“Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger men”
-John F. Kennedy
Since 2016, I’ve been taking cold showers every morning religiously.
In the last 5 years, I can count the number of times I’ve missed a cold shower – or cold water immersion instead – on both hands.
No matter where I’ve traveled or how I’ve felt, I’ve done cold showers. It’s a keystone habit for me.
I first learned about the benefits of cold showers from Tony Robbins who does a cold plunge as part of his morning routine, then I dove deeper at a Wim Hof Workshop in 2016 (photos at the end of this article).
For most of human history, people only bathed in cold water. Additionally, taking a dip in freezing cold water was used in many daily routines & spiritual practices to improve health & vitality around the world from Finland to Japan.
As we get older, many of us structure our lives simply to feel “comfortable”. You have a cushy bed with a cushy pillow, cushy covers, then you sit on a cushy couch. Many men are focused on how to maximize comfort, not how to maximize their impact and potential.
The little disempowering voice in the back of your head that is focused on fear, uncertainty, and doubt can be muted. Cold showers can help immensely. Simply put, cold showers can help you unleash your awesome potential that is limitless.1
1. What Is The Challenge?
Take a cold shower each morning for a minimum of 30-seconds for 7-days. Ideally, the water will be around 60°F (15°C) or less.
2. Why Should I Do It?
1. Mental Edge
Physical discomfort is a part of life. It’s unavoidable. By not freaking out when you feel discomfort – or even embracing it – you become much more resilient to stress. This is the most important reason why I do cold showers every morning along with improved energy and focus. By doing something that’s unpleasant and uncomfortable first thing in the morning, it builds a mindset for me of gratitude, resilience, and confidence. I respond to stress vs. react to stress. There are also studies that suggest cold showers have an anti-depressive affect.2
2. Boost Immune System
Given cold showers may help you handle mental and physical stress, it’s not surprising that studies suggest that cold showers may also benefit your immune system.3 One Dutch study combining cold water therapy, breathing, and meditation found that participants produced more anti-inflammatory chemicals and fewer pro-inflammatory cytokines in response to the infection.4
3. Increase Metabolism
Taking cold showers forces the body to generate heat by increasing metabolism, which maintains a stable core body temperature.5 This means taking cold showers does increase the number of calories you are burning each day, but how much exactly is not known. In addition, cold exposure activates brown fat cells, which burn body fat. If you are on a weight loss program, even a small increase in metabolism should only help.
There is a laundry list of purported cold shower benefits including decreasing inflammation, strengthening your cardiovascular system with better blood flow, and even higher testosterone. Do this challenge to see what benefits you experience.
3. How Do I Make The Challenge Easier To Complete?
1. Focus On Your Breathing
When you step into a cold shower, your first response may be to gasp or yell, then tighten up your body and start shaking. In other words, you’re freaking out. Instead, just relax and breathe deeply and slowly. Keep your body open, relaxed, and moving slowly. This is not easy and I certainly bug out when I first get in from time to time, but then I slow down my breathing and embrace the cold.
2. Warm Shower Into Cold Shower
For most people, going straight into a cold shower will be really challenging. Instead, you can start off with a warm shower, then transition to cold for 60-seconds. This is what famed cold therapy enthusiast Wim Hof recommends.6 While full cold may be difficult especially during the winter, that’s the goal.
Build this cold water challenge into your morning routine.
4. When Do I Start?
Consider starting this Monday for a full 7-days. Sooner rather than later, better late than never.
You can share your results, how you’re doing, and lessons learned in the comment section below. You can also leave comments under the Youtube Video, Facebook post, or Twitter post with hashtags #builtlean and #coldshowerchallenge.
…and here are a couple photos from a Wim Hof Workshop in 2016. An ice bath is much more challenging than a cold shower!
- A good summation of cold/heat exposure from the Wim Hof website, “Because we wear clothes and artificially control the temperatures at home and at work. we’ve greatly reduced the natural stimulation of our bodies, atrophying the age-old mechanisms related to our survival and basic function. Because these deeper physiological layers are no longer triggered, our bodies are no longer in touch with this inner power.” ↩
- Shevchuk NA. Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(5):995-1001. ↩
- Mooventhan A, Nivethitha L. Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body. N Am J Med Sci. 2014;6(5):199-209. ↩
- Kox M, van Eijk LT, Zwaag J, et al. Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014;111(20):7379-7384. ↩
- Brychta, RJ – Eur J Clin Nutr (2017) Cold-induced thermogenesis in humans.pdf ↩
- Wim Hof known as “The Iceman” holds 26 world records, which include running a marathon above the Arctic Circle wearing nothing but shorts while in -20°C (-4°F) weather. If you normally shower to clean yourself in the morning, Wim recommends starting with warm water, then at the end transition to just cold for 60-seconds. Eventually you can just use cold water. ↩