Brace yourselves for an invigorating dive into the world of mental resilience and icy self-discovery with a special guest who's making waves – quite literally. In this episode, we explore the captivating journey of Cam Labar, better known as Cold Plunge Cam, as he shares his inspiring tale of overcoming challenges through the chilling depths of ice baths. Cam’s life took an unexpected turn when he stumbled upon the powerful therapy of cold plunges during his search for relief from depression and anxiety. As the conversation unfolds, Cam walks us through his transformative experiences, recounting his initial skepticism, his first ice bath, and the fascinating ripple effects they had on his mental and emotional well-being. From Rubbermaid tubs to natural rivers, Cam's journey highlights his encounters with different cold exposure modalities, revealing the surprising ways these experiences shaped his perspective on life. So, are you ready to take the plunge into a world of chilling self-discovery and mental resilience? Tune in now and learn how embracing the icy depths can lead to a more vibrant and resilient life.
Listen To The Episode Here
Cold Plunge Cam With Cam Labar
We have a very special guest, Cam Labar, widely known as Cold Plunge Cam. Cam started doing cold plunges for himself for his mental health. He was diagnosed when he was a young boy with Tourette's, OCD, and anxiety. Later on in life, he was battling some depression. He needed a way to help combat these symptoms and the emotions he was feeling. He dove deep into cold plunging and did it for himself for about a year or two.
He then wanted to share his story of how great this cold plunge sensation was making him feel. He started posting on Instagram and he has started a huge movement. He's got almost 200,000 followers on Instagram. He's helping so many people with his content. It was an honor to have him on the show. Please welcome Cold Plunge Cam, Cam Labar.
We have a phenomenal guest lined up for you, Cam Labar, better known as Cold Plunge Cam. He has a phenomenal life story. He's helping out so many people with what he's doing, mental health-wise. I'm so excited to dive into his story and it's a pleasure meeting him. This is the first time I'm sitting down with him. Without further ado, Cam, how are you?
I’m doing well. Thank you for having me on. I appreciate it.
Thanks so much for coming on the show. I'm intrigued by your story. This show is pretty much made for people and stories like you that have overcome a lot in life and been through it and saw the other side and they're doing beautiful things with their life. Thanks again for coming on. Cam, where are you from originally?
I am from Southern California, but I’ve grown up all over the place and I lived in New Jersey for about ten years.
Where in New Jersey?
Up in Mahwah, way up there in the Northern County. We were there for about ten years. That's where I spent the majority of my childhood and adolescence. I spent a few years in Utah for school, a couple of years in Chicago for work, and now I'm in Boise, Idaho. I’ve been all over the States.
What was your favorite spot that you lived in so far?
I want to say Boise. The one thing it's missing is my network, my family, my friends, and stuff. I moved up here for work a few years ago. In terms of location, things to do, the seasons, and the size of the town, there are so many good things about it.
It looks fictitious, like an absolute painting sometimes over there in Boise.
Cam, I’ve been following a couple of your videos. When you were nine years old, you were diagnosed with Tourette's, anxiety, and OCD. What was life like growing up for you as a kid?
First thing, it's important to mention I'm very blessed with the support system I had, the family I had, and the parents I had to help me to get help as much as I needed. I had a very great childhood. The time when I had the diagnoses, mostly it was anxiety and Tourette’s and a little bit of OCD that I feel like I’ve grown out of.
Tourette's was the most prominent as a kid and that coincided pretty much right with the time we moved to New Jersey. There were all sorts of changes that happened all at once and it was a shock to me. It took a lot to understand those conditions, but also both the internal and external factors that affected me and those conditions. I was lucky to have the support and resources that I did.
School was hard. It was difficult. It was hard to focus. There were lots of stimuli that made it difficult for me, but I managed and I wouldn't change it for the world because it made me who I am, and I almost see the Tourette’s as a superpower now. It’s the ability to become more self-aware and the experiences that I’ve had.
There are all different levels of Tourette’s. What were some of the things you were experiencing?
Mostly motor tics. I have a little bit of a shrug now with the shoulder here and I have a finger one where I do this a lot. It's not as bad as it used to be and I tend to suppress it a lot and always have, which is why you don't see it a lot in my videos. For some reason, I’ve always had this tendency to suppress in order to survive and then it unwinds aggressively in the off time.
You're able to suppress it when you were with friends in school and everything, but when you got home, it got worse?
I would go off the walls and my four siblings got to experience a lot of that because when I got home, that was the familiar, comfortable environment that I had to be able to decompress and let the tics out. What's interesting about it for me at least is it was very subconscious, the decision to suppress. I didn't knowingly do that. For some reason, from the very beginning, whenever I was in those situations that were a little bit more difficult, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable, I would always quickly turn to suppressing in order to figure out how to adapt.
