Each morning after the morning classes have ended, I take a freezing cold shower for 5 minutes.
Let me tell you something- your bulletproof coffee has nothing on my morning showers. Why? Not only does this simple version of cold water immersion wake and invigorate better than caffeine will, but when practiced on a regular basis, cold water immersion can provide long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems. For a CrossFitter or similar athlete, the improved efficiency of those body systems is more than enough to warrant you to start playing with cold showers in the morning or after training.
But there is an even better reason beyond improving the body’s healing process to a cold-start your morning.
After I drape my sweaty, cotton, shame-coverings over the backside of a barrel fan to dry, I turn on the water in shower “B” at my Crossfit Gym. There are two showers here, and for reasons that transcend my knowledge of plumbing, shower “A” cools down to somewhere just under body temperature, and thats as far as she goes. However, Shower “B” is driven by some unknown force, to make hell freeze over… with her water. I have marked the handle for ease of use, and this picture may give you some depth.
Here is the shower-timeline:
0:00 – 2:00 At “not too bad” temperature to shampoo, body wash, etc. (cool enough to notice but not cause discomfort). This brings your skins temperature down gradually so the coming cold water will not be such a shock.
2:00-7:00 (5 minutes total) Turn the handle down to “cold-cold” and take a deep breath. If you want to turn it up or get out from a gut reaction, just start breathing deep and count your breaths. If you can make it to 90 seconds, the rest of the 5:00 is a walk in the park…in the arctic…without shoes…or anything else on. I had to breath fast and deep through my mouth for the first few times but now, it’s a welcome experience.
7:00+ Turn off the water and towel off…or go my route, and just streak through the gym like your at the world cup.
My gym has no AC. In Arkansas during the summer it reaches 90-100+ weather fairly fast each day. I can walk around my gym after the shower and I am still chilled for a few minutes, regardless of the heat.
Putting yourself through an uncomfortable feeling now for a larger payoff later on, takes discipline. It’s part of the very fabric that makes our philosophy in building physical capacity, actually work.
“Present Self” vs “Future Self”
To a certain degree most of us view our “present self” and our “future self” as two different people. We will willingly accept less to feel good now, as opposed to accepting more in the future. Think of this like taking a lump some of $100,000 now as opposed to $1,000/month for the rest of your life. ($480,000 if you live another 40 years.) This lack of recognizing that our future self is in fact the same person as our present self plays a large role into why we will eat a candy bar to feel good now, at the expense of improved willpower, body composition, and health that we could have tomorrow by overcoming the craving, or putting a barbell down when there are only a few reps left, to ease the burn in our muscles now, at the expense of a feeling of accomplishment, power over our physical discomfort, and of course, increased work capacity.
Find ways to nurture your “Future-Self” by doing behaviors that pay some now, but dividends later.
More reading on humans not understanding how time works:
More reading on cold water immersion: