06 Dec 2021

Fitness: Brace yourself and brave a cold shower

With Newbridge physio Barry Kehoe

Fitness: Brace yourself and brave a cold shower

File photo

With the hourly barrage of bad news that is living in 2020, I find myself searching for new, and healthy, ways to distract myself.

Its 7am in Newbridge, and in the ensuite I’m going through all the typical shower rituals, even breaking out my loofah. I know this may well be the only solitary time I get all day. Why shouldn’t I take this precious time underneath the shower head and turn it into my own personal ceremony? I deserve it — so I just grab it, pause, take a deep breath and turn it all the way to the right... all the way to cold!

Today was my third day in a row taking a cold shower for at least three minutes. This is a challenge that I plan on trying to complete every day for a month.

According to several studies in the last 20 years, taking a daily cold shower promises a host of perks for runners and non-runners alike, from reduced muscle soreness and inflammation to giving an energy boost; making your hair shinier and your skin smoother, even improving one’s mood and immune system.

Stepping into the icy blast of a freezing cold shower is a raw experience that disturbs you mentally even before it begins, and physically when you experience it.

The first minute is the worst. The cold is so jarring, so painful, that my whole body stings as each droplet stabs my bare skin. I’d like to be able to say the rest of the three minutes is bearable, but its not!

I haven’t had any joyous experience yet, but I’ve discovered that the biggest benefit I get from taking cold showers isn’t any of the wonderful things listed above (I’ve started to notice many of them, though).

The thing that most draws me to the cold water is also the thing that most repels me: it’s really hard to do. Regularly taking cold showers exposes the body to a small amount of stress, which leads to a process called hardening — ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger’.

The scientific name for this is hormesis. This means that the nervous system gradually gets used to handling moderate levels of stress due to the positive effect from exposure to low doses of something that is otherwise negative at higher doses.

Basically, anytime you force yourself to suffer a physically uncomfortable situation, it forces you to toughen up.

It’s certainly a daunting thought to have a cold shower instead of a nice hot one — but there are rewards.

It gives a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and gives the body numerous health benefits, but even now, as I write this at nine o’clock in the evening, I’m dreading the thoughts of tomorrow’s three minutes.

I know it will be beneficial and that I’ll be glad I did it right afterward. And yet, the gap between knowing I want to (and should) take the cold shower and actually doing it, is colossal.

But remember the Mark Twain quote ‘If it’s your job to eat a live frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first’.

So the rest of the day can only get better after a cold shower — just grab your knob and twist!

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