When you were getting older, was it getting better and you were slowly able to grow out of it? How did that work?
Typically, what you see for most individuals with Tourette's is as you get out of adolescence into more of adulthood, the tics seem to subside a bit. There are still plenty of cases of individuals with Tourette's where it's very lifelong and the tics are there all the time and they don't seem to grow out of them. For me, I do feel like I was more fortunate in the sense that by the time I hit about 18 or 19, the tics pretty much went away. There are still a few that are tied to more of the anxiety and the situations that I'm in, but I don't have them nearly as bad as I did when I was a kid.
Cam, you took your first ice bath a few years ago. It has transformed into such a big thing. It's almost a part of your identity now. You're helping so many people. Was it that drew you towards the ice bath or the cold plunges?
It was my buddy Zach. He was a friend I met at a Tourette's camp that I would help out in the summers. I was a counselor there. We met there and connected. He came to visit one time and he saw how close I lived to the Boise River. He was like, “Do you go in the river at all?” It's like, “No. Sometimes I walk past it.” He's like, “You're crazy. The fact that you're not in there multiple times a week, you're crazy.” He helped me understand and learn about Wim Hof and some of the videos from his days with Seek Discomfort and Yes Theory. Those were the videos that he introduced me to that opened my eyes to cold exposure. It was then that I was like, “I'm going to do my first ice bath.” That was July of 2021.
Was it an actual ice bath or was it jumping in the river?
It was an actual ice bath. I went and bought a 100-gallon Rubbermaid stock tank, which you can find at different supply stores, Ace Hardware, Tractor Supply Co., and places like that. I went and bought one of those for about $100, got 80 pounds of ice at the local gas station, filled it up with a hose, and jumped in and that was the first one.
What was the sensation like on the first plunge you took?
It was pretty similar to what it still is now but less intense. The feelings that I felt originally, there were three main ones. It was a shortness of breath immediately. I can't breathe. It was a tenseness where I was clenching and tensing everything, not relaxed whatsoever. There was a little bit of pain in the extremities, the hands, and the feet, which is normal.
It's not an extremely intense pain, but it's because you have some vasoconstriction that happens where your body's not used to constricting those blood vessels that quickly. When that happens, there's a little bit of pain associated with that. Those were the three things that I experienced right there. The main one was, “I need to breathe. I need to take some time and breathe through this.”
Were you told to stay in for an X amount of time and not get out or were you going to go for as long as you could?
I set my goal that day was five minutes.
That's a long time for your first one.
Looking back now, the temperature was about high 40s. We got it down to about 47 to 48, which is very cold. A good beginner level is about 55 degrees. Mine was a little bit lower than that. A good entry point is 2 to 5 minutes if you can. For folks who are beginning, it's less about time and more about allowing yourself to be in there long enough to regain control. When you're able to get in there, gain control of your breathing, relax a little bit, and feel like you are in control, it’s the perfect time to get out and there's no reason to stay in long.
That's very interesting that you said that. Regaining control. Don't get out all frazzled. It's all about regaining that composure. Interesting. What were the sensations like? How did you feel after the first bath? Were you like, “This is awesome, that was crazy?” How were you feeling after the first one? Did you notice some therapeutic effects right away?
Pretty immediately. Within the first few minutes, it was very much an adrenaline-energy type of feeling where I was much more energetic. I was much more awake, alert, and everything like that. What was interesting was over the next few hours, it turned into a sustained feeling of relaxation, calmness, mental clarity, and mood improvement and feeling calm and reset. It’s like when you wake up from a good nap. My brain's not going 1 million miles an hour. I feel like I'm here. I'm in the moment. It felt fantastic.
Come to find out that that's exactly what happens to folks. For 2, 3, or 4 hours afterwards, there's a dopamine response that happens at the beginning where your dopamine goes up a lot. Some studies say between 200% and 300%. That's a big joke to have in a sustained release or sustained effect of that over time. That became something that was like, “I need this.”
How was your mental state before that cold plunge? How was life? Was it very overwhelming, were you in a good spot, or were you like, “I need to do something to change this because it's not good?”
Pretty overwhelming was where I was at the time. I had taken a new job up in up here in Boise, Idaho and it was 2020. I was about a year into it. I was in the beginning stages of this depression that I had started to experience. I was trying all sorts of things to figure out how to fix it because in my experience growing up especially, I felt a certain way. I need to start tweaking some things to figure out how to get better.
