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22 January 2024
Post originally written in: Deutsch Information An automatic machine translation. Super fast and almost perfect.

Ice bathing is all the rage - hard to miss on social media, where influencers plunge into ice-cold mountain streams, frozen lakes or simply into ice baths. Afterwards, they rave about physical fitness, mental strength and relaxation at the same time. Even among my own family and friends, there are more and more followers of this trend. My mother-in-law, for example, who lives by the North Sea, ventures into the ice baths even in winter. As someone who panics at the thought of a cold shower, I was curious. What is this trend all about? What do you have to bear in mind when ice bathing? Who is it suitable for? So I met up with Marie-Luise Müller, a trained stress mentor and health expert who offers ice bathing and stress reduction workshops in our beautiful city of Innsbruck.

From professional sport to self-discovery: A new start without pressure

Marie's career began as a professional figure skater, and as is the case in professional sport, she was under enormous pressure to always be successful. "My life was well-paced. I never had to think about what I wanted to do, it was always clear: school, training and competition," Marie remembers. After an injury, however, she was forced to reorient herself, which she found difficult at first. "I remember when friends asked me if I wanted to come to squash and I just thought to myself: Why? Is it effective and will it get me closer to a goal?" She embarked on a search for something that had true meaning for her. Where she didn't have to be flawless and effective or perform at her best, but something that simply fulfilled her - sport in harmony with a healthy body, without stress and without insanely high demands on herself.

From the far north to alpine waters

Marie's journey to ice bathing began during a two-month stay in Norway, where she camped in the wild. Without a shower nearby, she washed herself in the ice-cold water of streams, lakes and fjords. It was an icy experience, but she quickly realized how much energy it gave her. Washing in the cold water in the morning became a ritual. "I felt so awake and full of energy," says Marie, "at first I also did it in the evening, but I found it harder to fall asleep afterwards. I was just too awake and full of energy." During her stay, she met a like-minded person by chance. Together with her new friend, she celebrated the icy bath. "We stayed in the water until we started shivering." Back in Innsbruck, she initially enjoyed the warm shower, but quickly felt that she was missing the energetic kick of the cold water and the subsequent relaxation.

Tips from the stress mentor

Thank goodness there are plenty of opportunities to plunge into the cold waters around the Alpine metropolis. "I try to go ice swimming once or twice a week in winter and two to three times a week in summer," says the qualified health trainer. She shares her specialist knowledge at her popular workshops but more on that later. Ice bathing is also supposed to reduce stress. That's why we talked about stress, among other things. A topic that I, like many people, probably struggle with a lot. I find it hard to relax. My head is constantly rattling. When I'm doing one thing, I'm already thinking about the next. I often find it hard to concentrate. This makes me feel stressed and overwhelmed. So it was obvious that once I had a trained stress mentor sitting in front of me, I would take a closer look. What can you do to avoid stress?

Set priorities

"Anti-stress" and "stress is bad" are internal attitudes that we impose on ourselves. It starts with the fact that we can't avoid stress," explains Marie. "Imagine you didn't care about anything. Well, then nothing would stress you out, but nothing would mean anything either. It's okay to be stressed. It's just about dealing with it. There are so-called push phases in life in which you give it everything you've got, you zone out and work hard towards a goal - be it an important competition, an exam or that long-awaited promotion. The important thing is that a phase of tension is followed by relaxation! A good start is to become aware of your priorities. What is important to me in life?" That sounds very reassuring to me at first. I'm glad that Marie is so down-to-earth and clear. It's good to hear that you don't have to be an enlightened being who is in 'zen mode' all the time. It's okay to be stressed sometimes, you just have to find the right tools for yourself to deal with it.

Relaxing through meditation

Anyone looking for such tools can definitely try meditation alongside ice bathing (preferably in combination). Marie also takes a very relaxed approach to this topic. When I ask her whether you can use meditation apps or YouTube videos, she answers simply: "Sure, you can try everything out and then see what you like and what works for you." I am impressed by her calm, friendly manner. Compared to some self-proclaimed life coaches and mindfulness trainers who claim that their method is the only right one, I feel much more comfortable with someone like Marie, who is open to different paths and approaches. She also has extensive knowledge and solid training. So the conditions couldn't be better for meditating with her and then jumping in at the deep end.

Why ice bathing?

To relieve stress, for an energy boost, to feel better. There are many reasons why you should try ice bathing at least once. One important aspect is health. The cold water during ice bathing causes the blood vessels to contract, the blood is centered and the internal organs are much better supplied with blood. Ice bathing is a perfect cardiovascular workout. It has also been proven to reduce inflammation levels in the body and strengthen the immune system. It is said to convert (bad) white fat into (good) beige fat, has a stimulating effect on the mitochondria and is good mindfulness training.

Ice bathing is generally possible for almost everyone- with only a few exceptions. However, you must be of legal age to take part in a workshop with Marie. People who have health concerns should definitely speak to a doctor beforehand. This applies in particular to people with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, circulatory and wound healing disorders or diabetes.

Well prepared

You should also prepare yourself for ice bathing. "I recommend short hot and cold alternating showers," explains Marie. "Start at the bottom of your right foot and work your way up your legs, then do the same on your left side. Then it's the right arm's turn - start at the hand and end at the upper arm/shoulder, followed by the left side. Then it's the back's turn and finally the chest and stomach. Concentrated breathing is important. I recommend breathing in for two seconds and out for two." At this point, I would like to praise myself a little. As I mentioned at the beginning, the cold shower was quite a challenge for me. But after the third attempt, I noticed how it became easier and I felt really good afterwards.

Better with an expert than alone

I myself have only ever enjoyed an ice bath once - if you can even call it that. On New Year's Day, I ventured into the quarry pond for a few seconds without any preparation. It was cool - in the truest sense of the word - but I didn't feel much of the benefits I mentioned earlier. I am convinced that it makes sense to be accompanied by an expert like Marie, at least for the first time. Ice swimming together with a group of like-minded people is certainly a wonderful experience. "I start by imparting knowledge to the participants. This usually takes between 30 and 45 minutes. Depending on the weather and how the group is feeling, one or two ice baths follow, alternating with meditation exercises," Marie explains.

Safety First

If you want to embark on the adventure of ice bathing, there are a few important points to bear in mind. In addition to the health requirements already mentioned and the recommended preparation by taking alternating showers, it is crucial never to go ice bathing alone. "It is an absolutely extreme situation for our bodies. No Stone Age man would ever have voluntarily stepped into icy water. So we are going against our natural instincts," explains Marie. The choice of water also plays an important role; it goes without saying that it shouldn't be a raging river. Places that are too remote are also not ideal. Simply jumping into the water is an absolute no-go. Marie recommends going in calmly.

I hope I was able to introduce you to ice bathing. In any case, Marie has aroused my curiosity and I will certainly try it out again. For details of her workshops, what you need, where and when they take place, please visit her website.

Further information

Marie-Luise Müller, B.A.
Email: office@marie-movement.com

More wellness and relaxation in Innsbruck can be found here.

My fellow bloggers Monica and Chris havealso published interesting stories about wellness.

Cover picture: © Marie-Luise Müller

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