There’s nothing that I love more than waking up, heading to the bathroom, stripping down to my birthday suit, turning the water in the shower to the coldest temperature possible and hopping in! OK, maybe that beginning part was a little exaggerated but what if taking a cold shower for just three minutes could jump start your day for the better? What if I told you that just three minutes of a cold shower could help with depression, create a faster metabolism, and help your body recover quicker?
In a world full of bio hacks there has always been one that stood out to me the most, cold water therapy. It’s something that I’ve been toying around with for the past four years and wish I would have known about it sooner. Cold water therapy is the art of exposing your body to temperatures below 59°F. This can be in the form of a shower, a cold tub, or even cryotherapy.
Let’s begin with the easier side of cold exposure training. Whether you have the mental toughness to do it in the morning or wait till sometime later in the day, three minutes in the shower on the coldest setting will allow your body to reap the benefits of cold therapy. As soon as those three minutes are up, you can crank that water to the hottest temperature you’d like. Alternatively, if you want to take it up a notch, you can do what’s called contrast showers. This is the art of staying on the cold setting for X amount of minutes, turning it to the hottest setting (within tolerance, of course) for X amount of minutes and repeating.
Cold showers would be a level one out of three, but a cold bath would be a level two out of three. With a cold bath, whether you’re using your actual bathtub or a commercial tub, you can still control the temperature. You can ease into it by just using the coldest water from your faucet. Once you graduate from there, you can start adding ice! After a while you might find yourself adding more and more ice and developing a mental toughness that you never knew you had. For timing, start off small just like you would a cold shower. Begin with three minutes and build from there. Depending on the temperature of the water, it is important not to exceed 15 minutes. With cold therapy, we are trying to heal the body and not create damage.
The “Iceman” himself, Wim Hof, has detailed and structured timelines for cold baths on his website. Here’s a link to his website and guided practices: https://www.wimhofmethod.com. I could go into great detail about ratios of water to ice and the temperature that they create, but I feel that it’s best to test it on your own and see what works for you.
Last but not least, level 3, is cryotherapy. Within the past couple of years, cryotherapy studios have popped up everywhere. They are on the pricey side, but with everything else in life, you get what you pay for. Cryotherapy is another great form of cold exposure therapy where you step into a chamber, with only your head outside of the chamber, and expose yourself to temperatures reaching as low as -250°F. Cryotherapy lasts roughly 3 minutes, with options of different levels, and you are done. The temperatures are created by liquid nitrogen tanks that fill the chambers with air that surrounds your bare body. It’s definitely worth giving it a try, even if you don’t go religiously. Some health experts say that one cryo-therapy session a week could give you all the benefits of cold water therapy.
Now, you’re probably thinking, what are all these benefits that you speak of? Well, first and foremost, recovery! As avid gym goers, we put our bodies through a lot of stress. Mobility and nutrition play a key role in recovery but why not throw in cold therapy? Cold therapy will decrease inflammation within joints, muscles and ligaments and force the body to recover quicker. And speaking of stress, you know that pesky stress hormone, cortisol? Cold therapy has been shown to reduce cortisol levels immensely! Now, again, this is all dependent on the level of dedication you put towards cold therapy.
Piggybacking off of nutrition, eating and exercising are not the only ways to boost your metabolism. Cold therapy has also been shown to increase metabolic output just by standing in the shower for the three minutes! Now, doesn’t that sound amazing? A study done on a female diving team revealed that their basal metabolic rates (BMR) were higher in the winter months than the summer months. Increasing BMR is important because those with higher BMR burn more calories at rest. This was correlated with colder swimming waters in the winter time.
Now that we are approaching the winter and are in the midst of a pandemic, it is more important than ever to increase the power of our immune system. A simple Dutch study showed that the participants who completed cold therapy versus a group who didn’t had fewer symptoms when exposed to a bacterial infection. Let’s face it, we live in Ohio and we are losing sunlight and vitamin D.
Researchers also found that a program of short, twice-daily cold showers decreased depressive symptoms. It’s important to note that none of the participants in this study had been diagnosed with depression. In some case studies, anxiety has also been reduced by this wonderful practice.
If you’re not already in the shower reading the rest of this blog, I don’t know how else to convince you that cold therapy is the bee’s knees! Give it a shot, I promise you will come out a different person. Just start off small and build off of tolerance. Even if you don’t experience all these benefits, you will improve your mental toughness greatly. If you have any other questions regarding cold therapy, I hope that you reach out! I’m always here for you guys and I am more than happy to help in any way possible!
- 29 years old, born and raised in Cleveland Ohio
- Father of 3
- Studied Health Science
- Paramedic in Lorain Ohio and recently hired onto Elyria Police Department. Holder of Fire fighters State Card.
- Has been doing CrossFit since December of 2013 and started coaching July of 2014.
- Loves coffee, fitness, guns and motorcycles.