If my tics are starting to increase when I play video games, maybe I need to play less video games. It became that same type of discussion with myself when the depression hit where I was like, “Why am I feeling this way? What can I do to try and fix this?” It was the beginning of this quest to try anything and everything to feel better and feel like I wasn't always in this paralyzed mood that kept me from being happy ever.
Where did it go after your first ice bath? Was that something you wanted to revisit the next day or did you take one a couple of weeks later? How did it work?
It was a few days later. It was probably 2 or 3 days later where I was like, “I'm doing it again.” Anytime I would travel, I would put that 100-gallon stock tank in the back of my car and I'd take it with me places if I needed to travel. It turned into a very consistent therapy tool for me. Not just because of the way it would make me feel in the 2 to 3 hours afterwards.
I saw it as this controlled stress environment where I could start to practice my responses to external stimuli, difficult conversations with people, confrontation, a car cutting me off on the road, or an argument with a friend or a family member. It turned into this situation where I could say, “Here's that event, and now I'm going to start practicing my breathing as I enter into that event because of how difficult it is and try to incorporate that same breathing protocol elsewhere.”
This is helping you out obviously right away. You notice some great therapeutic effects. How did Cold Plunge Cam begin? You can take this and keep this to yourself and keep doing your ice baths, but how did this sensation come about?
I did for a full year. I kept it to myself because I started in July of 2021. My first post wasn't until July of 2022. I went a full year of doing it myself, learning how it was affecting me, trying it, whether it was in the river, an ice bath, or some other type of setting. When I started it as it got into the fall, and again this was before I had started the social media, I told myself and made that commitment and goal for myself that I would do this all winter long out in the river.
I started in July and as the seasons progressed, I said, “I'm going to keep going. I'm not going to stop. It's going to be about 3 to 4 times a week and I'm going to keep going.” I kept a log and I had a probe thermometer that I would take out there like my kitchen thermometer. I would track the time and every single time I'd go out, I'd put the date, temperature, and time. I would track things as the season progressed. There were some very difficult days. That river got down to 34 or 35 degrees in February.
It was the only thing that I had found at that time when I was struggling with depression to at least temporarily offset the way that I was feeling. I was trying so many other things and this was one of those things that I kept coming back to. For a year, I went through that and then it was July of 2022. As I'm scrolling through Instagram, it starts to recommend things to you.
I see individuals in ice baths and stuff. Everything I felt like I was seeing was high-performance athletes, endurance athletes, Olympians, bodybuilders using ice baths, and not much besides that. I want to approach it from the perspective of anybody can benefit from this and there's such a mental health benefit to it, at least from what I’ve experienced. I'm going to start posting about it, but I'm not going to do it from the point of view of, “Here's all the research and how it might help your mental health,” but from, “Let me tell you my story.”
That's so much more powerful too.
Thank you. That's how it started in July of 2022.
Was it something that took off right away or did it slowly start to gain traction?
It went pretty fast. Nobody expects that. I had some goals set and again, I attribute this to my Tourette’s a little bit. It’s the need to be so self-aware from a young age of all the different variables in place of what affects me, how, and makes me tick more or makes me more anxious or have a panic attack, all those different things. I felt like I was always doing these calculations in my head.
When I started the Instagram thing, I looked at it in a very similar way. There are lots of variables that are in play when it comes to posting something and whether it gets somebody's attention or whether it resonates with them. It was a trial-and-error thing that I started when I began and I hit 10,000 followers in September.
It was about two months. Things at that time, the crazy part was there were about five different videos that went viral all at the same time. They snowballed together and these five videos amassed 80 million plays. I went from 10,000 to 100,000 followers in four days. It was so intense that ironically, I’m suffering from the anxiety associated with that and trying to learn the balance that I would need and how I would deal with it all. It did take off very fast and it still is taking me a bit to figure out how I want to continue with the page and what's the most beneficial way for others for me to use this page, but also to make it balanced for myself because that's going to be a huge part of it too.
A similar thing happened to me on TikTok. I got 50,000 followers overnight, and everybody thinks that's an awesome thing. It's a beautiful thing, but it's also very overwhelming. There are a lot of mean people out there too. It put me in a bad space for a couple of weeks until you can recircle and recenter yourself of what you're trying to do there.
It's the same thing. It's very exciting, but then it becomes very nerve-wracking and you think about every possibility. It becomes a little bit harder to sleep and there are lots of factors.
Cam, it's overwhelming trying to get in the ice bath space. There are so many options. You can probably spend upwards of $5,000 to $10,000. How I met you was with Riley at the Ice Barrel. It's like you see one of your videos and people are like, “I want to do this,” and then it's like, “There's so many options.” How do you recommend where people start? What's the deal with the fancy ones? What's the deal with the Ice Barrel where you get a barrel, you fill it up, and you're good to go?
