“The cold makes you go within.” -Wim Hof
One of my 2015 goals was to incorporate cold shower therapy into my daily routine.
I had recently found Wim Hof and became mesmerized by his interviews where he discussed his rare accomplishments through the mastery of cold water therapy and controlled breathing. I was impressed with the logic behind his actions and wanted to embrace the cold. So began my experiments with cold showers.
The benefits of a cold shower are immense, but here are a few of the more notable ones:
- Increased alertness
- Increased stress threshold
- Better skin (as warm water strips away oils)
- Better blood circulation
- Improved mental fortitude
- Quicker muscle recovery from workouts
- Potential anti-depressive effects
The mental aspect of the cold is the hardest to overcome.
The first few times I went cold were brutal. Our brains are wired to seek safety. A cold shower is shocking to the body. I struggled and wanted to give up after a few times, but I jacked myself up and got through it.
I moved in and out of the path of the cold water, feeling my heart rate increase, as if I was running up a hill. I’ll admit, I might have moved like this a few times…
I continued to experiment with cold showers, eventually falling in love with contrast showers.
A contrast shower is when you begin with warm water and then turn to cold water. You go back and forth a few times, spending more time in warm water with short bursts of cold mixed in.
If you shudder in fear at the cold – contrast showers are for you. Some people have less resolve and mental strength than others. Such is life. Instead of giving up before you start, give a contrast shower a shot.
Contrast Shower…with a Twist
Hof talks about cold therapy and breathing as the guiding forces in his life. I wanted to combine the two – what better way then a contrast shower? here is my unique spin on the contrast shower.
HIIT Contrast Shower Therapy
You might be familiar with HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio, where you combine short, intense exercise intervals with longer, low intensity exercise intervals.
Here’s a video explaining.
He jogs at speed 7 for 60 seconds, at which point he jumps off to the sides and rests for 60 seconds. You would repeat this process several times. This constitutes a form of HIIT cardio.
Now, close your eyes and picture the same principles with a contrast shower.
The “short, intense” part of the shower is when you turn the water cold. The “long, low intensity” part of the shower is when you go back to warm.
Let’s go over the steps:
1. Step into the shower. Set the dial to your normal warm temperature.
2. Shower for 2 minutes. I like to shampoo my head and apply face wash during this time.
3. Turn the dial all the way to cold. Turn your back to the shower head and let the cold water hit your lower body. Gradually inch into the cold with your lower back, and eventually the upper back. Maintain for 45 seconds.
4. Turn dial back to warm. Rinse off shampoo and clean face. Now apply soap or body wash. Maintain for 1-2 minutes.
5. Repeat step 3. Use cold water to wash away all soap suds. Keep it on cold for a minimum of 45 seconds.
6. Turn off shower.
The next, final step, is crucial. It sets me up for the next hour or two post shower – clear mind, relaxed mood, and intense focus.
Become One with Your Breath
Upon exiting the shower, I do the Wim Hof breathing techniques, as I’ve described in the past.
For those who are unfamiliar with the routine, I have posted the steps below.
1. Get comfortable. Arrange your body in a relaxed state.
2. Warm Up. Inhale deep and hold briefly. Exhale completely. Do this 15 times.
3. 30 Power Breaths. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Keep the bursts short and powerful. Do this 30 times. Due to high levels of oxygen within your lungs, you may experience slight light headedness.
Body Scan. Do this during the 30 power breaths. This is a mental exercise where you are attempting to “will” energy to the various parts of your body. Concentrate and keep your eyes closed. Let go of all negativity. This is the most difficult part of the routine, as you need to completely lose yourself in the technique.
4. The Hold. After the 30 power breaths, breathe in deep and release. At this point, you want to hold your breath. Release when you can no longer hold it.
5. Recovery Breath.Immediately following step #5, you want to breathe in deep and hold it for 10-15 seconds.
I take HIIT showers once a day, usually in the morning. At night, I stick to warm and go cold for 30 seconds at the end. I do the breath exercises after both showers.
What I have described is a low-level application of the contrast shower. Maybe you’ll add in another round of warm/cold intervals or even dial it up a notch into full-on cold showers. Whatever you choose, make it a routine and stick with it.
The breathing exercises take a run-of-the-mill shower and changes the entire complexion of it, creating a fun, productive exercise you can look forward to everyday.
Just Do It!
By changing up your shower routine, you’ll improve your mindset, focus, and mood. You’ll feel alert and your heart will beat noticeably faster. Your mind will be active – dancing from one thought to another, crafting new ideas, thoughts, and visions. You will slowly build discipline and learn routine.
If you can’t even commit to a contrast shower, what makes you think you will commit to the steps it takes to achieve success and happiness?
Stop wasting time and embrace the cold. Apply the HIIT contrast shower routine today.