safe and effective experience is vital to getting the most out of this therapy.

Consulting a Healthcare Professional

Before starting a sauna cold plunging or plunge routine, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional to ensure safety and suitability for your individual needs. A healthcare professional can tailor their advice based on your specific needs, check for potential risks or contraindications, and guide how long and how often you should engage in sauna cold plunging or plunge therapy.

It is important to remember that sauna cold plunge therapy is unsuitable for everyone.


Ready for a game-changer in wellness?

Sauna warms and soothes, while that cold plunge jolts you back to life!

Remember: Hydrate like never before; listen to your body’s tune.

Want to amp up the thrill? Breathe deep, deck in cozy gear, and TRY AN ICE BATH.

Dive into this exhilarating wellness routine – it’s not just about health; it’s about living the vibe! 🔥❄️💪🎉 🔥❄️🕺

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the ideal sequence for a sauna and cold water plunge?

Kickstart with a sauna session, then transition into an icy water plunge or bath. The sauna warms your body, priming it for the cold plunge, enhancing blood flow, and relaxing muscles.

This hot-cold duo can diminish inflammation, elevate circulation, and strengthen the immune system. It’s also a remedy for stress and can enhance sleep quality. Improved blood flow further augments overall health.

How long should a beginner cold plunging?

Aim for three minutes in the water for a beginner cold plunge and gradually build up to five minutes. Listen to your body and don’t overdo it – start with 30 seconds and work up to 10-15 minutes.

This will help you develop a tolerance to cold temperatures.

How long should you sauna and cold plunge for?

You should spend no more than 2 to 5 minutes in ice bath or a cold plunge and another 12 to 15 minutes in a sauna. The cold plunge should be cold shock uncomfortable but safe, colder than 19 C/66.2F for beginners.

While sauna therapy should last for 15 to 30 minutes.

What are the benefits of sauna cold plunge therapy?

Sauna cold plunge therapy is a great way to improve vascular support and overall health, reduce inflammation joint and muscle pain, and enhance mood and circulation.

Give it a try today for a better you tomorrow!

What temperature should the sauna and cold plunge be?

The optimal temperature for a sauna: 85 C/185F. For cold plunges: Aim for 19 C/66.2F. Ice Baths: 10 C to 15 C (50 F to 59 F).