I have tried and failed to take a cold shower every day for a month, which I guess says something about my lack of resolve or to positively reframe – my high level of sanity!
So, when I read that Danielle Zickl, Associate Health & Fitness Editor for Runners World, and a runner herself, had undertaken a similar regime I was keen to see whether she thought that it developed her mental toughness.
Here is how she describes her experience.
It takes some time to work up to it
I really did think I’d be able to turn my shower knob to its coldest setting and be—for all intents and purposes—fine. I knew it wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience, but I felt like I could hop in, do what I had to do, and hop out relatively unscathed. I quickly learned this was not the case. When I got into the first freezing cold shower, I couldn’t resist reaching for the knob to make it warmer. That’s okay, I thought to myself, I’ll work up to it.
After spending about five minutes in the shower with hot water, I eased into the transition with lukewarm water. A minute later, I turned the knob again so that the water temperature was somewhere between “I’d rather not be doing this” and “this really, really sucks.” That’ll do for now, I thought. I got out and dried off, put on a sweatshirt, and made some tea to in an effort to warm myself up.
I did the same thing the next time I showered and worked up to a temperature that was cool but not necessarily cold. I resolved to stop being a total baby on my third attempt and just turned the knob all the way cold to begin with—and I did. I’m really not lying when I say that it honestly wasn’t that bad—I built it up way worse in my mind. From then on, I took fully cold showers every day.
It gave me an energy boost to start the day
While typically take a night time shower, hearing that cold showers could give you more energy, I decided to give morning showers a shot. (Here’s to going completely out of my comfort zone!) If this claim did turn out to be true, I didn’t want to shower right before bed and then lose out on precious sleep from feeling wired.
The jolt that ice-cold water gives you first thing in the morning is no joke. It’s enough to wake up even the groggiest of people and the reason is that the
The adrenaline rush you get from immersing yourself in cold water creates a rush of norepinephrine, which helps increase energy, focus, and performance outcomes.
I didn’t feel the need for coffee
I genuinely didn’t even feel the need for a morning coffee and research backs this up. According to a 2016 study reported in the PLOS One journal “the most commonly reported beneficial effect of cold showers was an increase in perceived energy levels, including many reported comparisons to the effect of caffeine.
My concentration and productivity levels felt higher than they had in awhile throughout my first few hours at work, since usually I’d be sipping coffee during that time, and the caffeine’s effects wouldn’t kick in until closer to lunchtime.
It relieved some of my muscle soreness
Taking cold showers on a regular basis helps your muscles recover from a workout.
“When you apply cold to a surface—for example, your skin—it causes more blood to flow to the area,” he said. “Increased blood flow to an area is what promotes recovery.”
Additionally, a 2009 study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that immersing yourself in cold water after lifting, running, or cycling improved muscle recovery and soreness. Of course, a shower isn’t quite the same as immersing yourself in an ice bath, but, “if you did a sprint workout one day and wanted to do another one the next day, taking a cold shower could help improve your next day’s sprint workout.”
And here is what we have been waiting for !
It strengthened my mental game
Taking cold showers isn’t easy—and neither is running. But because I was able to grin and bear them this mindset translated to my workouts, too.
Building mental toughness is one of the benefits of cold showers. Running is pretty unique in that there’s no distraction in the discomfort. In a team sport, there are other things going on—you have a built-in distraction. When you’re running, there’s not much to distract you—you’re in the moment just paying attention to your body.”
Once I built the confidence to know I was tough enough to endure the cold shower, my attitude towards my workouts changed, too. A particularly tough long run in prospect ? Sure.
A summer speed workout in almost 100 percent humidity? Bring it on.
And guess what? After those tough efforts, I actually started to look forward to the cold shower that followed.
View Danielle’s original article