Cold showers have many benefits. They’re a great way to wake you up in the morning and get the blood flowing. It builds discipline, self-control and tolerance of discomfort. They raise testosterone and speed metabolism…
Sounds great, but if you’ve never done it before (or even if you have), they can be uncomfortable. A cold, winter’s morning when it’s still dark outside and you’ve only had 5 hours sleep – the last thing you want to do is get in to an ice cold shower, right?
It takes discipline and self-control to get yourself there. Luckily there is some things that are going to make it easier, and I have listed my 8 best tips for how to do cold showers here.
My experience using cold showers
I’ve been using cold showers on and off for years. I heard about the benefits a long time ago and gave them a go. As I’m sure many people can relate, I was disciplined for a little while, but soon fell out of the habit when I was tired/hungover/late/sick/whatever other excuse you care to find.
I took it a little more seriously and discovered the following tips on how to do cold showers when I was training for an obstacle race 4 years ago. The race was in the UK. In January. There was snow on the ground when we did it. If you think a Tough Mudder race is hard, it’s infinitely harder when you’re in ice cold water, windy weather and on the brink of hypothermia for 4 long, numb hours.
In training for the race, we did some outdoor swimming. Again, snow on the floor – water temperature of 0 degrees celsius. You will quickly start working out how to make things more bearable when you dive in a pool surrounded by snow.
Nowadays, cold showers are a daily part of my morning routine. Living in the tropics, a cold shower is a relief from the heat more than a test of pain tolerance, but I cut my teeth in British winters so I know what it’s like if you’re in a cold country.
8 Tips: How to do cold showers
1. Head and neck first
Run the water over your head and neck first, then progress down your body. This is the quickest way to alter your body temperature and acclimatize. It’s the same reason it’s easier to dive straight in to cold water than slowly walk in. Run the water over the back of your neck, then your face, then chest, upper back and the rest of the body. Dipping a limb in does not help. All you’re doing is signalling to your body that it is really cold – causing your body to revolt and compel you not to get in. Get on with it, by starting with the head.
2. Control your posture
I used to walk 10 minutes to the shops in winter wearing just a t-shirt. Purely to train body control through posture, mindset and breathing. What happens to your posture when you’re cold? You shrug your shoulders, clench your fists, close the body up and effectively try to cuddle yourself. Well, posture controls the mind as well as the mind controlling posture. So do the opposite of ‘cold posture’. This is how I could walk around outside without feeling cold. The second I stopped being conscious of it and let me body go into ‘cold posture’ I immediately started feeling cold.Stand tall, open the body. Shoulders back and head high. Keep your arms by your sides and focus on standing tall. This will directly oppose the bodies natural reaction to getting in a cold shower, which is to huddle over and close your posture.This abundance style posture will literally make you not feel cold, when combined with the next two steps.
3. Control your breathing
Your posture closes up – what else happens when you get in the cold water? Your breathing becomes short and shallow, right? Same thing, control that. Do the opposite. Take deep breaths in through your stomach and long, slow breaths out. Do the exact opposite of what your body will do naturally in the cold.
4. Control your state
You have to hack your brain. You’re doing something that is uncomfortable and avoidable. Just like pushing through the last couple of reps in the gym, you have to go beyond the point your body wants to stop. Empty your mind of all thoughts of the cold. Instead focus your thinking to your posture and breathing. If you focus on these two things and let everything else fall away, you have completed the triumvirate and you will not feel cold. It’s meditative. A great way to learn to control your thoughts and focus your mind.
5. Embrace the rush – live it
When you do these things, you will be in control of the experience your body is having. Adrenaline will sky-rocket. It feels great, it’s a perverse kind of high. You have to embrace this rush. The adrenaline is your brain telling your body to fight-or-flight – flight in this case. Get out of there.You can control it, not by trying to fight the urge, but instead by embracing it. Enjoy the adrenaline rush. Smile (controlling your posture). Laugh or scream like a maniac – it helps. You have to do something to ‘release the pressure’ and let some of the adrenaline run out. If you hurt yourself, are scared, have an orgasm, etc. – anything that sharply spikes your adrenaline – you scream, your facial expressions change. Run with it when you’re doing cold showers and learn to embrace it.
6. Do NOT run it warm first and turn it down once you’re in
I think this is terrible advice. First of all it is contrary to point 1, which is what your body naturally wants to do. Secondly, mentally, it is harder than just getting right in. Going from neutral to negative is a shorter jump than going from positive to negative. A warm shower is simply too pleasant.If you want to do contrast showers, they are great and have many benefits, but do cold first. I’ve experimented with this. I do contrast showers after the gym. Cold first is much easier. A little cheat that I used to do, was have a cold shower for an allocated amount of time (counting breaths), and then turn it up warm before getting out. This made getting out easier, because in winter it is almost as cold out of the shower as it is in there.
7. Turn the air-con off/radiator on, for when you get out
Even here in Asia, if I get out of the cold shower and stand straight in line of the aircon, it is painful. Turn it off before you get in the shower. It’s not the actual temperature that is the problem, but the draft. The aircon is still set to 16+ celsius. It’s the draft when you are cold that is painful. If you’re in a cold country, put the radiator on before you get in. I would get in a warm towel and then go stand next to the radiator to warm back up. This made getting out much easier. Otherwise, when it’s 5:30am, dark and below freezing outside, it’s tempting to turn the temperature up and just stay in the shower.
Once you’re out, get mostly dried and then move around a bit. Let all of that pent up adrenaline and nervous energy out by doing 10 burpees or some clap push ups. You will feel incredibly energised afterwards.
There we have them. How to do cold showers. What are you best tips or experiences of cold showers? Tell us in the comments.
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