I never thought I would say this, but here it is… I love cold showers. Even in the middle of a cold UK winter, my days are so much better when I start them with an icy cold shower.
Let me rephrase that. I don’t love cold showers. The moment before entry is not one of eagerness, and the moment after entry not one of pleasure. What I love about them is how they make me feel, both during, and in particular, after the shower. I can wake up feeling a bit off, or even downright pessimistic, but after a short breath work session and a cold shower I feel totally re-energised and ready to take on the day.
I was introduced to breathe work and cold water therapy by a friend of mine when wild camping in the French Alps. On the way down the mountain he took me through a guided breath work session followed by cold water immersion. I’ve never felt water so cold in all my life, and although I didn’t last more than thirty seconds in the water, the pain in my hands, feet and forearms was so intense I never thought I would do it again.
But at a breath workshop in London a few months later, which involved being immersed in an ice bath for two minutes, I realised I could control my experience of, and my reaction to, the icy cold water. I also felt amazing afterwards. Since then I’ve been doing a cold shower morning routine.
My routine goes like this…
Lie on your back on the floor, totally relaxed, and breathe in and out fifty times. Breaths should not be too short, nor too long; maybe just shy of a second for the in breath, the same for the out breath. You should breathe with your belly, i.e. your belly should be visibly rising and falling. Try to let your belly fall by itself on the out breath.
After fifty breaths, take a long deep breath in followed by a long breath out. Push all the air out of your body and then hold your breath for as long as you can. Check the time as you start holding your breath, and again when you let the air in again. I usually last between one minute and one minute thirty seconds.
Flip over onto your belly, take a deep breath in and then do as many push-ups as you can whilst holding your breath. I typically get thirty push-ups done before I run out of breath or can’t do any more.
Get your kit off, turn the shower on with zero hot water, and get in. Breathe as you were in step one, focusing on maintaining your breathing as consistently possible (the holy shit gasp is hard to avoid though!). Stay in for 2-3 minutes, ensuring you get your whole body under at various stages. I generally turn around at ninety degree angles every thirty seconds or so to ensure my arms, back, front and head get a good dousing.
Turn the shower onto as hot as you can stand it (or the temperature you normally shower at) for one minute.
Repeat the cold + hot sequence 2-3 times, but make sure you finish on at least thirty seconds of cold.
The entire process takes less than ten minutes, but those ten minutes have become some of the most important in my day. When I get out of that shower I feel incredible. I feel like I’m a better father, husband, and human in general. And because the whole sequence only takes ten minutes and can be done pretty much anywhere, it’s difficult to blame time or location as an excuse not to do it.
There are a number of supposed health benefits of cold water therapy, but I’m not about to get all scientific here. Suffice to say I strongly feel that cold showers make me substantially happier and healthier. The colds (illnesses) that do the rounds of our household and community don’t seem to affect me as much as they used to. Without any proof whatsoever, I’m claiming cold showers are responsible!
Disclaimer: This is my current routine, not something I’m prescribing for others. If you want to get into breath work do some research as it may not be suitable for everyone.