Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

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Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Nightly Orange on Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:21 pm

Two weeks ago I began taking cold showers exclusively, and one week ago began taking them twice a day (once after waking and once before bed). This paleo thing ain't just about food, right? Prehistoric humans were intimately yoked not only to the daily circadian cycle of light and darkness, but also the great yearly cycle of the changing seasons. Now that it's winter here in North America, I figure there's no better way to be Primal than to deliberately freeze my ass off on a regular basis.

There's a lot of fantastic material out there about cold adaptation and its myriad health benefits. I recently read What Doesn't Kill Us by Scott Carney, which was a great account of Carney's experience with "the Iceman" Wim Hof, but even if you don't want to buy a book, there are plenty of resources online where you can learn more. Wim Hof has done a lot of podcasts, all of them available for free on Youtube--I recall that he's done 2 really long ones with Joe Rogan. Rhonda Patrick has videos up as well where she discusses the benefits of both extreme heat and cold exposure (encompassing hormonal changes as well as cold and heat shock proteins, life extension, disease reduction, and lots more), and Jack Kruse has an entire very in-depth blog series on cold thermogenesis.

I've been pairing cold exposure during the winter season with a ketogenic diet and increased bouts of fasting, based on a rough intuition that these things are thematically interlinked in our biology and may therefore have some kind of synergistic effect greater than the sum of their parts. It is rather paleo when you think about it--fruits and veggies are out of season, it's cold, food is hard to find and would mainly consist of meat when available, etc. But besides that, the psychological aspect of forcing myself through the discomfort is a satisfying exercise in discipline.

As I said, I'm only about two weeks in so it's still early in the game, but a few things I've noticed so far:

  • The thought of taking a hot or warm shower is unappealing now. This doesn't mean I look forward to or enjoy the cold showers (they still suck), but when I consider drenching myself in hot water, the notion seems uncomfortable and distasteful on some weirdly deep, instinctive level. In a way, it parallels the manner in which you start to lose your cravings for sugary foods, once you've been keto/paleo for long enough.

  • I don't get the sniffles or shiver in the cold water anymore. This happened in the beginning, and my feeling now is that it's a sign that you're pushing your limits, but once you adapt, these things go away.

  • Dunking your head in the cold water doubles the intensity. I started by exposing my body only, and thought I had a pretty good handle on things, but the first time I stuck my head under the spray, I came out with literal brain freeze and had a mild headache for 15 minutes. But like the runny nose and the shivering, this also goes away after a few more sessions.


I plan to stick with cold water only at least until the end of winter, as a fun personal challenge. I think after a few more weeks I'll be able to handle actual ice baths, and will need to put together some kind of setup for that, either using my bathtub or an empty plastic barrel in the backyard.

Anybody else played around with this, or currently practices cold water exposure?
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by RedComet on Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:11 pm

I've played around with the cold showers and really love them. Or rather, I love what they do for me. The experience is kind of unpleasant in the moment but once you get used to it the water isn't so bad. I'd do ice baths but it's just too inconvenient. I think Rogan uses cryotherapy chambers for his cold thermogenesis--those look like a really cool alternative.

One of my favorite things to do is combine hot and cold. Sitting in a sauna for 20-30 minutes and then taking an ice cold shower makes me feel amazing. I've also read (can't remember where) that taking alternating hot/cold showers is even better for vascular health than cold alone. Sometimes I start with a piping hot shower and then, when it comes time to rinse off, I stand in the cold water for 3-5 minutes. Feels awesome.
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Nightly Orange on Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:27 pm

RedComet wrote:One of my favorite things to do is combine hot and cold. Sitting in a sauna for 20-30 minutes and then taking an ice cold shower makes me feel amazing. I've also read (can't remember where) that taking alternating hot/cold showers is even better for vascular health than cold alone. Sometimes I start with a piping hot shower and then, when it comes time to rinse off, I stand in the cold water for 3-5 minutes. Feels awesome.

