Cold Shower Therapy: Not just for Eastern European Babies and Pro Athletes!
By now, we are all familiar with the concept of post-workout cold showers or ice baths for athletes after intense sessions. It is fairly commonplace among elites in order to aid in muscle recovery and pain. Well, what if I were to tell you that this not so well-kept secret had a myriad of hidden benefits that many people are unaware of? What if we could get past the word (*shudder*) COLD SHOWER and what that may or may not mean and just go for it? Last year, this Ted Talk inspired me to try daily cold showers for 30 days and not only were my runs more mindful and physically productive, but the mental health boost on the back end kept me reeling long after the runner’s high left.
Immune System Booster
In Russia and a few Eastern European countries, mothers are known to let their babies nap out in the cold for several hours and woke their children with morning cold showers. In relation to the food nutrient and lack of vitamin D, it seems they were on to something, and the scientific community agrees that it increases white blood cell count.
Being in a pleasant mood may seem insignificant, until we break down the components. How many of us have skipped a run because we didn’t feel like it? During my 30 day experiment, I noticed a huge increase in mental resilience (probably due to the fact that we’re withstanding “stressful” physical sensation against our normal will.
The initial shock of the cold water (gets easier/ goes away after a short while) activates your body to inhale far deeper, therefore oxygenating the blood at a rapid pace. This breathing practice becomes engrained and can carry over into your breathing techniques while running.
Less Soreness and Faster Muscle Recovery
Redirected blood flow aids in decreasing inflammation and muscle soreness, which can be especially helpful after tough workouts and long runs.
Mental Quickness and Grit
In my personal experiment, the level of mental calm and clarity combined with feelings of “lightness in the body” lasted for hours and hours after the cold shower therapy. The willpower it takes to complete the daily activity increases self esteem and the “zen feeling” and mental space it provides to focus on more important things (running!)
Tips for Starting Out
Don’t procrastinate I enjoyed the ease of rolling out of bed, still groggy, and starting with a warm shower for a minute or two, then blasting it as cold as the meter can go. This eliminated the time previously spent pacing back and forth mulling over “what was to come” and really ignited mental grit/ fortitude.
Taper So now that we’ve gotten the “pussyfooting” out of the way, stay in the cold shower for at least 1-1.5 minutes to start, gradually increasing the time per session (Note: 3 minutes was my norm/max.)
Hit the “Hotspots” It’s important to hit the back of your neck, your entire back (although it’s uncomfortable), and I like to blast under my arms by the lymph nodes as well. Areas that normally don’t receive as much “love.” Also rubbing the skin during the shower helps if it is longer and the limbs need reviving
Record Track the time in the shower, personal experience and emotion, and/or goals.
Cycle The key is to use the cold shower therapy, or CST, as an intermittent emotional and physical “boosting aid” and not over do it. Like anything, moderation is important and this tool will be best used in that respect.
So, whether you’re looking to defog your monkey brain, increase your half time, or simply feel and look more vibrant and clear, I think we’ve found a great tool. We would love to hear about your CST experiences! Please share in the comments. Happy Shivering!