Now, you’re probably thinking I’m crazy …
Through my own process of self-improvement, I’ve often come across ‘the power of a cold shower’ and various bloggers / podcasts praising the virtues of freezing yourself every morning, but I thought ’it’s not for me’.
The thought of having a cold shower in the morning failed to excite me and quite frankly, it terrified me.
I then started hearing more about Wim Hoff, a Dutch daredevil, who has:
- 26 world records, including the longest ice bath
- Climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro simply wearing shorts in only 2 days
- Climbed Mount Everest up to 22,000 feet – again, wearing only his shorts
I listened to a few podcasts on Wim and discovered that there were many health benefits to cold exposure that are backed by scientific studies. These include:
- Increased focus – It increases plasma norepinephrine by 200–300% which is critical for alertness, focus and attention. This lasts for hours.
- Stimulation of weight loss – A 2009 (note 1) article found that exposure to extremely cold temperatures led to a 15-fold increase in the activation of brown fat in 23 and 24 participants.
- Improvement of hair and skin – Ice cold water can benefit our skin and hair by preventing the loss of natural oils (note 2).
- Increased testosterone levels for men – According to a study (note 3), heat (even in small amounts) has an effect on our DNA, RNA and protein synthesis in the male testes. This is why our balls hang outside our body to stay cool.
- Improvement of circulation – It helps transport oxygen, hormones and nutrients through your body.
- Relief from depression: One of the most quoted benefits of taking cold showers is that they offer relief for symptoms of depression. Cold showers stimulate the brain’s primary source of noradrenaline – a chemical which plays a role in alleviating depression (note 4).
The entry point for experimenting with cold water therapy is to have a warm shower in the morning and then, follow it with a 60-second cold shower (as cold as possible).
So, having read the benefits, I decided to commit to trying a cold shower for 1 minute every morning for 30 days, and here is what I found:
- Day 1 – It felt awful. I stood in the shower and counted 1 thousand, 2 thousand and then almost bottled it at 30 thousand, but finally completed 60 seconds and jumped out of the water. After that, I felt exhilarated, as if I was wide awake and focused, and felt a surge of energy as if my blood was rushing through my body.
- Day 2 – I was still very apprehensive and not sure if the 60-second torture was worth its after-effects. However, I took the plunge and felt the same effects as on day 1. So, at least I knew that it did not happen by fluke. I had such a great focus all morning, could it be due to the shower or something else?
- Day 3–6 – I was still not sure if I liked the cold, but I enjoyed the effects that it had on my mood and concentration first thing in the morning. So, I decided that it was worth the initial cold shock.
- Day 7 – Something strange happened to me on Day 7. After about 30 seconds, I could no longer feel the cold water and it almost felt warm for the last 30 seconds. It’s difficult to explain but it felt like my body temperature was increasing.
- Day 8–14 – I had begun to enjoy taking a cold shower, including the cold sensation at the start, and loved the feeling of the cold water running down my body and its after affects as mentioned earlier. This is where something pretty interesting happened to me. In the past 12 months, I had been suffering from Raynaud’s phenomenon where my fingers go white when I get too cold. This almost went away and instead, when I felt cold there was a surge of blood to my fingers rather than them turning white. It was as if my circulation had dramatically improved.
- Day 15–30 – This had now become something that I could not live without, and it occupied a place in my morning ritual. I was experiencing its benefits everyday, and if you can survive the initial 7 days, it’s a habit worth developing.
Fun fact: I spent the last weekend in a cottage in Brecon Beacons. The cold water tank there must have been outside because it had the coldest water I had ever felt, to the point where I had a brain freeze after 40 seconds. Did I do it the next day? Absolutely!
So why not try it?
Here are a few takeaways for you:
- Commit to having the last 1 minute of your shower with cold water every morning for 7 days.
- Keep an open mind, not everything is what it seems – there is so much we are discovering about the impact that heat, light and electromagnetism have on the human body and peak performance.
- Don’t be afraid to try new things, experience the benefits and then make your own decision.
However, if you have any medical conditions, remember to check in with your doctor first.
The next stage for me is an ice bath :o)
For more handy tips and to read my blogs, visit the Stronger Self website.