I’ve decided. To stop being a puss and improve a little bit every day. This time my attention shifted to the benefits of Cold Showers.
Lots of people tout such great benefits for such a ‘small’ feat.
I’m always looking for ways to improve and optimize my life. So I’ve been slowly dipping the proverbial toes in the cold as f*$& water at the end of every shower.
Now, first things first: IT THOROUGHLY SUCKS! At least in the beginning of this exercise…
Around day 4 it gets better, or more tolerable. And 2 weeks in it becomes actually desirable, something I find myself craving.
There are far too many benefits to not get into this practice…
1. Let’s start with that – benefits:
- improves circulation, particularly at the skin capillaries level (but also general blood flow throughout the body). To deal with the loss of temperature, the blood rushes from the extremities in high quantities towards the vital organs. All that in an effort to keep them operating normally, or otherwise known as keeping you alive, for example
- heart rate goes up, and all sorts of hormones and other body-produced chemicals are being released to deal with the perceived “shock”. As such, mild weight loss activity is triggered in the body for a short period of time
- closes up skin pores, thus making your skin retain less dirt as soon as you get out of the shower/bath tub
- stimulates your immune system
- “jolts” the body into alertness (which is obviously very effective as a morning practice)
- as a result of the above, you feel energized, at least temporarily, as your body kicks into gear to deal with the shock of the cold temperature
- speeds up muscle soreness recovery and reduces inflammation. Which is why many athletes swear by ice baths after intense training or competitions. In which they strenuously ‘punish’ their bodies
- flushes waste products from the bloodstream (so essentially cleans up your blood)
- only a theory at this point, but for men, it’s said to increase testosterone. Although hot temperature and male hormone decrease might not be related via causality, perhaps it’s just correlation after all
- you get comfortable being uncomfortable 😉
- improves your general emotional response to stress
- helps you deal better with depression, anxiety and things of that nature
- builds stronger willpower
- improves the skin and hair (unlike hot water, cold water helps skin and hair prevent natural oils loss, which are essential in their general function)
2. Next up – the HOW. Unlike the way pro athletes take ice baths, I found my own ‘zen’ way of doing things, without sacrificing most of the benefits.
And I’ve made it easy on myself too, check it out:
- taking my usual hot shower… (“it’s like a normal shower, but with me in it“), but for the last 1 to 3 minutes max, I switch from hot water to
mildly coldas f*ckin’ cold as I can tolerate without blacking out. That translates usually to cold enough for me to start shivering a bit, and get ‘goose bumps’ all over
- since I’m talking about cold showers, I found it helps if I move and turn around all the time so that I get hit by the cold all over
- breath control – got this down to a tee. If I can control myself in the first few seconds to not give in to gasping frantically for air, it becomes easy to tolerate the cold. I find if I focus primarily on my breath, I become more resilient and able to take colder showers every time. Like meditation. Keep focusing on the breath, and the cold will soon dissipate. Body will adapt. Perception will change about 30 seconds in
- keeping a calendar record of it, at least initially, helped keep me motivated. Because when you see the streak of uninterrupted weeks of every-day cold showers, you are far less likely to give up. But make no mistake, I broke the streak at least 6 to 8 times, with all that motivation. So eventually I got a full month of daily cold showers. And then a quarter. And then I’ve been doing this for at least a year and change, with very few and notable exceptions: one. When I had the mother of all common colds. And couldn’t be arsed to step into that cold tub.
- after I got used to it, threw the calendar away. Got a far simpler ‘system’ now, like the fine people at Nike say – “just do it”. Every. Time. That way I can’t forget about it, it’s been routine for quite a while now.
3. Gotchas. EXCUSES. Caveats. Things to be weary about when taking cold showers / ice baths:
But ok, things to consider before going head first into an ice cube:
- if you’re fully heart-healthy, you can try going all cold from the beginning. Tried it, I see no additional ‘benefit’ other than
purismsnobbism. But the downside of this approach (pun intended) is that some people may get irregular heart rate if the shock is too much for their system to handle. No reports of anything else that I’m aware of.
- some people reported early stage frost-bite when dipping themselves into, quite literally, ice water. For 30 minutes. That’s like water that is barely above 0°C, with ice cubes floating on there. If the reports are accurate, I would have expected them to develop hypothermia before frost bite. But seriously, what the hell do you expect if you spend that long? 2 minutes of cold blasted on your skin is more than enough to get all the benefits. After that you’re talking about diminished returns. A fool’s game.
Anyway, enough said. Stop complaining and making excuses. Stop justifying why _not_. Just TAKE A DAMN COLD SHOWER quick, and become a better human!
Then come back here and write anonymous expletives. I dare you 😛