Is The DIY Plunge Pool the New Hot Tub? Wellness At Home In 2021

Most of us are working from home these days and doing all that we can to reimagine the spaces we once only slept and ate in as gyms, conference rooms and homeschool classrooms. It’s no surprise to hear that home renovations of all kinds are on the rise!

One trend in home design has caught our attention. It’s a low-tech, high-vibe DIY for the backyard that’s caught on thanks to those like former guest editor, Laird Hamilton who promote the benefits of cold therapy: the DIY plunge pool.

Angela O’Brien is the founder and designer behind sustainable California brand, Cleobella. We’ve been fans of the responsibly-made bohemian brand for years and, when Angela invited us into her newly updated backyard we jumped at the chance. The first thing we noticed? Her DIY plunge pool as demonstrated above by her wellness-minded husband.

Here’s a bit about how and why Angela and her husband have turned their backyard into the at-home wellness retreat they were craving… 

Angela, your backyard seems like a wellness lover’s heaven. At what point last year did you decide to turn your outdoor space into a full-on wellness escape? 

We’ve lived in Bali, Indonesia for 4-5 months out of the year over the last 14 years. Our home in Bali is in Canggu, an epicenter for health and wellness. Down the street from our home is a spa with a sauna, steam room, two cold pools, and a hot tub!

Because we are not able to travel to Bali due to the pandemic, we wanted to emulate the experience we miss so much here at our home in California. We feel very fortunate to be able to use our own outdoor space as a sacred place to meditate, ice plunge and sauna everyday. Watching our children participate and witness us being mindful in self-care is something I hope they will carry with them as they get older.

Let’s talk about the plunge pool! What made you decide to add one to your outdoor space? 

My husband is a surfer and he’s much more comfortable in ice water than I am.  He’s surfed around the world chasing waves and oftentimes surfs with no wetsuit to feel the benefits of cold therapy.

Years ago, he introduced me to Wim Hoff’s method of cold therapy through a Vice interview. It really resonated with me as I’ve struggled with autoimmune issues for the last 20 years of my life.

I’ve found that when my nerves are overstimulated, ice is the only therapy that will bring me back to my body and do intense healing that I can feel instantly.

What benefits have you two experienced since adding the cold and hot therapy to your space? 

Cold therapy from our DIY plunge pool relieves any aches and pains and relaxes my body to sleep well and recharge. Combined with Kundalini deep breathing, cold plunge is a mental battle that, when I break through, often gives me a natural high. If I have extra time in my evening I do the cold plunge, then end with a warm salt bath and then lights out. I wake up feeling rested with intense energy and clarity. Then I start my day with meditation. 

As a designer, and as anyone who makes a living from their creative work knows, creativity can be very dependent on mood, when I’m feeling good, that’s when I’m truly in alignment and creating my best work from a space of clear intention.

Cold therapy motivates me in every area of mind, body and spiritual wellness. Studies have shown that cold therapy… 

-Boosts your immune system.
-Combats inflammation and arthritis with anti-inflammatory benefits.
-Boosts your metabolism and helps with weight loss.
-Improves circulation.
-Promotes lymphatic drainage.
-Stimulate the vagus nerve.
-Increases thermogenesis.
-Heightens your discipline and focus.

Tell us how you use the cold therapy as part of your routine: 

I take cold baths and then jump into our sauna in the evening before bed. I love combining hot and cold together as a tool for combating inflammation and releasing toxins.

My husband and I both like to head to the sauna for 15-20 mins, then the cold plunge for 5-10 mins, and then back to the hot for 20 mins.  Some days we like to start off the day feeling great and other days we go in before bed to kickstart amazing sleep.

Can you walk us through building the tub and include some notes on materials and sourcing? 

Angela O’Brien: My husband had been researching cold tub solutions, but the only routes he’d found were buying a commercial ice machine and filling up a horse trough or building out a freezer. While both can work, we had just remodeled our home and neither option seemed aesthetically appealing. The freezer option also seemed dangerous with young children!

A friend of ours introduced us to Bill Bachand who also shared an interest in cold therapy. Bill had made a personal cold plunge prototype in his warehouse and wanted to build more. He built us what would be his first home model in founding his business, Renu Therapy. He now makes beautiful cold tubs in different sizes and customizations. The plug-in electric tub he built for us has a chiller that keeps the water cold, ours sits around 38 degrees! There is an oxygen filter to keep the water clean and a filter to keep the debris out. It’s perfect for our needs!

What are your tips for cold plunge first-timers? Do your friends end up braving the plunge pool when they come over? 

Breathe and focus! It is a challenge every time. The first 30 seconds are the most challenging and most first timers seize up and don’t breathe. You must do the opposite, breathe and focus the mind.

We’ve had many friends on this journey with us and one friend who was convinced they couldn’t do it eventually stayed in for 5 minutes. When he got out he expressed that it was the deepest meditation he had ever been in.

It’s now becoming a part of gatherings with friends, we’ve had many afternoons lounging in the backyard and rotating between cold and hot. It’s an intimate experience and a healthy activity to do together.

Cold therapy and DIY plunge pools aren’t for everyone, but we get the appeal and love how much the therapy is helping some deal with pain, inflammation, immunity and sleep. How do you feel about the wellness trend? 

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