It’s now been well over a year since I started this habit. As a matter of fact, during this time I have replaced the warm showers all together.
This was the second time I wanted to experiment with this habit, but the last time I gave up quickly – I just hated it. I couldn’t get myself to stick to it. But, as I re-read the book “What doesn’t kill us” by Scott Carney, I just had to give it another go. It has to get easier eventually, right?
Do cold showers ever get easier?
I asked myself this after the first shower, even though I knew the answer. And as time has proven, the answer is for me is an absolute yes. You just have to get over the initial phase, where a part of you begs you not to do it.
When I took the first cold shower, it was horrible. Every second I asked myself “why am I doing this?” and “please, can I get out now?”. Little did I know that by day 5, taking a cold shower was “ok”.
The only thing that kept me going was that I believed that it would get easier. I also quickly learned that it I never felt cold once I got out. Even though I hated the first few days, once I got out it couldn’t help but smile and feel like it wasn’t “that bad”. I still worried about the next shower, but within the first week even that passed.
That is not to say that I never dread going into the cold shower anymore. Every now and then I’ll feel a little tired or weak, and I have to remind myself that I can handle it just fine. The first moments can still be cold, but within half a minute, I completely forget the fact that the water is cold. However, even then, this sensation of cold is a far cry from what it used to be – in comparison. It’s more like a 3 on a scale of 10, while it used to be a good 9+.
Turn it all the way down. Honestly, it makes everything easier. No questions before you get in. Funny thing is, past the first few days, that little extra cold doesn’t make much of a difference anyway. And thanks to the winter it kept getting slightly colder as we head into November after the first month.
My cold showers last just as long as before I made the switch. Usually between 5 and 10 minutes, but up to 15 – for example after a hard workout. At this stage, staying in longer doesn’t add to the cold or anything. In fact, after the first few minutes, I don’t even notice it at all.
Why do cold showers?
Some of you, heck, probably most of you, might be asking “why bother?”
- Increases alertness
- Wakes you up
- Eases stress
- Increases discipline
- Improved ability to withstand cold
- Strengthens immune system?
All of the above are typically touted as benefits from cold shower, but personally I have no idea if the health benefits like strengthened immune systems hold any truth. However, there is little doubt about the other points, for me at least.
As far as the mental and meditative aspects go, taking a cold shower instantly centers me. When taking a cold shower you don’t think about bills, upcoming meetings or anything like that. It’s just you and the cold water. Especially during the first few weeks and months.
Also as a bonus; swimming outside in the summer will never be cold again.
Beginning with cold showers
If you have been wanting to try cold showers, here are a few tips:
So, I didn’t have any plan on my first day, I just jumped straight in and it felt like hell. I didn’t want to keep doing this at all. Therefor, I decided to make a game plan. This wasn’t just about testing will power, it was about creating a habit. A habit that sticks. This is what I learned and now recommend.
Take notes and mark progress
As you start with this habit I would highly suggest writing a few sentences about the experience during the first few days. Knowing it will get easier will make the first days easier as well, and the notes will be fun to look back on. It will be hard to comprehend just how much you’ve adapted otherwise.
In my opinion the initial goal is to “get used to it”. Throwing yourself into the cold shower when you aren’t prepared for it (or used to it) will be like a stress test for your body, and not something I recommend. Worst of it all is that it often won’t motivate you to do it again.
My method was to ease into it – avoid the shock and stay relaxed. This is the most important part, stay relaxed. Be aware of muscles that tense up, and “let go”.
Start warm and ease into the cold
Start with a warm shower, then get out, turn the temperature down all the way. Now take one limb at a time and wash it under the cold water. Left arm, right arm, left leg, right leg … now keep going further and further under the water until you the water hits your chest and/or back.
In the beginning, it can be helpful to keep track of time. How long you take before you go under, how long did you stay under, etc. Initially, I would suggest spending about a minute easing into it, and trying to stay under for a minute – but listen to your body!
Hold off on going under with your head
I suggest waiting with going under with your head for at least a few days. It can give a cold shock that is a lot more intense, and you want to be in a mental place where you can stay relaxed when that happens.
As the days progress, push yourself so you don’t linger too much. You will be surprised at how fast your body adapted. After a week I didn’t start with the warm shower anymore, and I could just go straight into the shower. This will happen, the body just needs to be given the opportunity to adjust.
Are you considering doing cold showers, got any questions or just think I’m just plain bonkers? Let me know in the comments below.