The joys of cold water

Over recent years Wim Hoff has become famous as the “Ice Man” promoting the benefits of cold water and cold showers. If you don’t already take cold showers or swim in cold water, then I hope that these words will encourage you to try it.

For much of my life I avoided cold showers, cold water in general, unless it was unavoidable.

That has changed; cold water, be it in the form of a shower, the sea or a river is now a part of my everyday life.

So what’s so great about cold showers, about cold water in general?

The “pow”, when you first hit the water.

Adjustment and the agreeable sensations it generates

Getting out of the shower.

The initial “pow”: When that cold water first hits your skin. This is an act of pure willpower (for me anyway). The trick is not to think about, not to anticipate; just do it. I have to resist the desire to scream when the water first hits my skin, no matter how many times I have done it. Physically, it always comes as a shock. However, my body rapidly adapts.

After exercising I will usually take a hot shower to get the sweat off, then switch directly to cold water.  It is strangely and surprisingly pleasurable. It is a shock but also a relief, because my body also wants to cool down. The shock is understandable; changing rapidly from a very hot shower to a very cold shower. Frankly, it would be weird not to feel some sort of shock. This feeling of shock disappears quickly as my body adjusts and is replaced with a wonderful sensation of relief. The feeling in my body is gratitude. A genuine feeling of wellbeing and pleasure.

Adjustment: Just this weekend I swam in the river Nansa (with other members of the family) by the waterfall in Transcudia. The water was quite cold, especially closer to the waterfall.  I can feel the heat of my own body within my cold tight skin. It’s strangely comforting − a vivid sense of being alive. I have a special awareness and an appreciation of my skin and body’s heat which I have not experienced in any other situation. My skin feels tighter and tingles, whilst inside I feel as if I have a furnace burning.

Getting out: Finally getting out of the water − the “afterglow”. This is something I notice for example, leaving the swimming-pool, or getting out of the cold sea or river. There is a great sense of wellbeing, of good health and of positive energy. A sense of “it’s good to be alive” and thankfulness.

So that is my experience, but what does the science say:

It improves the immune function. It reduces chronic pain. It has an anti-inflammatory effect. It increases the amount of brown fat (having more brown fat is associated with lower body fat percentage). It has a neuro-protective effect through stimulating a special cold shock protein known as RBM3.

Many regular practitioners claim it has other benefits: reduced levels of stress; increased sense of wellbeing, greater willpower and a heightened sense of awareness.

So if you haven’t done so, then try it out let me know how you go.

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