Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Waterfall Training in Your Shower: The Benefits of Cold Water

It was a week ago today that I began the uncomfortable habit of taking ten-minute cold showers. The first time was literally an eye opening experience. I turned on the shower, but only the frigid water flowed from the showerhead. This was intentional of course, but I really had no idea what I was getting into. Touching the water with my fingertips, a cold shiver ran down my body. I began to think that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. In this day and age, we obviously had water heaters for a reason, so why was I so insistent on trying this out?

In Japan and other places around the world, those who practice Shinto will travel to an icy cold waterfall and stand underneath it in order to cleanse the spirit. This ritual is known as Misogi. Knowing this, I tried to convince myself that I was a Shinto master and meditating under an ice cold shower was the same as a Japanese waterfall.

I had a weird self-dialogue that went on for a few minutes in my head, but finally I jumped in. “That is C-C-COLD,” I cried out loud, and then jumped away from the freezing water. After a bit more mental coaxing on my part I lathered up, and stepped back into the line of fire. My mouth began to shiver as my body convulsed. It was trying to tell me something, but I ignored it and just continued standing there with my back against the water. Finally after a few minutes, I shut the water off and dried myself with my giant warm towel. I had completed my first cold shower, but somehow the experience left me wondering if the benefits would outweigh the discomfort.

Now you may be wondering why this whole thing started. Well, after reading an article about Thermal loading, something that I won’t try to explain because I don’t really understand it myself, and the positive effects that come from standing or sitting in cold water, I decided to do some more research on both subjects. When I finished my studies of cold-water therapy, I couldn’t help but try it.

I learned that it can help you lose weight, something that I don’t really need to do, but it’s nice to know that it’s an option. It also improves blood circulation by causing your blood to move to the organs to keep them warm. It has been argued that stimulating the circulatory system keeps you looking younger and healthier, so why not be a good-looking assassin as well?

According to a study done in England at the Thrombosis Research institute, when our body attempts to warm itself, our immune system releases more white blood cells, which increases our chances of not getting sick. But it doesn’t end there. In the same study they also found that testosterone was increased when taking these artic showers. If you don’t know already, testosterone is one of the main components for building strength. Great for an assassin in training like you and me. Finally, the last benefit that I realized personally was that my energy level was up. Even after an exhausting workout I could take a cold shower and I was right back to my chipper self with no down time.

While I wouldn’t recommend this to the faint of heart, I’ve begun to enjoy these showers, and each time it becomes easier, but if you want to try it, I suggest you start with warm water, and then after a few minutes wean your way down to the cold, and just stand there with your back facing the shower. You’ll start to feel the effects as soon as you shut the water off. I may not be a Shinto master, but I am well on my way to becoming one.

Please don’t try this if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or are overheated and/or feverish. It’s just not a good idea. Use your own judgment, or the judgment of your physician, but be careful! Over exposure to cold water can be harmful as well.

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