I’m always looking for new tips and ideas for my training – trying to get that edge and find that next answer that will propel me a bit further along towards my goals. But while doing so I know those infamous words, Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) comes into play.
For the old adage is true: You just can’t believe everything you read.
Often, checking out the scientific studies are always a good place to start. But what do you do if there’s not much scientific evidence to back it up or when that scientific evidence shows mixed results. We all know that even the experts disagree. Sometimes in the end, its about trying it out and seeing if it works for you.
And that’s what brings me to cold shower therapy.
First, I can’t even believe that I would ever consider this. Just ask my wife – she’ll tell you, “Alex has one temperature in the shower – scalding hot.” And she was right. There was no way I could ever feel comfortable in the shower unless it felt like a sauna. But all that has changed this past week.
I’m not sure where I first saw it. But someone said they were taking up a 30-day cold shower challenge due to all the amazing benefits – including boosting their immune system, preventing and minimizing injury (think ice baths), increased alertness, stimulated weight loss and more.
So I started to look around to check out these claims. Dr Weil (one of my sources I like to start with) admits that cold shower therapy may do all that and more, but that the science behind these claims is very thin. And then there’s a lot of silence – meaning there’s not much else to say other than miscellaneous articles like these gems from Medical Daily and The Hacked Mind with some different claims as to why it was so good for you.
But I was intrigued. My interest was piqued. For some reason I was being drawn to it. So I decided to try it for myself. And after a week of my cold showers there are a few things that I can say for sure.
1. I feel ALIVE!
I know that’s a huge claim but its true. The first few mornings I dreaded and even put off for a few minutes just getting into the shower because I knew what was coming. But after a minute of shock, my body would acclimate and I would find myself not just putting up with the cold but enjoying it. And then after drying off and preparing for my day I realized just how much more alive I felt than I have for a while. I’m not sure if I can put that feeling into words, but that feeling has become something I look forward to – so much so that I no longer dread the cold showers, but in some small way look forward to them – looking forward to that next sense of alive-ness that will come.
2. I feel AWAKE and ALERT
I know these follow along with the first very closely, but I do distinguish them. First, the cold showers have seemed to correlate with a decrease in exhaustion and increase in energy – especially the few hours after my shower. Just this week at work was an amazing example – especially those first critical hours after the shower I’ve been ready to go, get some problems solved and nothing could stand in my way – all the while my brain seeming a bit more clear and able to focus on the issues I was trying to solve. I really do attribute this to the cold showers because I could tell even after crossfit (yep, following this after every shower – not just in the early mornings) that I experienced those same results.
3. I am building MENTAL TOUGHNESS
I don’t want to overstate this. But jumping into a cold shower the first few times takes self discipline. Your initial reaction is to panic and hyperventilate – but when you can mentally force yourself to realize that you’re going to be fine and start to slowly breathe deeply, you realize that your brain can convince your body to deal with the sense of discomfort. And isn’t that what training is about – training your brain to convince your body that you can push through to the next step? Training your body that you can push through a barrier? Training your body to not always succumb to what feels the most comfortable at any given time? It may not be much, but getting just that more of an edge so in my next race I can push on when my brain says to stop or slow down could be the critical factor that I need at that exact moment.
So what does this mean? Am I making this the answer to everyone’s problems? Is this the next cure for cancer, obesity and the new weight-loss pill that everyone has been looking for? Probably not. But its just something that has fascinated me and that I’ve been impressed with over the last week. And if the scientific research is right about all those other health benefits (mentioned at the first of this post) then I guess I’ll be that much further in my health journey.
Until then, I’ll just look forward to a bit more life and energy as I push and move forward in my training.
Running for Life!