As hot as it has been this summer, the thought of jumping into an ice cold pool of water sounds refreshing…until you actually do it. Then it’s more of a shock.
When we talk about “Think Right, Eat Right, Move Right, Live Right,” cold water immersion fits somewhere between the “Move Right” and “Live Right,” but it can also impact your “Think Right.” Let me show you how this works.
Most People Aren’t Ready For It…Are You?
A few years ago, I was in a restaurant with sports channels playing on all the TVs. Right before they brought out my salad, one of the TVs showed a commercial with a professional football player sitting in a tub of ice water. The guy at the table behind me saw it and let out a gasp, shocked that anyone would do that to himself. The idea of sitting in ice water was foreign to him, but I knew what was happening.
A (Surprising) Key To Longevity
In places like Scandinavia, swimming in ice water is normal, just like following it up with a trip to the sauna. I know to some people it sounds like the stuff of nightmares. People in Florida think they do it because living in cold climates makes people weird, but the truth is, they live longer, healthier lives because they have unlocked a secret of longevity. Cold water immersion triggers several of the body’s internal functions at once, including the immune system, the muscle repair system, the circulatory system, and can even rebalance your body’s internal thermostat.
Muscle Repair and Pain Management
Cold water immersion is a normal part of high-performance athletic training and many professional athletes use it to combat muscle soreness after a big game. Any activity where you push your muscles beyond their limits can cause microscopic tears and inflammation. The cold water lowers the temperature of that tissue and causes blood vessels to constrict. While the first contact with the water brings a shock, it eventually soothes the over-worked muscles and nerves.
Taking Out The Trash
Jumping in a cold pool or taking a cold shower also stimulates your lymphatic system, helping it to operate more efficiently. If you’re new to “Wellness Wednesday,” your lymph nodes are like sewer lines, interconnected pipes and valves that flush waste materials from your organs and blood stream. If you’ve ever heard of “lymphatic cancer” or “lymphoma,” you’ve heard about lymph nodes that have gotten plugged with stagnant, toxic waste and developed disease.
Your lymph nodes require muscle contractions to push fluids through the system, or they get stagnant. This is just one more reason why regular physical activity is so important; it can actually help you fight off colds and viruses as it drives out toxins.
When you immerse yourself in cold water, your body naturally contracts, squeezing the lymph nodes and pushing out waste. Once that waste material emerges into the blood system, your body’s immune system launches white blood cells into the area to destroy it.
Your cardiovascular system is critical to your overall health and well-being. Obesity is a bigger epidemic than people think. It’s not about body shaming; I’m concerned about the stress obesity and vascular disease puts on your heart muscle. When your heart is stressed and functioning below its capacity, you run the risk of high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, heart attack, stroke, and even depression. A healthy heart improves your physical performance, mental clarity, emotional outlook, metabolism, and overall sense of wellbeing.
If you’ve ever jumped into cold water, you might remember that initial shock and how your breathing and heart rate jumped up. We’ve talked many times about the importance of regular exercise and diet to help keep your blood vessels clear, flexible, and strong. Cold water immersion causes your body to rush blood to your vital organs, which forces your body to pump more efficiently, forcing oxygen and nutrients to every part of your body.
What if that same exercise could stimulate the flow of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, like dopamine throughout your body in a flash? It does. That, along with improved blood flow, can help you shake the blues.
Please note, if you are experiencing clinical depression or something longer and deeper than “the blues,” there are several things at work, and cold water immersion is just one suggestion that can help. Eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of magnesium, potassium, B-complex Vitamins, and Vitamins C and D3, getting regular exposure to sunlight, and talking with a qualified counselor are also important steps you can take to fight depression.
There is some research that shows that cold water immersion can help boost your metabolism, helping you burn fat more quickly, especially the fat that likes to settle around your midsection. Now, please don’t expect to lose an inch off your midsection after one cold shower, but if you commit to a regular program of cold showers, you will find that your body’s internal temperature gauge will adapt slightly by adjusting your internal metabolic rate. That will help you to burn more fat. Plus, if you’re one of those people who is always cold — always needing a sweater or to turn up the heat in the office — cold water immersion can help to reset your sense of warmth.
This is one most fitness coaches don’t talk about, but a friend of mine brought it to my attention. If you’re one of those people who wants to grow personally and professionally, you know that getting out of your comfort zone is crucial to achieving any level of success. I’ve talked about comfort zones before, but usually in terms of mental toughness and personal fulfillment. Forcing yourself into a cold shower in the morning is a great way to condition yourself out of that comfort zone. My friend started taking cold showers as a door-to-door salesman in college, trying to overcome his fear. It stuck with him as he started building businesses and taking on speaking engagements in front of large groups.
Move Right With Cold Water
I’ve known about this for years, and I’ve used it with several of my patients, especially high-performance athletes with whom I’ve done physical therapy training. Plus, I’m always fascinated by the number of high-level executives I come across who have discovered the secret of cold-water immersion. They all tell me it’s an important part of their morning routine – it’s the kick-start that helps them perform at a higher level than their peers.
Swimming pools here in Naples never get cold enough, except maybe the indoor pool at the YMCA. That’s why I recommend that people start in the shower. After your normal, hot shower, drop the temperature as low as you can handle and stand in it for 4 minutes. Yes, it will be uncomfortable for the first 20 to 30 seconds, but you will get used to it. Tomorrow, it will be easier, so turn the water down a little bit colder.
Remember, if it doesn’t shock your system at least a little, you are not benefitting from it.
Maximize Your Shock, Maximize Your Wellness
Speaker and author, Tony Robbins says it this way:
“Conditioning your brain and your body to accept, endure and embrace cold water immersion may be challenging, but the health benefits in both the short- and long-run are well worth it. You will be able to activate your body’s natural healing powers to properly support your physiological and mental state of being, and perhaps begin to simply feel healthier and happier.”
Add it to your “Move Right Monday” movement routines and maximize your mobility, flexibility, and motor control for years to come.
Remember, anything I show you here is intended to keep you operating at peak performance for as long as possible. You don’t have to enjoy it now, but I want you to enjoy the benefits when you are older.
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“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas