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Total Fun With Highly Invigorating Cold Water Dips & Showers

Back in April or so of 2012, I thought I’d hold out the cold water therapy idea, because I’d been doing it myself for a long time at the gym in 45 degree a coupla times per week for 10-15 minutes.

Thing is, the cold water dip was always love/hate for me and I knew that for many people, it’s just hate. I wanted to help them warm up to the idea. Those are the people who always wade into cold water; whereas, I just always jump in, because I know that the hate turns into love—and if not while in the water, when you get out. And then, on levels.

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Lake Tahoe in July. At over 6,000 ft elevation, it’s cold all year round.

Some of you might remember this, where I decided to take it into the backyard.

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Big Tub – By Rubbermade, available at any farm/feed supply

More info and pics here: Cold Water Therapy and Experimentation Recommences. So that went on for a while, and I even did a video while in 57 degree water.

 

I also used to go to the pool a lot, and in some places like campgrounds and my sister-in-law’s pool, they’re unheated and so that’s always great for a 30 minute soak. But eventually, the whole thing just kind of went the way, like lots of stuff does for me. OK, cool, but sitting in a cold tub for 20-30 minutes per day, you may find, is rather like doing the treadmill thing. It’s uncomfortable, and excruciatingly boring.

Earlier this summer I was over at our local club quite a lot for pool time and time in the sun. It’s nice; but again, there are the downsides. Gotta get stuff together, get in the car, etc. Plus, the water is heated, so not particularly cold (about 85F). Even doing as I did—treading water in the deep end for 30 minutes—it just didn’t quite provide the invigorating boost I was seeking.

Then one hot day in my backyard, I filled the trough and got in. Still, even here in the summer, the water from the tap runs about 65F, so substantially less than the pool. The other thing is that once boredom sets in—which for me is about 2-3 minutes, I get out. Two or three hours later, I’m hot again, so repeat. So on.

So, in the last couple of weeks now, I’ve not taken a single shower in the house—and since I don’t use soap or shampoo and haven’t for 4 years, why not just begin my morning with a dip in the tub for a few minutes, then rinse off under the garden hose? That’s what I do—Beatrice always laughs and calls me crazy, and I tell her it’s everyone else who’s crazy—and most days, I’ll repeat once or twice. Moreover, a dip right before bedtime is really great for inducing a deep sleep. Here’s another thing, which is how you tell that each time you do this, it’s having a profound physiological effect: cold immersion diuresis aka wow I gotta pee NOW! For me, this always happens within 10 seconds.

Here’s another thing. Strangely enough, I find cold showers to be much more unpleasant, likely because of the spray part. Whereas, I relish just plopping down into full head submersion in my tub and then the garden hose shower/rinse after is very enjoyable as well; and it’s all over in just a few.

But here. Ameer Rosic has a method for you to get used to the cold showers if you’re not situated such that you can have a water trough in the backyard.

I’ve come full circle with the thing, but with significant modifications. I’m not really using it to “boost metabolism,” lose fat—plug into “ancient pathways”—or anything like that, but to get the high and feeling of well being I always get from it…simply by limiting it to just a couple minutes or so each time and making it easy and quick. And, there’s plenty of times where I just dunk and get right out immediately. You still achieve the same level of charge.

So go for it and stop being afraid of a little cold water, because it is, literally, just a little cold water and just for a little while.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

12 Comments

  1. MAS on August 31, 2013 at 10:00

    I found a 30-60 second cold water rinse post shower to be the Minimal Effective Dose for me to expand my temperature comfort range. I can wear short sleeve shirts into the low 40s F now with no discomfort.

  2. EatLessMoveMoore on August 31, 2013 at 17:20

    Is it true Jack Kruse invented this?

  3. Richard Nikoley on August 31, 2013 at 17:40

    Not even close, though he did do some popularizing.

  4. La Frite on September 2, 2013 at 01:28

    Every time I take a sudden real cold shower (and usually my showers are not hot at all, my wife always complains when she joins me :D), I have the feeling that my lungs are shrinking in no time and must look like small deflated balloons that I can hardly fill up while the water is running. In short, it takes my breath away … Does it do it to you as well ?

  5. tim on September 2, 2013 at 10:37

    La Frite – What you are experiencing is known as the Mammalian Dive Reflex. It is an evolutionary design to allow us to survive an icy plunge. Some mammals have taken it to a higher degree than humans can (seals, whales) but humans can exploit this ‘evolutionary pathway’ to their benefit. Here’s a brief description from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mammalian_diving_reflex

    Upon initiation of the reflex, three changes happen to a body, in this order:

    1. Bradycardia is the first response to submersion. Immediately upon facial contact with cold water, the human heart rate slows down ten to twenty-five percent.[2] Seals experience changes that are even more dramatic, going from about 125 beats per minute to as low as 10 on an extended dive.[1][3] Slowing the heart rate lessens the need for bloodstream oxygen, leaving more to be used by other organs.

