Welcome to the second monthly challenge! After taking care of knowledge during last month’s challenge, this month will be a bit more physical. I don’t want to beat around the bush, so let’s just get it out:
Take a cold shower!
Probably, you reacted in one of the following two ways:
“I’m already doing that (sometimes)!” or “Yeaaaah… no”.
Either way, let’s grab a hot beverage of your choosing, and let me tell you why I think you should do it and why this is a great challenge. (Disclaimer: I’m not a medical expert. Your health, your decisions. In doubt, speak about this topic with your doctor before trying it!)
So why on earth should I do this?
You’re right. Why should you get out of your comfort zone? Isn’t it much nicer, warmer, and cozier on your comfy couch of doing the same things over and over again?
Helloooo? This is a challenge, for God’s sake! You’re not supposed to absolutely love it! It’s supposed to be challenging. But if that’s not motivation enough for you, I will tell you about all the good things that will come out of that little bit of discomfort:
Yes, you’ve probably already heard about the fact that cold showers are healthy. Let me tell you a few more details so that you can fully grasp the potential behind this:
Boost your Immune System
While exposing your body to the cold, the anti-inflammatory Norepinephrine/Noradrenalin will be released. Studies have shown that Norepinephrine enhances your immune cell readiness during infection and immune challenges!
Speed up metabolism & Improved blood circulation
Cold temperatures increase blood flow, which on the other hand, can increase your metabolism. Okay. Yet, there are many articles and myths about fat loss, brown fat cells, and cold showers. Let’s just say it will probably help your metabolism but don’t expect miracles from a couple of minutes under a cold shower!
Improved muscle recovery
Many (even semi-)professional sports teams nowadays use ice baths to improve muscle recovery. Some studies say it only delays muscle soreness; others say it helps a lot. In doubt, give it a try and decide on your own! Anyhow, if ice baths are a bit too extreme for you, a prolonged cold shower can be similarly beneficial in my personal experience.
As a cold shower will inevitably lower your body temperature, it helps you improve your sleep quality when doing a cold shower around one hour before bed. Personally, I really enjoy a cold shower in the summer when it’s boiling outside. This gives you the cooldown you need on hot summer nights and lets you fall asleep faster.
When you’re starting with cold exposure (showers, ice baths, etc.), you will likely experience a hesitance before the shower. Not only the physical part is challenging but also the mindset! Here are a few more mental benefits to make you absolutely love this challenge:
Reduce depression / Improved mood
Multiple studies have examined the effect of cold showers for treating depression and found several indicators that it could help treat depression and improve your overall mood. (Yet there haven’t been any big statistical studies conducted to prove these claims properly.)
Feeling awake & energized
Oh yes! I mean, I love coffee, but there is almost nothing that will wake up your inner spirits as quick as a cold shower in the morning! The stimulation of your sympathetic nervous system (that is responsible for your ‘fight-or-flight’ responses to danger) will increase your oxygen intake, alertness and give you a great energy boost.
Increase your productivity
A study in the Netherlands with more than 3000 participants examined the effects of cold showers on your productivity. In this study, the participants who did the 30-day (hot-to-cold) shower routine were 29% less absent (self-reported sickness days) at work. Additionally, around 64% of the participants who did the shower-routine continued for at least another 30 days after the study finished!
You can do it!
So why are cold showers increasing your productivity? I think there are two reasons. The first is the logical consequence of all the benefits from above: The mind leads the body. The body leads the mind. The second reason comes from my personal experience. When you willingly kick yourself out of your comfort zone regularly, you improve your self-discipline and get a feeling of “I can do this!”. You prime yourself to like (a little) discomfort.
And this, in the end, will do another great thing – both physically and mentally: you build up a tolerance! You’re getting more tolerant of discomfort in your life. You’re getting more tolerant of cold exposure. You’re getting more tolerant of physical or mental stress. It will make you tougher and more resilient. As a result, you will get more done and handle stress more comfortably.
Choose your own challenge
Like I mentioned in the last challenge, this whole thing is about one single person: YOU! And for this reason, you need to know your own boundaries and decide what a real challenge means for you. If you’re unfamiliar with cold showers, you should probably start slow. It might be challenging enough to do a 1 or 2-minute cold shower at the end of your normal shower routine. Or you could do 30sec ice-cold, 30sec warm in alternation. Do some research on how to start. Maybe this is a good summary for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcCYY_10RbA
Maybe you already do cold showers. Then the next level could be an ice-cold shower for 10 chilly minutes. Or do only ice-cold showers for one whole month. If that’s not tough enough, you could go for an ice-bath once per week. The choice is up to you!
Becoming the Iceman
If you’ve ever heard of a guy called Wim Hof, you know where this is going and where my affection towards cold exposure comes from. In summary, Wim Hof is a crazy guy from the Netherlands who achieved multiple world records: sitting in a box filled with ice for 2 hours, running a marathon through the desert without drinking in between, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in nothing but shorts and shoes, the list goes on and on…
Why am I mentioning him? Because he invented a “method” that goes a step further. Cold exposure is one of the three cornerstones of his methodology: Cold therapy, Breathing, Commitment. With his method, the participants were able to prove that with the Wim Hof Method, they were able to control their sympathetic nervous system and immune control. This is extremely interesting, and there are still new studies being conducted on the effects of his method. This has nothing to do with the challenge, but if that only slightly caught your interest, definitely check him out! Starting for example with this entertaining video from “Yes Theory”:
For the first 28 years of my life, I’ve enjoyed warm showers and baths and only this! About two years ago, I first learned about the Wim Hof Method and the benefits of cold exposure. Since then, a cold shower and an occasional ice bath are integrated into my day-to-day life, and nowadays, I even (kind of) enjoy them.
I invite you all to join me in this month’s challenge, getting you out of your comfort zone and under cold water. Let’s do this!