Oh yeah, the hot/cold contrast is super. It's one of the methods Wim Hof uses with the people who go to him for workshops. I believe that some of the benefits come from the fact that it exercises the smooth muscle that lines all our blood vessels. Unlike skeletal muscle, we can't voluntarily work out our smooth muscle, so the only exercise it really gets is through the daily rhythms of vasoconstriction and vasodilation, which for most of us living in temperature-controlled environments, aren't particularly significant at all.

But when you subject yourself to cold and hot environments in rapid succession, it forces the blood vessels to quickly contract and expand, which is great for vascular health. It's pretty much a full HIIT workout for the other muscular system in your body.

The contrast practice is next on my list, after I'm acclimated to ice baths.
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by ONTARIO on Sun Dec 03, 2017 6:41 pm

This is an interesting theory. I plan to research this further. I am extremely cold-intolerant. But, yet, hot tubs make me nauseas and dizzy. I'm not good with temperature regulation at all. Huh....off to read about this.

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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Narrowminded on Sun Dec 03, 2017 7:34 pm

I've heard this before, not sure I'm up to the task, at least not in winter for sure. Maybe come spring I'll give it a go.

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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Starkanda on Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:48 pm

Haha, I'm such a weenie when it comes to temperature! I joked with my coworkers that I was too hot, took off my light sweatshirt and became too cold! I attempted the cold bath at a spa, once! Got only up to my knees. Have to say my calves did feel great after, I may have to get brave next time I go and actually sit in it!

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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by meepster on Mon Dec 11, 2017 2:52 pm

I've been taking cold showers for about a month now, though I'm on a temporarily enforced break from them since I have a cold. I love the cold showers - they give me such an energy surge. Can't wait to get over this yuck so that I can get back to them.
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by sharperhawk on Mon Dec 11, 2017 3:48 pm

A foot bath with ice water is an alternative. Up to 8 minutes is OK; more than that risks frostbite, according to Wim. The internal heat generation afterwards is incredible.
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by meepster on Thu Dec 14, 2017 1:55 pm

For those of you doing ice baths - where do you get that much ice? I'd love to try those, but our freezer only holds two ice-cube trays. Smile
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by sharperhawk on Tue Dec 19, 2017 10:33 am

I have an ice maker that dumps ice into a large plastic bin. The downside is that the bin takes up about a third of my freezer.



You could buy a large bag of ice for a couple of dollars.

It may be obvious, but ice water is for hands or feet, not whole body immersion. The latter is a recipe for hypothermia.
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Nightly Orange on Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:53 pm

sharperhawk wrote:It may be obvious, but ice water is for hands or feet, not whole body immersion. The latter is a recipe for hypothermia.

Huh? Ice baths are baths in icy water. Wim Hof didn't set his world records by sticking only his hands and feet in ice water for 2 hours.
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by sharperhawk on Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:35 am

Nightly Orange wrote:Huh? Ice baths are baths in icy water. Wim Hof didn't set his world records by sticking only his hands and feet in ice water for 2 hours.
I believe that Wim Hof was immersed in ice only, not ice water. The photos I have seen show ice, not ice water.

The idea for bathing hands or feet in ice water comes directly from Wim Hof.

If you would like to bathe in ice water, don't let me stop you. You've been warned.
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Nightly Orange on Wed Dec 20, 2017 12:53 pm

sharperhawk wrote:
Nightly Orange wrote:Huh? Ice baths are baths in icy water. Wim Hof didn't set his world records by sticking only his hands and feet in ice water for 2 hours.
I believe that Wim Hof was immersed in ice only, not ice water. The photos I have seen show ice, not ice water.

The idea for bathing hands or feet in ice water comes directly from Wim Hof.

If you would like to bathe in ice water, don't let me stop you. You've been warned.

You're right about the specifics of the world records (Hof was immersed in ice only, not ice water), my mistake.