    2. Next, peripheral vasoconstriction sets in. When under high pressure induced by deep diving, capillaries in the extremities start closing off, stopping blood circulation to those areas. Note that vasoconstriction usually applies to arterioles, but in this case is completely an effect of the capillaries. Toes and fingers close off first, then hands and feet, and ultimately arms and legs stop allowing blood circulation, leaving more blood for use by the heart and brain. Human musculature accounts for only 12% of the body’s total oxygen storage, and the body’s muscles tend to suffer cramping during this phase. Aquatic mammals have as much as 25 to 30% of their oxygen storage in muscle, and thus they can keep working long after capillary blood supply is stopped.

    3. Last is the blood shift that occurs only during very deep dives. When this happens, organ and circulatory walls allow plasma/water to pass freely throughout the thoracic cavity, so its pressure stays constant and the organs aren’t crushed. In this stage, the lungs’ alveoli fill up with blood plasma, which is reabsorbed when the animal leaves the pressurized environment. This stage of the diving reflex has been observed in humans (such as world champion freediver Martin Štěpánek) during extremely deep (over 90 metres or 300 ft) freedives.”

    and

    “In humans, the mammalian diving reflex is not induced when limbs are introduced to cold water. Mild bradycardia is caused by subjects holding their breath without submerging the face within water.[4] When breathing with face submerged this causes a diving reflex which increases proportionally to decreasing water temperature.[2] Activating the diving reflex with cold water can be used to treat supraventricular tachycardia.[6] However the greatest bradycardia effect is induced when the subject is holding breath with face submerged.”

    So, you can see that the most basic actions of this built-in system start with a splash of cold water to the face. Maybe that’s why it feels so good to do so. Can this be used to turn us into superhumans who will be lean, fit and live to 120? Doubtful.

  6. marie on September 3, 2013 at 22:53

    …and the women are still staying away from this in droves I see, not counting the misleadingly named but peppy La Frite 😉
    Does anyone know of any studies done with women and cold water immersion?

  7. Skyler Tanner on September 4, 2013 at 06:37

    “I find cold showers to be much more unpleasant, likely because of the spray part.”

    I always likened the cold shower to willingly stepping in front of machine gun fire, while the douse or dip is more like pulling your own trigger. For me, the latter is easier.

  8. Richard Nikoley on September 4, 2013 at 06:49

    Do you pull your own trigger often, Skyler?

  9. James Steele on September 4, 2013 at 08:44

    I cold shower most mornings now if only for the ‘wake-me-up’ effects, particularly if for whatever reasons I have had to wake very early. In likening to your reasoning for continuing though Richard I try to head down to my local river (River Itchen in South East England) at least once a week all year round and jump in an old loch for anywhere from 15-30 mins of cold swimming. There is a great flume-pool effect from the water rushing through the old loch gate and so I swim into the current essentially going nowhere. Winter gets down as cold as 6 degree Celsius, Summer is more like 12-14 degree Celsius. Irrespective of any proposed physical benefits I find that psychologically I enjoy the metaphorical ‘washing-away’ of any worries from the weeks labours and mentally resetting. I get out, slowly dry myself (or not if it’s raining – swimming in the rain is great for some reason) and then go for a nice walk along the river or ride my bike. There genuinely does have to be something said about the psychological benefits of outdoor activity in more natural settings wholly independent of physical efficacy of other approaches to exercise and activity. Leisure time in natural environments is what it’s all about!

  10. flipper77 on September 8, 2013 at 01:37

    Cool idea, Nikoley, although I cringed when you got in and heaps of water spilled over the edge and got wasted.
    (We’ve just emerged from water restrictions and severe drought here in South Australia)…
    PS I’m female and I’ll try the cold shower thing

  11. Some Guy on July 4, 2014 at 12:47

    I just wanted to say a huge “thank you” for this part:

    “I’m not really using it to “boost metabolism,” lose fat—plug into “ancient pathways”—or anything like that, but to get the high and feeling of well being I always get from it…”

    It seems like, in this society, we feel a compulsion to come up with a bunch of spiritual or pseudoscientific bullcrap to justify doing things that are fun or nice. This just complicates everything! Why tangle your enjoyment up in a web of bad logic? Do things that feel good! You don’t need the stamp of approval of some theoretical authority.

    Here’s to you! I’m going to go for a run in the cold rain now. Not because I read on a forum once that there was a study done twenty years ago in Belgium that says cold rain can increase fat burning. And not because modern society is disconnecting me from my inner Tarzan. But because IT FEELS REALLY GOOD.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 4, 2014 at 14:06

      When in college, about the only time I really enjoyed a run was when it was misting or raining. Does that a lot in Oregon.

      So I know exactly what you mean.



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