Are you struggling to take that “cold plunge”?
Perhaps you’ve heard about the benefits of cold showers.
From improving immunity, circulation, testosterone, fertility, recovery after workouts, complexion, emotional resilience and willpower to reducing weight, stress, inflammation, joint pain, depression and even hair loss!  It’s clear that there are a myriad of benefits to be gained.
However, if you’re like most people, you probably really, really enjoy your warm showers and baths.
Especially when it’s cold in winter or if you’ve had a long, stressful and tiring day. A warm shower always eases the tension, relaxes the muscles and calms your nerves down.
And frankly, there is always that fear of the cold.
So how do you overcome this?
This post will cover some of the tips and tricks I’ve learnt in the past 4 months since starting a daily cold shower regime.
1. “Don’t Think, Just DO”
Every morning, after my morning poop 💩, I take a cold shower.
Initially, I was really fearful and would take quite some time to psych myself up.
However, I would always feel so much better a few seconds after turning the tap on. Even growing to love the cold and how much better I would feel after showering.
I realized that the hardest part was the start.
And it was my mind and fears that were holding me back.
So these days I just try not to think so much.
All I think or chant in my head right from the moment I decide to shower are those 4 words – “Don’t Think, Just DO.”
Just turn the tap on!
2. Close Your Eyes, Breathe Through Your Nose
After overcoming that inertia to turn the tap on, the cold water normally hits my senses like a punch to my guts.
When this happens, the aim is to RELAX.
Your body knows how to take the cold. You just need to get your mind to relax and not stress about it.
This is when I close my eyes and mouth and just focus on breathing through my nose. This was something I learnt in the Wim Hof workshop and I realize that nose breathing is much more parasympathetic than mouth breathing. Meaning it helps calm yourself down significantly more than when you breathe through your mouth.
In fact, I find myself panicking and getting more stressed out if I start mouth breathing!
In the next few seconds that ensue, I also tell myself things like:
“Ahhh, the cold feels soooo good.”
(actually it does and I can almost feel the inflammation in my system melting away)
“Wow I love this, I love the cold!”
and in many ways, I guess thinking like this has helped me adapt and adjust to these cold showers!
Just imagine how much more torturous it would be had my self-thoughts been the opposite. I don’t even want to think about it! 😕
Another thing I’ve noticed is that my breaths start to become deeper and longer. And it feels almost as if the air I am breathing out was like breathing fire out of my nose!
3. Let Your Belly Out!
This may seem unexpected but I’ve found that along with closing your eyes and nose breathing, learning to really relax my tummy helped me to relax more overall.
This is in contrary to what mainstream fitness gurus or pilates instructors teach about always “sucking in your belly” and maintaining a ‘corset’ around your waist.
My experience is that sucking in my belly causes unnecessary tension and stress and I actually start shivering!
You can try this yourself by going outside when its cold without a jacket (these days Auckland is cold enough!).
When you start shivering, notice how your abdominal muscles are always tensing?
Now try letting your belly out, closing your eyes and just breathing through your nose.
For a few seconds, I bet you will stop shivering!
The key here again, is to learn to relax.
4. Start Slow
In Wim Hof’s safety introduction video, I like how he keeps emphasising how its all about the effects you gain, not about competition or ego.
And never force.
Although I started straight with cold showers, the usual recommendations are to do your cold showers after your warm ones.
And although I like to take a cold shower straight up after waking, at the end of the day I usually like to take a warm one as the first half of my shower. After soaping, I turn the tap back to cold and end it from there.
I also like to keep track of how long I stay under the cold shower through the number of breaths I take.
Initially I could only take 3 breaths before having to turn around and let the cold water wash the other side of my body for another 3 breaths. I would keep rotating like this for as long as I felt like staying in the showers.
These days I have progressed to 5-10 breaths before rotating and average about 5 minutes under the showers.
Again, never force.
There are days when I don’t feel like spending more than a minute in the cold. Still, I feel great after that and don’t really beat myself up over it.
Other days I feel so comfortable under the cold shower that I surprise myself.
I guess it boils down to just getting used to it.
I must emphasise that it has been 4 months since starting and besides never missing a single day of cold showers, I have been consistently doing the Wim Hof breathing as well as exposing myself to the cold whenever possible – like jogging home from school in cold weather without a jacket.
5. Get Moving!
After toweling yourself dry, you will most probably start shivering again if the ambient temperature is cold.
Here is where the benefits of the cold shower come in.
You’ll feel very energized and just want to get moving!
This can be in any form such as dancing, burpees or simply swinging and shaking your arms and legs. (BUT PLEASE EXERCISE CAUTION and not do this on slippery floor!)
You can also try Wim Hof’s horse stance movements:
So in summary,
- Don’t think so much into your fears. In fact, don’t think at all. Just do it!
- Relax by closing your eyes, letting your belly out and breathing through your nose.
- Go slow and gradual, follow your mood, listen to your body and just go with what you feel like doing. 1 minute or 30 seconds today? That’s okay. There’s always tomorrow to try again!
- Stay consistent! Like exercise and diet, this is how your body adapts and changes – with time.
- Get moving! Take advantage of the huge boost in energy and circulation and move your body!