Take a cold shower and control your breathing. How hard is that? Many people breathe more often at rest than necessary. Proper breathing is just as important in cold training as the cold stimulus itself. First, a few basic principles to get a better understanding of efficient breathing.
The majority of modern people do not know how to breathe properly. Often without realizing we breathe too often, too shallow and too quickly. This can lead to a shortage of carbon dioxide in the blood which makes it difficult for body cells to absorb oxygen. A shortage of carbon dioxide causes vasoconstriction. When you are constantly in stress mode your body gets used to accelerated breathing with all kinds of unpleasant consequences. A disordered breathing pattern can lead to serious physical complaints.
Diaphragm or abdominal breathing
In a relaxed state, fully inhaling and exhaling around 6 times per minute is enough for a healthy person. Good breathing goes through the nose, the diaphragm sinks down (and the abdomen expands) while the lungs fill with oxygen. Upon exhalation, the diaphragm rises through which the lungs can empty themselves of carbon dioxide. Normally you would not have to think about this. The knowledge that the majority of people have dysfunctional breathing is sufficient reason to take a closer look at your own habits. Every now and then breathing carefully to your abdomen is a simple breathing exercise that can greatly affect your well-being.
Breathe through the nose
Breathing in and out through your nose has the advantage that the nerve endings of the olfactory nerves are stimulated. This has a calming effect on the brain. Eventually your breathing frequency will decrease. The nose heats the air you breathe and acts as a filter against dirt and bacteria. Breathing through the mouth does not have these benefits and also gives your brain a signal of stress. More carbon dioxide is exhaled through the mouth, so you will absorb oxygen less efficiently. With maximum effort, it is difficult to keep breathing through the nose. You can then try a combination where you breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth through ‘pursed lip breathing’. By slightly blowing your lips (as if you are blowing on a whistle) you also reduce the breathing frequency.
Cold shower with controlled breathing
When you first step under a cold shower completely, the natural response of your body is high and accelerated breathing. The cold water narrows your blood vessels, the body wants to protect the vital organs, you shoot in a fight or flight response. By training more often with cold you’ll learn not to respond to the stress signal. After all, you know that there is no real danger, it’s just a cold shower. By keeping control of your breath in this ‘stressful situation’ and breathing quietly through, you reprogram yourself. You will be better able to deal with different types of stress adequately because your breathing remains controlled.
In the beginning, it may be good to consciously breathe in and out a bit stronger. You breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth with your lips pursed. So you breathe out a little longer and with a little resistance. With focus on your breathing you shift your attention away from the cold. After practicing a few times you will notice that the threshold to cold is getting smaller. If your breathing remains calm while your body is still working to keep itself at the right temperature, you kill multiple birds with one stone.
Now this all sounds very nice when you read it, in practice it is especially important that you do not have to think too much about it. To keep breathing (in any way) is always better than holding your breath. You will feel your body will adapt to the cold faster and faster, it’s the mental barrier you need to overcome. Before you know it, taking a cold shower and continuing to breathe calmly is a daily routine. Becoming more aware of your breathing with the aim of a low breathing frequency will benefit your health and peace of mind in the long term. With a calm mind you are less likely to be disturbed by external influences. How often do you actually breathe per minute?