Why I started having cold showers
This time last year I was sitting here at my computer browsing the internet in the evening. I was reading some news articles, catching up on a couple of blogs I enjoy. I was messaging a friend on social media and half listening to YouTube in the background. I was ambling, not up to anything much in particular.
Then I read a blog post in which someone (and I can’t even remember who the original blog post was, I can’t find it now) mentioned the benefits of cold and contrast showers.
I’ve had cold showers before, but probably like most of you it wasn’t by choice but my necessity. Camping in Wales is the example which comes to my mind. But why would you choose to have a cold shower?
So, I googled cold showers and there appeared a ton of blogs talking about doing a challenge.
To have a cold shower everyday for thirty days.
Here’s the opening section.
This seemed both reasonable, and ridiculous.
So I read on.
There’s a load of links, which I read. There’s apparently health benefits, ranging from better skin and hair to higher fertility to ‘it helps you wake up’ (and, actually, it helps you to sleep).
But in the end it came down to this: have a cold shower. For five minutes. Every day, for thirty days.
Ha! No thanks.
I continued my conversation with my friend, YouTube kept playing in the background. Then maybe 20 minutes later I was back looking at ImpossibleHQ again. This stuff about a ‘litmus test’ above had piqued my curiosity.
‘Literally no one’.
That’s a bold claim. So I clicked through the link to hear more about this so called ‘Litmus Test’.
Here’s what Joel says,
At this point I was wondering whether I would pass this test…
I thought to myself, “Well I like to have adventures and to challenge myself… I think… But it’s entirely academic. Why would I do that? It’s a daft idea. Sure, some people are random internet people who like doing odd things but there’s no real point to it.”
Then I read the next post, which was titled The Only Two Real Excuses for Refusing To Take A Cold Shower.
The other excuse is “Inability”. The idea that you couldn’t have a cold shower because you don’t have time, or because you feel unable to cope with the idea of being cold for five minutes. The first is silly. You have time, you shower all the time. Just turn the temperature down to cold.
Joel then talks about those who decide to take the plunge and try a cold shower.
Yeah. Fair. Can’t really argue with that.
So I messaged my friend, I told him that I was randomly going to try and have a cold shower everyday for 30 days. He responded ‘Shall we? Yeah! Let’s Do It! CRAZY!’ We were both going to see if we could do this challenge!
As it was evening and getting on towards bedtime I literally got up, went and got my stuff and had my first cold shower!
My First Cold Shower
So. So. Cold.
But at the same time it felt amazing.
First off, nothing quite prepares you for that initial blast of cold water. It’s one thing to have the hot water run out and to finish off quickly. Or even for someone to use a tap elsewhere in the house and for that unexpected squirt of cold water to shock you. It’s another thing entirely to realise about 3 seconds in that this water is cold, and you’ve got another 4 minutes and 57 seconds to go!
It took my body a little while to stop shouting at me that the water was cold. This was mainly because I was focused more on the fact that the water would be cold. Having made it through the first 30 seconds I determined that I wouldn’t bail. I would stick it out until the end of the five minutes and started counting to 300. Once I’d made that mental shift from ‘Ah this is COLD’ to focusing on how long I was in there something interesting happened.
I no longer hated the cold.
It was still cold. I felt so cold, don’t get me wrong! But it didn’t matter in the same way or with the same sense of urgency.
A little while later I even started to enjoy it.
It may have been a shock to the system, but when I had finished counting to 300 and turned the water off I checked my phone to see if I’d been in there 5 minutes.
I hadn’t. I was in there about 8 or 9 minutes.
I felt happy. It sounds stupid, but I felt like I had achieved something. Never mind Joel’s litmus test as to whether or not I would be his kind of person — I felt like I had proved something to myself.
The Thirty Days
I would be lying if I said I enjoyed every single shower. But I did it, even when I really didn’t want to. Often the times where I didn’t want to were the occasions where afterwards I actually felt really good about myself and was ready to face my day.
I’ve found that it has helped with mornings. I’m NOT a morning person, but trust me if you roll straight out of bed when the alarm goes off and stand under a freezing cold shower for five minutes, you will wake up!
It’s here that I have to be honest. I did cheat a little bit. After a week or so of cold showers I found that while some days I could face the idea of having a cold shower, even if I didn’t want one, I couldn’t always handle the idea of washing my hair with cold water. So on a couple of occasions I had a cold shower in the morning and then washed my hair in a gloriously warm shower in the evening. And I’ll tell you what, those warm showers were the best warm showers I’ve ever had.
Today was my final day of the 30 days of cold showers, however I doubt that it’ll be my final cold shower.
The Good Things
If you’re interested in the health benefits of cold showers, then check out ImpossibleHQ or there’s plenty of blogs and YouTube videos on the topic.
Personally, though, I found that cold showers:
- Proved something to myself about discipline and will power.
- Were cold.
- Woke me up.
- Put me in a good mood (I even had two cold showers specifically to improve my mood).
- Made me feel (and I think I was!) more productive.
- Made me feel oddly warm for ages afterwards.
- Are colder in your mind than they are in reality (it’s all a matter of mindset or perspective).
The Bad Things
- People I told seemed to think I was crazy.
- It was cold.
- Getting cold water down inside your ears is the worst.
What has surprised me?
One thing which I’ve taken away from this experience over the last week is that being a little bit uncomfortable isn’t a bad thing and that in our culture of comfort and instant gratification there’s a lot to gain from taking time to resist that luxury, even if just for five minutes before using a smartphone to order a present on Amazon Prime to arrive tomorrow.
The main thing which has surprised me, though, is the number of men I’ve spoken to who have recoiled from the suggestion of having a cold shower. In response to one tweet, my friend Cal joked:
— Samuel S. Thorp (@SamuelSThorp) April 16, 2016
— Cal Davie (@crazycallum) April 16, 2016
But jokes aside, I’ve spoken with guys who discipline themselves to go to the gym nearly everyday. Guys who day by day get fitter, healthier and stronger. Guys who run for further and faster each day. And yet the vast majority of them seem unable to comprehend the idea of having a cold shower.
So let me end by encouraging you, whoever you are and whatever you do in life, the next time you have a shower turn the pressure up but let the water run cold.
What’s the worst that can happen? You get cold?
(Originally posted on Thorp.Blog May 2016)