I have to point out that I do work with Ice Barrel. And I partner with them a lot on content and things. I'm a big fan of Ice Barrel and especially their community and their product. There are a lot of options and the reason for that is very much an emerging space. At the beginning of this business and how it is expanding, there's going to be a lot of players in the space and that's overwhelming for a consumer. You look and all of a sudden, there's 25 or 30 different types of ice baths and you're like, “What's the difference? Is it worth all this?” It’s very overwhelming. I started with whatever was going to be the cheapest option for me to get the job done.
It was more at that point of experiencing it and I needed to try it. I got a 100-gallon stock tank made by Rubbermaid from Ace Hardware. I own three of them now because I started leaving them places whenever I would travel. That served me for a full year. I used that for a full year. There are a lot of other options and it would be easy for me to explain the pros and cons of different products and how much I love Ice Barrel.
It's important to know what your price range is because, as you said, a lot of them are very expensive. What's going to get you started so that you can experience it and whether it's going to be something that you continue with? I'd very much want people to stay within budget and want to find whatever is the best solution for them.
There are other places to start too. Maybe you don't need to buy a product. Maybe you start with cold showers. That can be something where you down in Florida might not work so well because the water's very warm there and it is year-round. For other individuals that live in areas that are a colder climate, cold showers are brutal. Your water will get down to the 40s easily.
You will get a very similar physiological response in the cold shower. You need to breathe. Your chest gets tight. It's very uncomfortable. It's a very similar process that you can use to get started. A bathtub as well. Fill up your bathtub. Fill up some ice cube trays and or some frozen water bottles and throw all those in at the same time and try that out.
How much does it cost if you have a product like the Ice Barrel to fill it up for a session? How many bags of ice should you get? What's that look like?
It's very much going to depend. This is why I recommend having a probe thermometer because if you're constantly checking the water temperature, you're going to know over time how much you need. For me, it's usually between 80 and 100 pounds of ice. That's because I like to get it very cold. I like to get it down to the low 40s if I can.
For individuals starting, if you can get to the low 50s, that's a very good place to start. If it's warm outside, you're going to need a little bit more ice and things like that. Also, depending on how much water you use as well. It'll be harder to lower the temperature if you have a lot of water in there. Using enough water to get yourself up to the neck is good because then you need less ice. Don't overfill. 40 to 60 pounds of ice, depending on where you are, is going to get you to that low 50s, but again, it depends on base water temperature and stuff like that.
A seasoned veteran like yourself, are you dunking the head ever? Are you ever fully submerging?
Not every time. I do it whenever I feel like it. Perhaps there is something that they call the mammalian dive instinct where you fully immerse. It helps you to adapt a little bit faster. I can't say I’ve noticed a huge difference between when I dunk and when I don't dunk. It is important that, if you can, to get up to the neck. That's where a lot of the studies that have come out and are continuing to come out. They're done up to the neck, where they're seeing the benefits start.
What's the sweet spot for you in the number of times per week? Can you overdo it?
You can overdo it. That's why this is a very fun tool because you learn to listen to your body when you practice this. This is very much not about how long can I go in and how long can I stay in. This is a tool for you to learn self-awareness, pay attention to how your body feels, and track that. That can help you in other situations.
For me, the sweet spot, 3 to 4 times a week is usually where I'm doing it. On top of that, it does depend on how adapted you are. I wouldn't recommend this time to anybody. If I want to get a good ice bath session in, it's 8 to 10 minutes or so. That's where I like to be because I feel like it's long enough for me to get the full effect from a neurological standpoint, the endorphins. It's also long enough for me to get the reduction in inflammation and the muscle inflammation that everybody experiences from day to day. That's very much about listening to your body and the more you do it, you will need to adjust some of those settings a little bit.
Do you like to kick your day straight off with an ice bath? Do you like to wait until the evening or afternoon? Does the time of day play a factor for you?
I'm a big fan of doing it in the morning when I can. It is much more difficult for me to do it in the morning. The reason for that is your core body temperature is a little bit lower when you wake up. If it feels colder and it's a little bit more of an intense response. I find myself doing it in the afternoons and early evenings all the time. A lot of that can be because if I’ve had a hard day, I still work full time. There's not a lot of time for me to do it sometimes in the morning or I don't want to wake up that early. I’ll do it in the evenings.
