I Tried to Replicate Lizzo's $5,000 Ice Bath in My NYC Apartment

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

I tried it: ice bath

Verywell / Michela Buttignol

In the name of wellness, celebrities are paying top dollar to sit in cold water.

The more influencers post about the mental and physical benefits of routine cold plunging, the trendier and costlier ice baths get. Take Lizzo’s Cold Plunge tub, for example. It costs $4,990 to keep water circulating at 39°F. But that’s nothing compared to Joe Rogan’s $16,000 BlueCube Cold Plunge Tub. Prefer to leave home for a plunge? A wellness club like the Kardashian-beloved Remedy Place, which features an ice bath studio, will cost you $595 per month.

Cold water immersion—sometimes referred to as an ice bath or a cold plunge—is supposed to help combat soreness after exercise. And that’s the only benefit experts are sure about.

For one week, I took an ice bath in my New York City apartment to see what it’s like and if it’s easy to replicate day after day. While I didn’t come out on the other side feeling any more zen, alert, or athletic, I will say this: It was easy and cheap to do. Do not let wealthy people trick you into thinking cold water is exclusive.

I could replicate and sustain the same temperatures of Lizzo’s tub by spending $2.82 on an 8-pound bag of ice—though that doesn’t mean I should.

Here’s how it worked, and what I would do differently after talking to experts well-versed in cold water immersion therapy.

Colder Doesn't Mean Better

The goal of cold water immersion is to reduce blood flow just enough to reduce the muscle damage that can happen up to six hours after a hard workout, Malachy McHugh, PhD, director of research at the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in New York City, told Verywell.

He explained that an ice bath can decrease the blood flow to your limbs and extremities. As a result, the metabolism of those muscles and tissues decreases too. By slowing down these processes, you can prevent some of that muscle damage from setting in, translating to less soreness the next day.

I’m no stranger to ice baths for athletic recovery. I relied on them weekly in college during each track season when competitions became more frequent. Back then, I was a spoiled D1 athlete with access to a training room, metal tubs equipped with thermometers, and unlimited ice. I was basically Lizzo.

Setting up an ice bath at home is a different story. There’s no definitive protocol. In fact, research on cold water immersion is comically mixed when it comes to how cold to make the water or how long to stay in.

In the absence of official guidance, I reached out to my physical therapist’s office to see how cool they keep the cold tub in their facility.

“Our tub is 52°F. Ideally, the temperature is supposed to be 51–59°,” Laura Barreca, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Custom Performance in New York City, told Verywell. “When you go colder than that, it’s actually less effective for recovery.”

To try and hit this range, I filled my tub with cold water for 10 minutes, adding enough ice to get it closer to 50°. Most nights, this only took one 5- or 8-pound bag of ice. When the weather was slightly colder, I accidentally overshot and was able to keep the tub at 47° without adding any ice at all.

Efficiency Tip

I learned I could make the tub as cold as possible as quickly as possible by adding ice in the middle of the fill-up process, allowing it to disseminate with a sort of whirlpool effect. The coldest temperature I hit with this method was 40°—just about the lowest temperature available with the expensive Plunge tub.

Grinning and bearing it below 50° didn’t do me any favors. McHugh said the suggested 51–59° range allows for optimal control of perfusion—the passage of blood to tissue. If the water is too cold, perfusion won’t happen at all, and neither will recovery.

What It’s Like to Take an Ice Bath

Barreca and McHugh each recommended capping cold water immersion sessions at 10 to 15 minutes. Any longer and you risk the beginning of hypothermia. Any shorter and your internal temperature won’t drop enough for you to reap the benefits. Your blood vessels need time to constrict enough to slow blood flow to your muscles and kickstart the repair process.

I did 10 minutes, and that’s about how long you should start with if you’ve never done it before.

Getting in the ice-cold tub isn’t the worst, but getting past the first 60 to 90 seconds is the hardest part.

Once I cleared that first hurdle, I was able to stop clenching my body. I relaxed enough to let my thighs and pelvis fully fall beneath the water’s surface for the rest of my session.

