CHARLOTTE — Amid Tuesday’s first international players’ press conference at the Presidents Cup, Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz threw out an intriguing detail when asked how he mentally prepared for a matchplay event like this.
“I’ve been training my mind a little bit,” he said, “by trying to do some ice jumps and getting into awkward situations and being able to hold on there just to be able to push, just to be able to do that in the To be able to know I’m not as fragile as I might think.”
That’s right – Munoz regularly undergoes full-body immersions in ice-cold water.
“It’s like a new hobby I’ve picked up in the last month or so,” he said. “Instagram showed it enough that I decided to give it a try.”
Beyond Instagram, the impetus for Munoz to attempt ice jumping came from an episode of Joe Rogan’s podcast when Rogan met neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman interviewed. When Munoz started the process, he couldn’t stick his foot in for more than 45 seconds, but now he can last five minutes while his whole body rests in 45-degree water.
“You’re kind of able to push your boundaries little by little until you’re more comfortable with the situation,” he said.
Munoz, 29, went so far as to buy a cold water plunge pool that saves him from using real ice and allows him to set the temperature exactly where he wants it.
“By staying there 12 minutes a week, you increase your dopamine by 250 percent,” he said, “so it makes you happier.” And I agree. I find it hardest in the morning and after that makes the day easy.”
In an article published earlier this year, The New York Times explored the idea that cold water incursions can improve mental and physical health. The technique was developed by Wim Hof, a fitness trainer and athlete, and was also featured on Netflix. Although new to the field of mental health, cold water therapy has been used for physical ailments since at least Greek times. While no studies have yet shown that this therapy alone can improve mental health, early research has shown that there may be psychological benefits, including mood improvement, and anecdotal data suggests it may help with depression and anxiety. However, there are also associated risks, as the Times reported:
The initial shock of being immersed in ice-cold water can cause cardiac arrhythmias and heart attacks. The risk of arrhythmias is elevated when people hold their faces under water while experiencing that initial “cold shock.” The combination activates opposite branches of the nervous system that send conflicting signals to the heart. Cold shock too triggers the wheeze reflex, followed by hyperventilation. If your airways are submerged, it can cause drowning. The risk of drowning is increased by the fact that you are a fast swimmer in cold water leads to exhaustion.
More research is needed – no one is quite sure why it works when it works — but chances are Munoz is on to something with this eccentric new practice.