Regardless, hands and feet are only a way to ease into cold exposure. Ice baths are the end point. Cold adaptation is something that should be progressively trained. Of course someone with no experience who sits in an ice bath will get hypothermia, just like someone with no conditioning who throws 405lbs onto a barbell and tries to squat it will get squashed like a bug.

Here's Hof with a client, practicing immersion in a frozen-over swimming pool:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZOasUcuJOY&t=9m45s

Videos of his workshops and people following his methods also use full on ice baths, like this one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-fEXrYt4mY
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by srinath_69 on Sat Dec 30, 2017 8:29 am

Oh man, I am cold all the time, but I can see how the "cold adaptation" works. As a year round motorcyclist even when I lived in Canada and in Washington state I know all about it. However the last 2 yrs I have hardly ridden, let alone in winter. That + the fact I don't have 300,000 extra calories of padding have me cringing as I read this thread. I should try it. You say in 15 mins it gets back to normal ? I'll try it next time.

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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Paysan on Sat Dec 30, 2017 2:11 pm

Who says our remote ancestors even bathed in winter months? The annual bath was a feature of pre-Elizabethan England, there's no record of Siberian and Arctic peoples bathing in adulthood on a regular basis, AFAIK. Embarassed

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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Nightly Orange on Sat Dec 30, 2017 3:27 pm

srinath_69 wrote:Oh man, I am cold all the time, but I can see how the "cold adaptation" works. As a year round motorcyclist even when I lived in Canada and in Washington state I know all about it. However the last 2 yrs I have hardly ridden, let alone in winter. That + the fact I don't have 300,000 extra calories of padding have me cringing as I read this thread. I should try it. You say in 15 mins it gets back to normal ? I'll try it next time.

I did cold showers exclusively for a month. I had intended to go longer, but sort of didn't see the point anymore. So instead I started playing around with contrast showers, where you're allowed to alternate between extremely hot and cold water. Psychologically it's definitely a lot easier, lol. I start cold and keep it cold for about 10 minutes, then go hot for the last 5. Some people end on cold, but I don't think it makes much difference. When I can comfortably do 15 minutes of cold with my head under the spray the whole time, I'll switch to an ice bath followed by a hot shower. Maybe that only once a week, since ice bath setup is more troublesome.

As far as I can tell, I'm still maintaining the benefits of cold adaptation, even with the contrast showers, which I've been doing for about 2 weeks. I walk around outside at night in a short-sleeve tee while my friends shiver their asses off in wool overcoats, so if you (or anyone else) finds the idea of pure cold showers too much of a turn off, give contrast showers a shot. They appear in my limited experience to offer most of the same benefits.

It's probably the acute cold exposure that drives adaptation, with how warm you are the rest of the time being less relevant.

Paysan wrote:Who says our remote ancestors even bathed in winter months? The annual bath was a feature of pre-Elizabethan England, there's no record of Siberian and Arctic peoples bathing in adulthood on a regular basis, AFAIK. Embarassed

True. I think of cold water exposure as a "hack" for those of us who simply don't experience winter in any meaningful way anymore, with our access to heating technology. You can cold adapt in air as well--these ancestral Siberian people were cold adapted simply by dint of being in cold air 24/7, no water immersion needed. Water is a shortcut because it conducts heat more readily than air, so you lose more heat in a shorter amount of time in cold water than cold air. Therefore, 15 minutes a day in cold water is a more time-efficient way to cold adapt when you spend your winter perpetually at 80 degrees Fahrenheit in buildings with central heating, whereas if you lived in the Arctic with nothing but a fur coat and an animal skin tent you dragged around with you, cold water would be unnecessary.

Cold water exposure is probably something like "temperature HIIT" for thermoregulatory fitness. Short and intense, with most of the benefits of longer-duration cold air exposure.
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by srinath_69 on Sat Dec 30, 2017 3:40 pm

My entire shower in warm water is barely 5 mins. I'll not change my life long habit, I'll try a cold blast tonight (hopefully not leave me shivering when I hit the sack).