The one caveat to that is for some individuals, it can be pretty shocking. It can keep you up for a little bit after you practice cold exposure. If you do it too close to bedtime, it can affect sleep, but that hasn't been the case for me. I feel like it starts to relax me and I'm much more likely to fall asleep. That's another thing to be aware of as you try it out.
As someone that's been in the Rubbermaid tubs, I'm sure you've been in some pretty expensive ones too.
I have some videos I haven't posted yet, but I went out to visit BlueCube Baths and they're out in Oregon and Central Oregon and they've sent units to a lot of people. Those can run anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 apiece. Those are interesting because there are a few things. They're a lot more about craftsmanship and woodworking. They're very specialized to the way that you want to feel or the way that you want it to look, but very much for a high-end consumer.
The other part, though is, from a technology standpoint, they circulate the water in there at varying rates. There's a reason for that. When you sit in an ice bath long enough with water that's still and stay very still, your body starts to develop a thermal layer of warmer water around you to insulate you. If you sit in an ice bath, you're sitting in there, and you're very still, an interesting experiment is to flap your arms like wings and break up that thermal layer and it, all of a sudden, feels way colder.
BlueCube has a system in there to circulate this water at very high rates. I don't remember the exact rates, but it's between 2,000 and 4,000 gallons an hour. I don't remember quite the rates, but it's very fast. The reason I went out there is because I wanted to compare it to what the Boise River’s like when I go out there in the winter. I’ll sit there with my back against the current and I’ll have my hands up and the water goes by. It's much more difficult in the winter because it's stripping all the body heat away from you.
You can't stay in there as long as you would a normal ice bath. These BlueCube units are so intense. I don't want to say worse, but they're more difficult than the river in the sense that it is blasting this current towards you. It is then ricocheting off of the sides of the tub in such a way that there is no rest. It's a consistent need to breathe, pay attention, and survive. It's an incredible feeling getting out of one of those things, being like, “I conquered the beast.”
You're not lasting as long in those ones as you are in the river, then.
No, because they'll get those down to 37 degrees and then pump that water through very fast. I’ve pushed to see how far I can go and maybe someday, I’ll share those videos, but they're very tough.
I noticed, too, in your videos, you like to invite people hiking past you into the ice baths. What's that like? Are people willing to do that at first? Have you seen some cool experiences from doing that too?
That's been a new endeavor and it's been fun. It started spontaneously because I would set up out there by the river, and in the summer, here at the Boise River, there's what they call the Greenbelt, which is a path where you can have lots of people walking and riding their bikes and things. People would see me all the time doing that and like, “What are you doing?” Especially in the summer, when there's a lot more traffic on that path.
I started inviting people to try. I would get a lot of questions and so I thought, “I'm going to start inviting people to try it out.” That's how it started. It's been pretty fun because about 90% of people say no or don't respond and keep going. There are a few that say yes. It changes your mood for the rest of the day because it's fun.
What's your favorite modality? Is it being in the big fancy ones, the Rubbermaid, the natural river, a frozen lake? Where's your favorite place to take an ice bath?
Probably the river, for sure. Having the nice fancy one is nice and being able to do that and experience it is great. I'm sure someday I’ll have a setup like that. There's something with the river and with the current, connecting with nature, grounding, and being one with the water that I found as therapeutic as the cold itself.
Spending that time walking out there, taking some deep breaths as I walk out, hearing the birds, watching the current, and then being part of nature felt so special. It does every time. I would take that and recommend to anybody, if they have a safe and accessible body of water near them, I'm going to say what my friend Zach said, “If you're not in it, you're crazy.” I would urge anybody to try and get in there and experience it.
At the end of every show, I like to ask all my guests, what is one piece of advice that you received over the years that has resonated with you that you would like to gift the audience? It could be anything.
Being kind, authentic, and vulnerable has done me well so far because that's been the best way for me to connect to others and form long-lasting relationships that have been very important to me. To truly connect to people, share how you feel, be vulnerable, and make the time to do that. For a long time, I underestimated the mental health benefits and the benefits to your mood of simply having face-to-face, eye contact, and interaction with others.
I spent a lot of years alone these first few years in Boise, a couple of years in Chicago, and time in school in Utah, where I was alone and isolated by choice. I don't think I understood how impactful it was to go out of my way to form those relationships with others, but also how impactful it could be on others. That's the advice I'd give. Every parent tells their child, “Be yourself, connect with others, and be kind because everyone has a story that is as unique, meaningful, and helpful as the next.”
Cam, where can people find you on social media?
Cam, thank you so much for coming on, sharing your story, and laying all the cards out on the table for us. I appreciate the authenticity and would love to have you back on any time. Thank you so much.
It's been a pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join Expect Miracles community today: