Tips for cold plunge

A few years ago I saw some women on my Instagram feed wading into the icy Atlantic ocean in January. Compelled by this practice and craving some community during what felt like an isolating time, I reached out and asked to join them for a Boston-area cold plunge. Now, three years later, cold water immersion has become a regular practice for me.

And I’m not the only one. There’s no doubt that cold water immersion is trending. Cold tubs and ocean plunges are all over social media boasting both physical and mental health benefits. Experiencing these benefits is what drives me to continue to plunge! I have found that my ability to manage the physical stress of the cold has increased my ability to manage emotional stress when it comes my way. And as a working mom of five, stress management is key! 

If you’re cold-water curious and thinking about taking the plunge, here are some tips and resources to help you prepare — plus 10 places to try cold plunging in the Boston area!

The prep

1. Consult your doctor. This is always the first piece of advice I give. Everyone’s health situation is different, and your doctor will be able to discuss your individual medical background and determine if cold water immersion is a safe practice for you.

2. Do your homework. There is a growing body of research out there about cold water immersion. There are also many anecdotal stories about the benefits of cold exposure. Some great practitioners and researchers to check out are Wim Hof, Susanna Soeberg, and Andrew Huberman.

3. Connect with a cold water group. If you are looking to find a community of cold plunge enthusiasts, social media is a great place to turn. Groups on Instagram like @ebb.and.flow.collective and @whwolfpack, or Boston Irish Dippers on Facebook, share community dip times and resources. Use hashtags like #coldexposure and #coldplunge to begin your search.

4. Try cold showering. Before taking the plunge, it can be helpful to prepare your body by beginning with cold showers. Start by turning the temperature down for the last 15 seconds, then gradually increase time and tolerance.

5. Pack your bag. It’s important to be prepared for the elements and to have all you’ll need pre and post dip. My bag is packed with a robe, hat, towel, neoprene booties and mittens, a thermometer, a watch or timer, a change of warm clothes (loose sweatpants and sweatshirt), and slippers. (OK, there’s usually some dark chocolate in there, too!)

The plunge

1. Bring a buddy — especially if you’re headed to a natural body of water. Even if they don’t plan to dip with you, having another person present increases safety.

2. Go slowly and intentionally into (and out of) the water. Often you see polar plunges where folks race in and out of the water, but going slowly helps your body to acclimate and calm itself.

3. Inhale and exhale. Activate your parasympathetic nervous system with deep, slow belly breathing.

4. Start small. Limit your time in the water as you acclimate to the practice — 30 seconds to a minute at a time. Listen to your body and respect its limits.

5. Be mindful of the after drop. Even after getting out of the water, your core temperature can continue to drop. It’s important to take off your wet gear and get into warm, dry clothes. I like to have warm tea ready to sip and help with internal rewarming.

6. Celebrate yourself and your bravery! 

Where to cold plunge in Boston

1. Kelo Spa & Steam Newton

2. IV League South Boston

3. Healthworks Cambridge

4. SweatHouz Assembly Row

5. SweatHouz Burlington

6. SweatHouz South Boston

7. Life Time Chestnut Hill

8. Life Time Northshore

9. The Spa at Encore Boston Harbor

10. Any local open body of water! Popular spots for local groups include M Street Beach and Castle Island in South Boston, Couch Beach in Marshfield, Devereux Beach in Marblehead, Nantasket Beach in Hull, and Walden Pond in Lincoln.

As Boston moms, winters can be challenging, but embracing the cold plunge practice has brought me a newfound gratitude for this season and all its icy beauty. If you’re ready to take the plunge, it might just do the same for you!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, and this is not medical advice.


Dr. Danielle Ricci
Danielle Ricci was lucky enough to grow up in Salisbury, MA with the beach as her playground. Danielle received her B.A. in English and Studio Arts at Stonehill College where she pitched for their softball team. She earned her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and her Ph.D. in Leadership in Schooling from UMass Lowell. Danielle is currently a high school principal where her background as an athlete has helped her to keep the concept of teamwork at the heart of her practice. Her expertise and research is in cultivating collaborative cultures. Danielle currently lives in Merrimac, MA with her husband and five children - Abigail (2015), Grace (2017), Emilia (2020), and twins Madelyn and Ryan (2023)! When she's not juggling life as a working mom, Danielle loves listening to audiobooks, writing, walking, visiting MLB baseball parks, and cold-water exposure - yes, she swims in the Atlantic year-round!


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