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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Paysan on Sat Dec 30, 2017 7:00 pm

In fact, I have read with interest the experiences of those hardy souls who never let the house temperature rise above 50*F during winter. Sweaters and coats were their usual coverings, but their occasional visitors complained mightily while their hosts actually felt comfortable. Houseplants suffered, pets not so much. At winter's end, like butterflies emerging from their cocoons, they discovered they were lighter, having painlessly lost weight along the way, and had adapted to the cold. Don't recall if anyone had cured his/her heart disease, Alzheimers, or cancer, or whether they could withstand summer heat; but they felt healthier, FWIW.

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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Lovebird on Sun Dec 31, 2017 3:49 am

50°F Shocked that's a meager 10°C affraid

We already get complaints from guests as we keep it to 18°C max in the living room/office, which is 64,4°F...

I don't think our budgies would appreciate either if it gets colder than that inside the house, nor us. Wink

It sounds intriguing though.

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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by srinath_69 on Sun Dec 31, 2017 9:26 am

Sweater and coat keep your body warmth around you. Sort of defeats the purpose. Cold adaptation is real, expose yourself to the cold, preferably when its mildly cold by hanging around outside as it starts to get cold, in ~1hr - 90 mins you will get adapted so you don't feel cold most all winter.
I have pics of me in my 20's and 30's playing in the snow in a pair of jeans and T shirt. Its very very valid and very good to do - even when not in the context of any higher health goal. The first cold snap of the year catching you unprepared makes for a good break in process.
Warm blooded pets will adapt usually, cold blooded will not.

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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Paysan on Sun Dec 31, 2017 3:23 pm

Reminds e of an American white boy who hung around his native friend and older relative. He practiced being invisible, until the deer would walk past him unawares. The older native also taught them cold hardiness. One winter day, he made them strip to their briefs, leaving their boots on, and sent them to play in the snow. After a few minutes, the boys were having snowball fights, running and jumping into drifts, and so on. He said he never minded the cold from then on, and others were amazed at him in shirtsleeves in frigid weather. I think he is/was a famous outdoors guide and wrote several books.

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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Rig D on Sun Dec 31, 2017 4:26 pm

^Your shirtsleeves comment reminds me of a co-worker from a long time past. He was from northern Minnesota, and no matter how cold it got here in Ohio, I never saw him wear anything outside other than a short sleeve shirt. Back then I truly thought he was insane.
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Paysan on Sun Dec 31, 2017 11:19 pm

I still look askance at both females and males who wear shorts outdoors in our winters. Although they may be scarcer than in times past due to the current frigid spell. Wink I understand many of our long standing traditional Polar Bear Dips have been cancelled this New Year; but perhaps the funniest of all was to hear that the penguins and other super hardy zoo animals have headed indoors to ride out the cold spells. Heheh!

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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by Rig D on Mon Jan 01, 2018 8:37 am

I guess I would one who might get your looks, I'm pretty much the last in this area to give up on shorts & sandals in the late fall when temps start dropping. Shorts and sweatshirt are my out door uniform on these cooler days. After adapting to cold during the really cold winter period, when we start warming up leading into spring, I'll be one of the early birds out in shorts when a 35F day feels warm.
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Re: Winter is Coming: Cold Showers, Ice Baths, Wim Hof and More

Post by srinath_69 on Mon Jan 01, 2018 11:16 am

Oh yea dropping your head into the stream = massive brain freeze. I also hated getting my underarms under the stream.
However - its not as bad as I feared, and I did dunk my head quite a few times.
I however have a question - doesn't the warm water kill more germs ???
I wont say I'm acclimatized any better cos this morning a few mins in 30 degree weather pretty much sapped my enthusiasm for being outside.

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