I have a confession to make; I’ve always dreaded the cold. Likely this stems from growing up on the west coast, where warm sunny weather is the standard. However, listen to any Twitter Personal Development Guru and you are likely to hear some form of “cold showers are the key to success”-type of takeaways. Therefore, despite my aversion to frigid temperatures, in my quest to get Continually Better, it sparked an interest in me to find out what all the hype was about.
What I have found is that even though there is quite a bit of hyperbole, cold exposure training is a useful and important tool for both improving physically and developing mental toughness. Let’s dive in!
The Iceman Cometh
One of the most well-known proponents of cold exposure training is Wim Hof. Known simply as “The Iceman,” Hof is a Dutch extreme athlete who is hailed for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures, hold his breath for extended periods of time, and even regulate control of some body functions previously thought to be impossible. Hof owns several world records and has performed almost-unbelievable physical feats that would suggest superhuman abilities. In fact, his resume is littered with accomplishments that most would deem impossible. As a result of his efforts, Hof has changed the way science views what is humanly possible and is now trying to decode the method behind his so-called madness.
Some of his noteworthy accomplishments include:
- Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro wearing nothing but a pair of running shorts
- Completing a full half-marathon in the Arctic Circle, while running barefoot
- Swimming underneath ice for a distance of 66 meters
- Standing in a container filled with ice cubes for 112 minutes
Hof himself breaks down his incredible system in three parts, but the first pillar is the one he is best known for and is focused on vascular training. Within our body, we have hundreds of thousands of tiny muscles that are part of the vascular system. When we don’t stimulate them, they start to shut down. Centuries of increased levels of comfort have made humans weaker in some ways than our ancient ancestors who did not have access to all of our readily available options, such as warm clothes and indoor heaters. As a result, our vascular systems have become de-stimulated which makes us more susceptible to freezing temperatures and puts undue stress on our heart, increasing our risk of cardiovascular disease.
The good news is that stimulating your vascular system is actually quite easy and can be done through the use of cold showers. At the end of your normal shower, just spend a single minute using the coldest water possible. Try doing this for ten straight days and the effects will be noticeable. What you start to see is that once the muscles of your system are activated, you
feel much better. Your heart rate starts to drop, decreasing the demands on this vital organism as well as your stress levels. At the same time, your energy levels naturally increase and slowly you begin to notice that you gain a level of control over some of your body’s internal mechanisms. All of this begins after you start regularly participating in cold exposure training.
What Are the Proven Benefits of Cold Exposure Training?
There are a number of potential physical benefits of ice baths or cold exposure, some of which have been proven by scientific research. These include:
- Reduced inflammation: Cold exposure can help to reduce inflammation in the body, which can be beneficial for a variety of conditions, such as arthritis, pain, and autoimmune diseases.
- Improved mood: Cold exposure can also help to improve mood and reduce stress. This is thought to be due to the release of endorphins, which are hormones that have mood-boosting effects.
- Enhanced athletic performance: Cold exposure can help to improve athletic performance by increasing muscle strength and endurance. It can also help to reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
- Boosted immune system: Cold exposure can help to boost the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells. This can help to protect the body against infection.
- Weight loss: Cold exposure can help to increase the amount of brown fat in the human body which can promote weight loss by increasing metabolism and burning calories.
- Improved sleep quality: Cold exposure can help to improve sleep quality by reducing stress and anxiety. It can also help to regulate body temperature, which can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
It is important to note that not all of these have been fully validated by science yet. However, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that cold exposure training can be beneficial for a variety of health conditions.
Training Like a Spartan
Cold exposure training doesn’t just provide key physical benefits though, but mental benefits as well.
Take for instance the legendary Spartans. In their era, they were regarded as the most disciplined and fierce warriors in the world. Spartans were known for their rejection of anything perceived as weakness, and they pursued training with singular focus to enhance their ability to perform in battle.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the Spartan lifestyle involved bathing in cold water to develop mental toughness. In Ancient Sparta, hot water was considered a luxury, and Spartan warriors eschewed anything they perceived as being indulgent or leisurely. Therefore, they would engage in daily baths of freezing water, as they believed it would mentally prepare them to endure discomfort and build a resilient spirit.
Being able to overcome the physical and mental toll of the cold water took exceptional willpower and strengthened their mental toughness to the point that they became comfortable with discomfort. When you consider that the average person is likely terrified to take a cold shower, it shows that it takes an exceptionally tough individual to undertake this type of challenge.
The truth is, you cannot get extraordinary results with ordinary training. By its very nature, facing a situation one dreads helps to build inner strength and forces the body to adapt. Only by testing yourself and pushing through barriers can you experience true growth.
For me, cold exposure training has been a key component in my personal development.
Want to Dip Your Toe Into the Icy Waters Yourself?
If you are considering trying cold exposure, it is important to start slowly and then gradually increase the amount of time you spend in frigid water. It is also important to listen to your body and stop if you feel any discomfort.
While the jury remains out on the full superhuman benefits that may come with cold exposure training, it is clear that it can lead to important physical and mental advantages with a bit of regular practice. It can help us get better and that is a goal we should strive for each day.
If you’d like to get started with a low-cost option yourself, Nurecover offers a remarkable portable ice bath that is easy to set up, takes up limited square footage, and is convenient to store. Please feel free to use my code “ANTHONY93844” for 15% off of any purchase!
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