We spoke with Laura Fullerton, CEO of Monk, to learn all about the benefits of cold water therapy. Her holistic health startup is on a mission to make the ancient practice of ice baths easily accessible to everyone.
Laura fills us in on the science backed mental, physical, and emotional benefits of her favorite health hack, which has been proven to improve PTSD, anxiety, depression, boost immunity and speed up physical recovery.
Her super sexy and smart ice bath, which is being touted as “The Peloton of the recovery world” by the Sunday Times Style, increases norepinephrine and dopamine levels, a combination known for inducing states of ecstasy and empowerment.
Laura, what inspired you to create Monk?
I don’t think there’s anything more important or empowering than taking control of your mental, physical, and emotional health. I’ve found cold water therapy to be an incredible way to do just that – it’s my favorite health hack.
I fell in love with the soaring endorphins that follow each dip, and the effect it has on my mental state. It’s like pressing the reset button, and if I can survive two minutes in the cold, I can handle anything!
But the issue I encountered is that it’s just not accessible. I’ve filled dustbins with cold water, jumped into frozen horse water troughs, and bought endless bags of ice to throw into my bath (not eco-friendly or practical!).
I nearly joined the thousands of people who are transforming chest freezers into their own DIY ice baths, but I thought “there’s got to be a better way,” and it went from there.
What is Monk?
Monk is a holistic health tech startup that’s on a mission to make cold water therapy accessible. We are fighting for people to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and we’ve recently been named “The Peloton of the recovery world” by The Sunday Times Style.
Later this year, we’re launching a super sleek smart ice bath and CWT app, that guides you through a personalized program, depending on your goal. It’s all top secret for now, but you can expect an immersive experience using the cold, breathwork, guided therapy, and more.
How does your at-home ice bath work?
It’s a super sexy looking smart ice bath that you’d be proud to have in your home or garden (you’ll also find it in some luxury hotels and gyms too!).
You can easily control the temperature at the touch of a button, it’s energy efficient, sustainable, and importantly, its healthy filtration system cleans itself, and doesn’t need toxic chemicals like chlorine (just like Agent Nateur, I’m very careful with what I put on my skin!).
Alongside our bath, our community-driven platform educates and guides you on how to use CWT safely and effectively. A personalized program will take you on your journey, whether you’re a beginner, looking to accelerate your recovery, improve your mental health, and more.
Best yet, the app is for everyone, even if you don’t have a Monk bath. All you need is a shower, a bath, access to the sea or wild pools to start your journey.
What are the health benefits of cold-water therapy?
There’s an ever-growing body of scientific research behind cold water therapy. It’s scientifically proven to boost immunity and metabolism, improve mental health, and speed physical recovery. Right now, there’s incredible research in progress at the University of Cambridge, showing that it is protective against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, which is just incredible.
Personally, I know many people who’ve used CWT as a core tool to help them overcome PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Given what’s happened in the world in the last two years, it’s no wonder that it’s gaining such momentum.
I love that CWT isn’t new – it’s an ancient holistic practice that’s making a comeback. There’s a reason why elite athletes and sports teams from every discipline have used ice baths for decades: they work. It gives them an edge in their recovery and performance and gets them mentally in the zone.
Are the benefits immediate?
Oh yes – that surge of endorphins is real! One study showed that ice baths increase norepinephrine (aka adrenaline) by 530% and dopamine (the reward hormone) by 250%. The combination of these two induces a state of ecstasy and empowerment. It’s an explosion of neurotransmitters, which lights up every cell in your body and makes us feel on top of the world.
What benefits did you notice when you started doing ice baths
After my very first ice bath, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment. Sitting in a blow-up bath filled with ice cold water seemed so bizarre, as I’ve always hated being cold (or that’s the narrative I told myself).
The flood of endorphins got me hooked, and then the more I learned about cold water therapy through podcasts, books, and people I respect in the health world, the more I understood its long-term health benefits which kept me going.
I’ve always been big on personal development, and ice baths really tapped into that. I felt resilient, strong, and this mindset rippled out into all areas of my life.
How does cold water therapy improve your relationship with stress?
Firstly, stress is an epidemic. It’s one of the most debilitating conditions in the world, and many of us are unaware of how badly it’s affecting us. One of the most valuable things we can do is learn how to use stress to make ourselves stronger.
There’s a good kind of stress, called hormesis, that can make you more resilient and powerful in day-to-day life. Exercise is a classic example – you damage your muscle fibers, and they build back bigger and stronger.
Of course, ice baths (aka cold thermogenesis) is another! I love pairing it with saunas, as intense hot and cold temperatures are a powerful health hack. It makes your body produce ‘heat shock proteins’ in response to the extreme change in temperature, which protect your cells and trigger full body repair. Cold exposure also makes your cells produce antioxidants that protect your body from inflammation and increases immunity. Win-win!
How long should someone stay in an ice bath for?
This is a tricky one, as it’s very personal depending on your goal, experience, and things like your body fat. That’s where our app will really come into play, by tailoring a program to you. If you want to feel energized, or recover from a workout, or you’re looking for long-term neuroprotective benefits, you’d be best suited to different temperatures and times for maximum results. In addition to the science, I also love ignoring a timer and intuitively listening to my body – one method is to stay in until you’re in total control of your breath, then get out.
How cold is an ice bath?
Ours is adjustable, so you can discover your ideal temperature. Personally, the lowest I’ve gone down to is 4 degrees Celsius. I don’t think there’s any need to go lower (at least, the science isn’t there).
For a jolt of energy in the mornings, I find two minutes at 4 degrees is amazing. But after a big workout or a long day, I’d definitely go for a warmer temperature. Right now, the sea where I live is around 9 degrees Celsius and that feels great. With anything related to health, I’m a big fan of ‘minimum effective dose.’
When and where can people purchase your ice bath?
We’ll be launching later this summer, and people can join the waitlist at discovermonk.com. There’s already a few hundred people on the list which is a great sign that people are ready to take control of their health.
One thing’s for sure: you never forget your first ice bath!