Last year in December I was sailing happily on the internet, searching for different ways to boost my physical health. I was in good shape, but you never feel that’s enough. It was December 2012 and what way to start having ice-cold showers is better than a freezing winter night?
Yes, I don’t know how but I got to Getting Stronger and I found the amazing post explaining cold showers and their benefits.
Had I ever taken cold showers before? No, except for the times when I went to the mountains for vacation and took cold baths in the river. But that was a long time ago.
Now, the experience was different. The temperature outside was way below the freezing point, while inside was quite warm.
I was standing naked in front of the shower deciding whether I should do it or not. Ok, here goes!
I turned on the shower knob, half-way between the warm and cold water (at the mid-point). The water was quite cold, but I could tolerate it. It was beginning to become weird because I practically never did this before.
It took 15 seconds until I gradually shifted the knob to the extreme point of the cold water. Now I could feel the avalanche of cold coming to me.
That’s when things really started to become crazy. In the summer time here, if I want to take a cold shower, the tap water is not very cold because the pipelines are not buried deep in the ground and the heat from the outside raises the water temperature.
However, the same process takes place in the winter time because as the temperature outside gets colder, the tap water becomes extremely colder as well.
So, there I was. In shock! I felt and actually had my breath taken for a few seconds. This is known as the cold shock. The water was unbearably ice-cold.
I started breathing faster and faster (hyperventilating). I felt how my body starts generating heat (this is actually the beginning of the process when your body burns fat to warm itself – thermogenesis).
I was constantly changing the direction of the water, from my legs to my stomach, to my chest, to both of my arms, to the back of my neck, and eventually above my head. I couldn’t keep it fixated for long.
The sensation was amazing. Something actually happened because I started feeling very well and after 20-30 seconds have passed and I was under the coldest water possible, my body started to get accommodated to it.
The whole extreme experience lasted for no more than 2 minutes. Some parts of my skin turned red due to the water temperature :). But it was a great feeling. It gave me a sensation of pure happiness. I knew that I would stick to that feeling.
Few days later I repeated the experience. I remained under the shower for almost 5 minutes.
Then, I tried different experiments. One of them was to do a very cold shower an hour before bed. The outcome was great and after few attempts I realized that my sleep habit had actually improved.
Months have passed and I was mostly taking cold-showers. The only times when I didn’t take cold showers were after my kickboxing training, after finishing the gym practice, or after running.
So, I never took cold showers after high-intensity cardio training, while still sweating and being overheated. That wouldn’t be wise.
At this point in time, when my mind thinks of a cold shower, there is a positive experience undergoing. After 10 months of doing it, I can say that it had a big contribution to my general state of health and immunity.
During this whole time I never had a cold and never, but never felt sick. Even though I rarely got sick before, there were situations when I had a pain in my throat or mild fever. But since I started the cold showers, never.
I also learned from Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-hour Body that you can actually lose weight through cold exposure: taking cold showers or ice immersions (these are more X-treme).
What actually happens when your body experiences the cold water is that it gets into a mildly stress state and starts a process called thermogenesis, which means your body starts to generate heat.
According to Getting Stronger, when you are in thermogenesis your body:
1. Activates its repairing systems which lead to increased immunity.
2. Becomes more tolerant to stress and pain.
3. Progressively removes depression.
4. Stimulates anti-tumor responses.
Other advocates of taking cold showers, like Brett and Kate Mckay (2010), mention the following benefits:
1. Improved overall circulation.
2. Improved hair and skin health.
3. Lower depression levels.
4. Increased testosterone levels.
5. Increased fertility.
6. Higher energy levels.
I personally noted that my most sensitive parts to ice-cold water were the back part of my hands, especially my triceps, then the back part of my neck, and then the superior part of my legs. The sensation of water hitting the top of my head was not so bad after all.
Like others, I also want to point out the general good mood, the increased level of energy, and the clearer thinking as immediate rewards of the cold shower.
During this past extremely hot summer I had the opportunity to take ice-cold showers while being with my friends on a 3 day trip in a mountain area. The water system of the chalet was supplied with deep ground spring mountain water, which you can imagine how cold it was.
I do not encourage you to take cold showers and I’m not responsible if something bad happens to you, but if you want to try it out:
1. Make sure you check with your doctor so you don’t have any health issues (high-blood pressure, heart issues, etc).
2. Start with warm water and gradually move to colder water.
3. Do it for a longer period of time to see the benefits.
For those of you who have tried, what were the benefits you experienced? Weight-loss? Good mood? Increased immunity?
For those who haven’t tried it, what are you afraid the most with respect to taking cold showers?
Tim Ferris (2010). The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman.