Photo Credit: marius.zierold on Flickr.
The samurai called it “Misogi,” exhaustive ascetic rituals that included breath training, sleep deprivation and standing under thundering waterfalls. The goal was to purify the body, reflect on the self, to clear and focus the mind. To become the enlightened warrior.
There’s a dozen health benefits to taking a cold shower but in the spirit of full disclosure my motivation runs shallower than improving my circulation or detoxing: I take cold showers because it’s bad ass. Cold showers make you strong and most people just can’t do it. That was impetus enough for me to try it and though I’ve been taking cold showers for two weeks now I’m already a convert.
There is no going back.
If you’re still taking hot showers then I know how it is: you turn on the shower and let it warm up for a couple minutes. Before getting in you test the water because you don’t want it to be too hot. You soap up, rinse off then spend a few minutes contemplating life and your day before resigning yourself to getting out.
If this is your morning shower then it probably seems like things are only going to get less comfy from here. And sure there’s a time for comfy but unless you’re sick, sore or stressed out then your daily shower is not that time. Actually, if you’re any of those things then a cold shower is exactly what you need! A cold shower is practical, efficient, to the point. It makes you stronger, feel better and makes you happier. Here’s how to train yourself to take cold showers:
- Turn the water on, set to cold. Some people will tell you to start warm and decrease the temperature slowly each time you shower, then start a little colder each day. Yes, that method will eventually result in taking a cold shower but you’re going to miss out on the heart-pounding exhilaration that you only experience fully the first couple times you take a cold shower. It doesn’t have to be ice cold, just cold.
- Feet first. Your feet will adjust to the temperature fastest so get them under the spray and work your lower body under the water as quickly as you can. By the time the water is splashing your stomach you’ll be looking for a distraction so…
- Hands second. Get your hands and arms wet, then splash water over your torso. By now your legs and front should be thoroughly wet.
- Head under! You’re going to be be breathing heavily and involuntarily so be careful not to inhale any water through your nose or mouth. You’re going to feel alright, like hey I can do this, but you’ve forgotten part of your body…
- Back last. Millions of nerve fibres are routed through your spine so getting your back wet is the hardest part. You’re going to feel a lot of sensations, almost an electrical charge crackling up and down your back. Get this wet last then finish washing and scrubbing. Good job, you’ve taken a cold shower.
If you take a cold shower every day you should notice the water “getting warmer” within a week. After a month of this it should be a solid habit and you’ll feel smug whenever someone talks about taking a hot shower after the gym or whatever. There’s lots of biological benefits to taking a cold shower. But you’ll notice the psychological upside the most.
- Wake Up: The freezing water is going to get your heart pounding, lungs pumping and eyes open. This is the cure for sleepy mornings. A change in body temperature is a signal to your brain that you are changing states – in this case changing from a state of low energy to high.
- Better Mood: Just like meditating, but quicker. Your brain and body will release a lot of chemicals, you’ll get a high from the rush of adrenaline and increased blood flow and you will feel better after your cold shower. Cold showers have been known to alleviate depression and it’s not just a placebo effect.
Occasionally the topic will come up in conversation and you’ll know it’s not the right time to tell everyone in attendance that hot showers are for weaklings – and you’re not going to be a weakling. Pearls before swine and so forth. In those cases it’s best to pretend like you’re nature boy and talk about all the health benefits of cold showers. If you search for information on the health benefits of cold showers you’ll find nothing but glowing praise from health practitioners who cite various Swiss and German studies dating back to the early 1900s. I tried to find and read these studies for myself but couldn’t so take everything that follows with a pinch of skepticism.
- Testosterone: “Increased hormone production”. Your whole endocrine system, adrenals and thyroid benefit from a cold shower but check this out: a hot bath 3x a week is so effective at killing the sperm in a man’s testicles that it can result in impotence. Taking cold showers, and avoiding hot ones, can help you conceive. And if you want to be a more motivated person then you need functioning glands producing lots of hormones.
- Cleansing Breath: To combat the stress and shock your body goes through something called vasoconstriction. Your blood vessels constrict pushing blood out of your muscles and extremities and into your core. You breathe more deeply during this state in order to oxygenate your system. You’ll feel better, more energetic and awake. As an added bonus this improves circulation and helps your muscles recover from exercise more quickly.
- Skin and Hair: Hot water dries out your skin and hair. Cold water has a detoxifying effect and causes your skin’s pores and hair’s cuticles to squeeze shut keeping dirt and oil from collecting.
There’s at least half-a-dozen other physiological benefits that I’m skipping right over from increased metabolism to assisting the lymphatic system but the point is you could be healthier, fitter and tougher if you just substitute your hot shower for a cold one. Give it a try, I’m sure you’ll love it.