The first lesson you will learn when you start taking cold showers every morning is how to confront discomfort and fear. When I tell people about my morning routine they always want to know how I do it, followed by a remark how they absolutely couldn’t do it themselves. It’s true, most of us fear the cold. Now I get this initial response very well, I also thought cold was something to stay away from. But boy was I wrong.
If you’d like to build more resilience taking cold showers is a great (plus cheap!) way to start. You’ll be in good company of Navy Seals, entrepreneurs Tim Feriss and Tony Robbins who all swear by starting the day cold.
Far beyond 365 cold showers and counting…
Okay, you might think I’m different because I’m a ‘cold trainer’ and all, believe me, this doesn’t say shit. Yes, I have trained with Wim Hof and was put to the test under extreme cold conditions hiking up a mountain, wearing nothing but shorts, with wind gusts of 120 km/hr and a wind chill factor of -33 Celsius (-27.4 Fahrenheit). Of course such an experience builds confidence in your mental and physiological abilities, except it won’t train your mind to face discomfort every single day. And that’s exactly what cold showers can do.
All through 2016 and 2017 I’ve only taken cold showers, I started after my second workshop with Wim in the summer of 2015, counting up to around 800 days that I haven’t touched the red knob in the shower. I take a cold shower in the morning, I take cold showers after workouts. A few weeks ago I had 3 lukewarm showers in the morning because I was staying in a house where for some reason the thermostat of the shower refused to go cold. Apparently, some people don’t want to risk one single drop of cold water on their bodies.
How to train yourself for a yearlong cold shower regime
Without overcomplicating things the rule is very simple. Start and don’t stop. Easy. Well, maybe not. I’ll let you in on a little secret. No one likes cold showers. Seriously no one. Needless to say, neither do I. But every single time I jump under that cold stream of water, I simply ignore the little voice in my head and reap the benefits afterwards. Don’t hesitate, just jump, and don’t forget to breathe. Let your physiology do the thinking. It already knows what’s good for you.
Why should you do it? Every cold shower proves you’re not limited to your thoughts, it challenges your mind, fires up your inner engine, complimenting your action with an endorphin and adrenaline rush leaving you buzzing and alert. You see how this might benefit you? If you’re a first timer, you can ease into it, sure. Start taking a regular warm shower then finish cold. As soon as you’re ready though, switch to cold showers completely. This way you’ll reduce the chance of your lazy comfort seeking self popping up avoiding cold altogether again. Stick with the program!
Cold showers during winter
At winter time it gets a lot more difficult to stick to cold showers only. Especially then I advise you to keep going. It’s even more rewarding mentally when you continue your cold training practice. That’s right, see it as a practice for self improvement, the health benefits will simply follow.
Now remember, breathing is key from beginning to end. Breathe in and out as strongly as you want, as you feel the heavier impact of the cold water of winter hitting your body. Stronger breathing moves your attention away from the cold response. Who cares what sounds you make under the shower, right? Shake off the cold by quickly washing (or just rubbing) your entire body. You can normalize your breathing as you’ve probably already adjusted to the temperature where it doesn’t feel that cold anymore.
Within a couple of minutes, you’ll find the cold didn’t kill you, calming your mind. Enjoy that moment. Afterwards, you can feel proud for overcoming the first obstacle of your day. Your body will celebrate your effort by giving an energy rush and happyhappyjoyjoy endorphins. Boom. Mission accomplished.
Next day, repeat.
Benefits of cold showers
- Reduce inflammation
- Better cardiovascular circulation
- Improves lymphatic circulation
- Good for your skin
- Boosts metabolism
- Promotes healthy brown fat
- Helps to eliminate ‘bad’ white fat
- Strengthens willpower
- Brings mental clarity
- Lifts your mood (anti-depressant)
Who shouldn’t take cold showers?
Stay away from cold training or cold showers without proper guidance if you have a heart condition, raised blood pressure, or when you’re pregnant. By taking a cold shower you shortly activate the sympathetic nervous system putting your body in fight/flight mode. This means you’re exposing yourself to a controlled period of stress. An average ‘healthy’ person can handle this easily. If you are already sick or fall in one of the mentioned categories you’re better off working on your condition first or wait until your body is recovered and ready for some action again. When in doubt, always consult your physician first.
NOTE: DO NOT practice the so called ‘Wim Hof breathing’ with breath-retention in the shower. Breathing techniques should be done when you’re in a safe environment, where there is no water and bathroom tiles involved. Don’t be silly, always be safe.