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A Super Cool Coping Routine

Photo credit Tae Hoon Kim

A student tests her limits through cold plunge therapy.

Samantha

In these times of uncertainty, we must  find ways to stay calm and collected. Many of us are trying to cope with the stress of the pandemic by changing our daily routine: learning a new skill, exercising more and baking a lot of bread.

Samantha Doyle has an extremely chill way of dealing with the  current  pressures. Once a week, she plunges into the icy water of 30 Foot Pool in Lynn Canyon Park.

“Withstanding extreme forces of cold teaches me that I am capable of more than I think,” said Doyle, who was a professional ballet dancer until she developed chronic pain issues.  “I now know that I am not as limited as my mind used to tell me.”

Samantha portrait Samantha Doyle at Lynn Canyon Park in December 2020. Photo by Tae Hoon Kim.

At  CapU,  the second-year Kinesiology student is president of the “Exercise is Medicine” club. After graduating,  Doyle plans to earn a master’s degree in occupational therapy. She also wants to write a book about her life experiences, “as a way to help others cope with adversity and to spark joy in their lives.”

Earlier this winter, Doyle shared her experience with cold plunge therapy and what it is teaching her. Doyle’s interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Most people don’t think to go for dips in the winter. What inspires you to do it?   

I discovered cold plunge therapy through my personal trainer (who is  a former CapU student). I saw that he and a group of friends were doing this every weekend and I decided to get out of my comfort zone and try it out. I was at a place in my life where I was experiencing high levels of stress. I just needed something that would help me reset my mind and body each week.

Convince a skeptic. Why should they try cold therapy? 

Cold plunge therapy never sounded appealing to me, either. However, cold plunges make me feel like I can do anything, and that feeling is amazing. Sometimes I’ll come to the cold plunge not knowing if I will be able to get myself into the water. Yet, every time I go, my body reminds me that it is capable of more than I think. It’s exhilarating.

Samantha Doyle doing push ups by a river
Doyle warms up before her cold plunge. Photo by Tae Hoon Kim.

Can you please go through your whole process for an icy plunge session?

I get up, and I am usually already cold and wondering why the heck I would put myself through more coldness. Nonetheless, I put on my warm clothes, fill up my water bottle with hot water, which then goes inside my towel (best trick in the book), and then away I go. I meet a group of friends and we indulge in a lovely nature walk down to the natural pool.

Once there, we find our own spots to start our meditation. Everyone has their own meditation ritual, but I usually stick with Wim Hof breathing. This breathing technique oxygenates my system to prepare my body for stress.

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Then it’s time. We all strip down  to our bathing suits and walk right in. The cold hits, and my body is somewhat shocked, but I know this feeling only lasts for about two to three minutes. Then, suddenly, my body feels kind of relaxed. A few friends dunk their heads  in, but I am not ready for that yet.

After about five to 30 minutes, we get out of the water. I get my warm towel out of my bag and put it around me. When we’re done, we hike back up and go for a nice cup of coffee or, for me, hot cocoa. 

I feel so relaxed and grateful and am ready to start the day with a new sense of rejuvenation.

samantha water side Doyle can spend five to 30 minutes in the water during each plunge.
Samantha towel Doyle dries off in a towel after her cold plunge. Photos by Tae Hoon Kim.

Can you please elaborate how it feels when you are in the water?

The first feeling is shock. I start to hyperventilate a little as the freezing cold hits every part of my body. But after about two to three minutes, I feel relaxed. My legs feel like they are burning a bit, but I generally feel like,  “Wow, this isn’t so bad.”

Depending on how cold the water is (during my last dip it was 2 degrees celsius!) my body may start to really shiver. I know it’s time to get out soon when this happens. It is always important to listen to your body. The point of cold therapy is to reap the benefits from it without getting hypothermia.  

How has the therapy benefitted you?   

Cold therapy has changed me a lot. I see so many benefits. It has changed my mindset (from “I can’t” to “I can”), increased my ability to handle daily stressors, improved my circulation, increased  the functioning of my immune system and increased my focus, to name just a few things. I only go once a week, but the benefits are more prominent the more you take part in the practice.

When the pandemic is over will you still go swimming when it’s freezing out?  

I will most definitely still go swimming when the pandemic is over! I have made new friends through cold plunging and to leave the  small community would have no benefit for me.

Samantha Doyle walking across a bridge
Doyle walks across Pipe Bridge on her way to a cold plunge. Photo by Tae Hoon Kim.