Today I completed a challenge that I told myself was impossible : the 30-Day Cold Shower Challenge. But the question everyone asks me is…
Why would I do something so obviously uncomfortable to myself every morning? Well there’s actually a good bit of research into the health benefits of cold showers. These include :
- increased weight loss (NPR, Wired)
- improved immunity
- improved circulation
- faster muscle recovery, decreased soreness
- healthier skin and hair
- even depression therapy
That said, most of these findings are based on small sample-sizes or unreplicated studies, so should be viewed with a healthy amount of scientific skepticism.
I was interested in the possible health benefits, as part of a bunch of other crazy health stuff I’ve been doing lately. But I also wanted to test myself to see if I could do it.
I love hot showers! A steaming hot shower, in a bath with very strong water pressure, and one of those oscillating jet spray showerheads is one of my favorite luxuries. The thought of giving up one of my favorite things for an entire month just sounded impossible.
But I’ve been doing a lot of things that seemed impossible to myself only a few years ago — getting up early and running, abstaining from red meat, eliminating most processed sugar from my diet. Why not try to do another “impossible” thing?
Easing Into It
I didn’t go into the 30-day Cold Shower Challenge cold turkey. I actually spent a couple of weeks just gradually increasing the percentage of my morning shower spent in cold water. At first it was literally just a incredibly long 10 seconds at the end of my shower. Then I went 20 seconds, then 30 seconds, and eventually a full minute. After that, going the entire shower in cold water was hard, but not impossible.
I managed an entire cold shower for the first time on Monday November 9, and while in the shower I told myself that I would take a cold shower for 30 days. “How hard could it be?” I told myself.
Good Days and Bad Days
It was pretty effing hard.
I definitely had mornings where I had to grit my teeth and force myself to get into a freezing cold shower. There may have been screams and yelps involved. In general, any morning where I didn’t start with a workout was hard. It’s so much easier getting into a cold shower when you are sweaty and hot from a run.
Did I mention that it’s winter? Yeah, perhaps not the smartest time to do a cold shower challenge.
The hardest part was getting in. Once I was wet and cold, it was just… more wet and more cold. The initial shock wears off and you get more acclimated to the cold after a minute or so. I would concentrate on calming my breathing with long, deep breaths, which helped.
On many days, it felt invigorating to be in the freezing water. I would get out of the shower feeling great, my brain buzzing, my skin tingling.
The last week was the hardest because I had a cold. Feeling sick and weak and getting into a cold shower was definitely not my favorite thing. But I toughed it out, and my cold actually went away faster than my last several colds, which tend to linger for at least a week and a half.
On the health side, I did not see any marked change in my weight loss, improved immunity or decreased soreness. Sad trombone. I did catch a cold toward the end, as I said. The cold showers may have improved my mood, although I’m not prone to depression in general.
Really the most important result is a boost in my self-confidence, having confronted something that I thought was “impossible” and beaten it. The next obstacle I face that seems “impossible” I’m going to remember this episode. Just taking small steps, one day at a time, keeping my eye on the prize.
What are the things in your life that seem “impossible”? What 30-day challenge can you give yourself?