By Chase Devine
This may seem odd to you at first, but I will say it anyway: I have not taken a hot (or even warm) shower in 75 Days. Yes, that also includes during winter. Why? For stress, of course!
This first statement may seem strange to you so let me explain. Yes, it is true that I have been taking cold showers for the past 75 days and, yes, these showers are stress. Cold acts as a stressor on the body. So why do this? To adapt. To change. To learn. To not let the cold impact my breathing, my heart rate or my nervous system! I refer to this concept as “life training.”
I began reading the Wim Hof Method and was immediately fixated (check it out if you are unfamiliar). The method prescribes starting with a normal warm/hot shower and then making the last 5 seconds cold water, trying to not let it impact your breathing or heart rate. Let’s just say that I failed on day 1. I proceeded to fail on days 2, 3 and 15. It was tough! I have never been comfortable in the water to begin with; making it freezing cold on top of that caused me to freak out! This, to me, was even more reason to continue. I eventually got better and was able to increase the cold time from 5 seconds to 10, to 15, to 30, to 60. I now no longer take hot showers. My breathing is controlled and my mind is clear. How does this work? Here is an excerpt from the book written about, Wim Hof, the man himself:
“He can influence and control his autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system regulates things like your body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and determines whether your blood vessels dilate or contract… He is convinced that everyone is theoretically capable of influencing their own autonomic nervous systems. In 2014, he was proven correct. A scientific study conducted at the Radboud University Medical Centre with 24 test subjects showed that people who had practiced the Hof method were all able to control their autonomic nervous systems.”
This is unbelievable! So, while I am not saying you will turn into a super-human who will be able to withstand the next blizzard in Boston while naked under the bridge in the commons, you will gain a benefit from this practice. I have noticed some major changes since incorporating the Wim Hof Method. For one, I am rarely, if ever, cold. The ultimate test will come in winter, but I do know it has been a long time since I have gotten goosebumps or have been cold. I feel much better breathing during tough workouts and am learning how to better relax my heart rate under stressful situations.
There is also an unbelievable amount of information in his book explaining how the cold can help lower inflammation throughout our entire body. This cold therapy is yet another step we can take to fight the inflammation occurring in our bodies; this inflammation disrupts many important bodily functions. We do the same thing for our diet by avoiding gluten, dairy, processed sugars, etc. Why not aid the battle against inflammation in other ways as well?
“By exposing your body to the cold, you can train your blood vessels by closing them forcefully, then making them open again. Research carried out by the Thrombosis Foundation (Documen-tation Centre 1994) shows that people who take a cold shower daily also have more white corpuscles. The researchers explain the increase in white corpuscles by the activation of the immune system, which releases more white corpuscles. White corpuscles help the body to fight off infections, bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, yeasts, and foreign substances. If we have an infection, we also have more white corpuscles, since the body will produce them to fight it.”
All of this is worth trying. Buy the book, read and learn. Most importantly: start taking a cold shower every day! Work your way up to this in the same way I did. Follow these simple instructions from the Wim Hof book:
“Take a warm shower, as you always do. Then, while the water is still warm, start doing the following breathing exercises: Breathe in and breathe out slowly. Breathe in deeply and breathe out nice and slow. Keep doing this for about a minute—taking a total of six to ten breaths. Then, turn the shower to cold. Of course, you will start breathing more quickly and the cold will give you a shock. The trick is to breathe calmly again. Control your breathing under the cold shower. The moment your breathing is under control, the cold will feel different. If you find it difficult to set the shower to cold in one go, do it in two or three steps. You can also start by just holding your feet under the cold spray, then your hands and arms, then gradually bringing your whole body under the cold shower. Stay under the cold shower for a minute. If you are unable to relax with the breathing exercise, try another trick—rubbing yourself. You can ‘lead’ the cold spray over your body with your hands. Massage your arms and legs as the cold water goes over them. The cold might feel a little less intense.”