Enter a feeling of numbness: an acute type of cold that is possible to manage but impossible to ignore. Maybe if I were in a luxury tub, I would attempt to embrace this part of the process as meditative. But as a reminder: I was in my apartment’s bathtub. It was not fun, and took a lot of willpower to get from one minute to the next.

Stepping out of the tub brought a feeling of weightlessness in my legs. It also wrecked my circulation. I have Raynaud’s syndrome, and even a little bit of cold exposure causes the blood vessels in my fingers to constrict, turning them yellowish-white. It’s quite painful, and takes about an hour at room temperature to resolve on its own. I can speed up the process with a hot shower—which I did after each ice bath.

Who Shouldn't Take an Ice Bath?

Raynaud’s syndrome means I am not a good candidate for cold water immersion. I took on this challenge because I have experience with ice baths and am able to manage my condition. Barreca said that at Custom Performance, people with the following conditions are discouraged from getting in the cold tub, as are pregnant people and kids:

  • Hypersensitivity to cold
  • Abnormal or altered skin sensation
  • Impaired circulation
  • Open wounds
  • Cardiac disease
  • Peripheral vascular disease

Though my legs felt fresh immediately after each ice bath, I’m sad to report cold water immersion is not a cure for injuries or any nagging issues. I couldn’t ice away my hamstring strain. The main thing I noticed was what didn’t happen during the week I was taking my ice baths. The lower body soreness I consistently experience the day after a particular workout class never came.

Based on the limited published research on humans and cold exposure after exercise, this feeling of muscle relief checks out. While there’s no solid evidence to show cold water immersion gets rid of something measurable like inflammation levels, a recent meta-analysis of 20 studies concludes it allows for improvement in all things subjective, like second-day soreness and perceived exertion.

I wondered if adding an ice bath to my daily routine could make me more focused or relaxed throughout the week—it didn’t. While there are a lot of claims, there’s no reliable, valid research on the link between deliberate cold exposure and cognition as of right now.

Daily Ice Baths Were Not a Good Use of My Time

For the most part, I was eager for my week of self-inflicted torture to be over. But a small part of me wondered: If I did this every day, theoretically, I’d be pain-free more often, right? If the point of cold water immersion is to stave off muscle damage after a workout, why not do it after every workout and prevent that damage from ever happening?

Don’t do that, McHugh said. It feels good, but it’s a time suck without enough research to warrant making it a lifestyle.

“The problem with ice baths is that while literature shows they work, they don’t work a lot,” he said. Based on how muscles degrade after exercise, he thinks cold water immersion would be much more effective if people committed to jumping in the tub for 15 minutes immediately after exercise, waiting for 45 minutes, and then repeating the process twice more.

“That’s going to get you much more bang for your buck, but who’s going to do that?” he said. “That’s just not practical.”

While I eschewed any state-of-the-art cold tubs for the sake of this frugal experiment, Barreca said cold plunge tubs like Lizzo’s have their place for newbies who may not be able to carefully monitor or adjust their water temperature at home in a regular bathtub. This doesn’t have to mean purchasing one yourself. You can find a local physical therapy office that offers cold tub appointments; mine costs $29 per session.

The Final Verdict

Daily at-home ice baths alleviated workout-related soreness in my legs and cost next to nothing. But I definitely didn’t need to do this every day. Relegating the practice to after a particularly hard workout is sufficient.

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Xiao F, Kabachkova AV, Jiao L, Zhao H, Kapilevich LV. Effects of cold water immersion after exercise on fatigue recovery and exercise performance—meta analysisFront Physiol. 2023;14:1006512. doi:10.3389/fphys.2023.1006512

By Anisa Arsenault
Anisa joined the company in 2018 after managing news surrounding fertility, pregnancy, and parenting for The Bump. Her health and wellness articles have appeared in outlets like Prevention and Metro US. At Verywell, she is responsible for the news program, which includes coverage of COVID-19.